Photo credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
While no doubt prompted by the ship's loss in 1912, this is an unusual subject for Jansen given that he mainly painted North Sea ferries. It therefore seems a good one on which to post the brief note about him that emerged in the recent Art Detective discussion on Manx National Heritage's c.1860 painting of the steamer 'Douglas' by Henry(? ) Frost.
Other information, such as his second name and dates of other works which extend the range of his as-received working period also would be useful, since all those on Art UK lie well within it. A draft biography is attached.
This discussion is now closed. Previously identified as ‘A. J.’ or ‘Harry’ Jansen from his signature, the artist’s full name and life dates are now known to be ‘Adrianus Johannes Jansen (1863–1943)’. A biography has been produced for Art UK.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion, in particular to Osmund Bullock and Kieran Owens for their meticulous research in British, Dutch and Belgian official records. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
Pieter, can you post a hi-res of the signature on this painting, please?
Pieter, your link does not open for me, but I'm glad you've brought Jansen up again. For what it may be worth, the following is from my initial communication from Peter Appleyard at the Goole Museum, which has 10 works by Jansen:
"Harry J Jansen (also known as A. J. Jansen) was a Dutch Pierhead painter who was active in Rotterdam and Antwerp from 1890 to 1932. His work is widely distributed in Britain although not much is known about him. Unlike many Pierhead painters, he generally worked in oils and specialised in paintings of the Great Eastern Railway passenger and cargo steamers running to Rotterdam, Antwerp and the Hook, selling his pictures aboard the steamers of the ferry service as they lay in dock."
After Art UK decided to change all entries previously under "A. J. Jansen" to Harry J. Jansen, I wrote to him again. I had assumed the reason Harry J. Jansen is much more commonly known or listed as A. J. Jansen is that the first letter in his usual signature looks more like an "A" than an "H," even though it was really the latter (only one of his pictures on Art UK, this one of the Titanic, is signed Harry J. Jansen). I asked Mr Appleyard if my assumption was correct, and he responded that Jansen's initials are in fact A. J. but apparently he was known as or went by 'Harry', maybe because it was easier for the British seamen who were his customers.
Thus, it would appear that part of our job is to find out what names A. J. actually stand for.
Jacinto, Pieter's "link" is a Word document that you have to download (which it will do, or at least try to, automatically). You can only read it by saving it first...at least that's what I do.
Thanks, Osmund; that worked. If I had seen it earlier, I would have avoided repeating what is already in it. However, the matter of the artist's official name, as opposed to what appears to have been one adopted for convenience, remains to be clarified.
Thanks Jacinto, and to Peter Appleyard. That's a useful clarification so the question is now ' more, please, about A.J. ('Harry') Jansen' if known.
Michael Charles has very kindly sent us the following comments:
‘I maintain that Jansen's first two initials were indeed ‘A.J.’ and that his occasional use of the name ‘Harry’, perhaps as an English equivalent or approximation of whatever was the actual name signified by one or the other of them, was purely out of sociability towards some of his more frequent and thus more familiar British clients - just as, for instance, the French marine artist Edouard Adam of the prominent and prolific Adam family of Le Havre occasionally signed his paintings ‘Ted’. Moreover, I can not but remark that the only one of Jansen’s paintings that I myself have ever encountered that is actually signed ‘Harry’ is the picture of the Titanic which is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum. This portrait is unique also in being the only one of Jansen’s known to me – and there are no fewer than seventeen in my Original Collection, now in public ownership, and another ten in my ongoing British Mercantile Marine Memorial Collection – of which the subject is other than one of the innumerable coasters, cargo vessels, railway company-owned passenger steamers etc. which plied the North and the Baltic Seas and traded in and out of the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp in which Jansen worked and made his living. Again, this is his only picture known to me which is ‘out of period’, i.e. this portrait is clearly dated ‘1913’, whereas the ignominious self-destruction of the Titanic took place in April of the previous year; every other single one of Jansen’s ship-portraits that I have ever seen he painted ‘from life’ contemporaneously. It is noticeable too that Jansen depicted the Titanic passing close to a large, highly visible iceberg in broad daylight, whereas in fact she sighted no icebergs at all other than, fatally too late, the one that she actually struck – in the middle of a moonless night. I am tempted to conclude that Jansen painted this picture somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’ as a genuflection to that obsession with the Titanic which to this day continues so detrimentally to dominate and to distort public understanding of Britain’s former Merchant Service – and that consequently he signed it ‘Harry’ both as a populist gesture and deliberately to set it apart from his mainstream professional oeuvre.’
Pieter, as a gentle reminder, can you post a hi-res of the signature on this painting, please?
Kieran, Please ask me for high-res images. I have remote access to Art UK's collection, but not yet to all the sculpture. Here it is, and it really is high-resolution this time. If only they were all this good!
will do. Many thanks.
I see he painted this picture of the Titanic in Antwerp.
I suppose his name will have to be changed on Art UK (pending the possible discovery of what A. J. stood for) to A. J. ("Harry") Jansen.
Thank Marion. I had not realized this painting was actually signed 'Harry', which explains why the NMM has him down that way. Amen to the 'Titanic' obsession Michael: it only really started in the 1950s with 'A Night to Remember' and is a curious piece of 'pop' culture that says more about the psychology of those obsessed by it than historically significant aspects of the context in which the incident occurred (e.g. the economics and culture of transatlantic shipping at the time). None the less, with 20:20 hindsight its a useful paradigm of late-Imperial capitalist hubris for those who have uses for that sort of moralising, pre-WWI 'schadenfreude'.
Would a painter like Jansen, who apparently worked primarily if not entirely for a foreign clientele as an essentially commercial artist, be known at all now in Belgium and the Netherlands? Is there significant interest in his sort of work there?
Of course, if the first initial were to be H after all, the name could be something like Henryk, which would explain the "Harry."
His name was Adrianus Johannes (more familiarly Adriaan Jan) Jansen, born at Gouda (14 miles or so from Rotterdam) 20th April 1863, married (with two children) at Rotterdam in Jan 1886. He first moved from Rotterdam to Antwerp in 1906, moved back to the Netherlands when Germany invaded Belgium in Aug 1914, and did not return to Antwerp until 1925. I don’t know what happened to him thereafter.
As often happens in genealogy, it's better to look for the wrong name than no name at all: in this case I guessed that 'Harry' had evolved from the similar-sounding 'Arend(t)' - I was completely wrong, but looking for that eventually threw up 'Adriaan'. I would like to say that my brilliantly incisive mind realised that a Dutchman living in (Belgian) Antwerp might have been recorded as a resident alien...but it didn't. And even if it had, the likelihood that such records had survived and be online would be remote – but amazingly they have and they are! Familysearch has uploaded images of the Antwerp Police's 'Vreemdelingendossiers' (Foreigners' files) 1840-1930, and most of them are indexed: https://bit.ly/34LqEFJ. They in turn led to identifying the right man in Dutch records and newspapers, and I have quite detailed info on his movements, his parents, marriage, children etc; I will post more of this, and anything else I can find, overnight and/or tomorrow.
I haven’t yet found a record of his death. However, though I’m beginning to understand Dutch municipal records, I’ve never attempted Belgian ones before; so if it was there that he died, patience may be required - or better still, someone else's knowledge or leap of imagination. Nor have I yet found any mention of him as an artist in Dutch newspapers, though for various reasons (especially linguistic ones) it’s a pretty challenging task. His profession, though, is recorded as ‘schilder’ (painter) or ‘kunstschilder’ (art painter) in various official records, so I’m confident this is our man. If anyone else wants to try the newspaper angle, there is a large collection of Dutch ones (and other sources) uploaded and indexed here: https://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten
Impressive work, Osmund, especially for an alien. I doubt Jansen was considered or treated as a fine artist, and would probably not have attracted much notice as a commercial one working chiefly for foreign seamen. I expect he died in the 1930s, but I also expect you will find out the year.
His parents and siblings can be found on page 67 of the following:
Attached are the slim contents (1 page) of the Antwerp Police's 1925 'Vreemdelingedossier' (Foreigner file) on Adrianus Johannes Jansen & his wife 'Henriette' (Hendrika) Christina née Gentrop, along with the index entry where his first names are given more colloquially as Adriaan Jan. They had been married at Rotterdam on 6/1/1886. Among other details given are his date and place of birth, his parents' names (Pieter & 'Jeanne Marie' [Joanna Maria] née Snelleman, as per Kieran's transcription details), both born at Gouda and now deceased. His profession is painter. This residence at Antwerp was from 30/6/1925, previous residence from 3/4/1906 to 24/8/1914 (addresses are given).
Ah, the file hasn't uploaded; I'll try again
Nor again - we apparently have an issue, Marion. I won't try the others till it's working again.
It would appear from the Gouda archive that Adrianus was a lucky child. A transcription of the data reads thus:
4451. Sheet: 170 (St. Anthony's Street G 125 (later 143))
- Main occupant: Pieter Jansen (married (geh. = gehuwd)); born (geb. = geboren) 11th June 1837) (Married (tr. = trouwde) 18th April 1860) (Painter (as in a decorator) rk) (Is from G 122 - This refers to an earlier entry, on page 65, showing Pieter's parents and siblings).
- Woman (wife): Johanna Maria Snelleman (married; born 22nd August 1833) (Married 18th April 1860) (Is from O 298)
- Child: Magdalena Johanna Maria Jansen (Born 23rd October 1861) (Died (Ov. = Overleden = Passed away) 18th January 1862)
- Child: Adrianus Johannes Jansen (Born 20th April 1863)
- Child: Magdalena Cornelia Jansen (Born 28th March 1865) (Died 30th March 1866)
- Child: Johannes Petrus Jansen (Born 2nd September 1870) (Died 15th December 1870)
- Child: Johanna Pierernella Jansen (Born 21st December 1871) (Died 31st March 1872)
- Child: Johannes Petrus Jansen (Born 20th February 1873) (Died 7th May 1873)
- Child: Magdalena Cornelia Maria Jansen (Born 11th March 1874) (Died 22nd December 1876)
- Child: Elizabeth Geetruida Jansen (Born 11th March 1876) (Died 5th March 1878).
Thus, of the eight listed children of Pieter Jansen and Johanna Maria Snelleman, Adrianus was the only one to live to adulthood.
One possibility for the use of the name Harry could be that the Dutch name Arie is generally a short form of Adrianus. If he was used to being phonetically addressed using this short form, as in a Cockney "Prince 'arry", it might have been easier for him to sign as Harry, rather that Arie, especially if he was selling to an English-speaking clientele.
Attached are the details of Adrianus and Hendrika's marriage in 1886.
I'm sure you're right about Harry/Arie, Kieran - I had missed that it's a familiar form of Adrianus.
Re your genealogical discoveries, as I said above, "I have quite detailed info on his movements, his parents, marriage, children etc; I will post more of this ... overnight and/or tomorrow". I paused last night because I couldn't get the documents to upload. Now that you know exactly who and what you're looking for (and when) you'll doubtless be able to find much of it yourself...but so far you're duplicating work already done and in the pipeline! I must confess, though, I was not going to give quite such extensive detail about his siblings - merely to note that he was "the second and only surviving child of eight born to Pieter (b.1837) and Johanna...etc". I'm attaching (if it works) an image of the original Gouda Bevolkingsregister** entry I worked from, and for which you found the transcription. My only query would be your translation of 'verversknecht' as painter (decorator) - painter is not impossible, but 'verver' more usually means a dyer, I believe, and the 'knecht' part certainly means servant (or assistant in this context). I've read much conflicting evidence on this, however, so input from a native Dutch speaker would be very welcome.
I'll also try and upload yesterday's Antwerp Police file for Adrianus again.
I still cannot find any information on his death. I don't share your confidence that I'll pin it down eventually, which is why I suggested someone else's knowledge or imagination would be required!
**The ‘Bevolkingsregister’ (population register – indexed by the name of head of family) is a sort of continuous census which in theory keeps track of everyone living in the municipality, and their movements to new addresses. Post-1920 this changed from a book to a system of cards (‘gezinskaarten’), which were retained by the family and updated as they moved around - I have one of those for Adrianus which I'll post a bit later.
The Antwerp file (which isn't that big) still won't upload - I've renamed it and will try one last time. If that fails I'll send it to Marion on Tuesday to see if she can make it work.
Belgian civil registers and parish registers are all digitized and most are indexed and available on-line through the state archives. (It is still a work in process.) I had a Belgian grandmother, so I've spent a lot of time on that website.... I'll have a look when I've got some time.
Osmund, the definition was one of several options, but I was really making the point that he was not a painter as in an artist but as in a trade. Your more correct definition of dyer's assistant is just as relevant. I look forward to your revelations regarding Adrianus's later life and will desist from any further research until I have read your updates.
Somewhat bad news: the Belgian civil registers have only been digitized and are available on-line up until about 1910 (it varies a bit from one location to another). So, the only way to access them would be in person...
I did find something though in the Dutch civil registers: his wife died in Rotterdam, Mar 25, 1928. The entry in the registry states that she was resident in Antwerpen - perhaps she was in Rotterdam visiting family when she died. It also states that she was the wife of our painter which likely means he was still alive at this point. They normally would have written "widow of" if the husband had predeceased her. It also names both of her parents and notes that they are both deceased.
I'll have a look through some of the family history websites. If we get lucky, one of their descendants has posted a family tree.
Maria, Hendrik Christina Gentrop's death notice (attached) appeared in the Voorwaarts : Sociaal-Democratisch Dagblad of the 27th March 1928. Can you decipher the code used in the letters "vr v"? Would it stand for "vrouw van" (wife of)? If so, you are correct in your stating that A. J. Jansen lived beyond this date. She was 63 when she died.
Hendrik = Hendrika (auto-spellcheck tyranny strikes again!)
Having married in January 1886, the issues of the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad of the 1st January 1887 and of the 28th August 1888, announced the birth to Adrianus and Hendrika of daughter and of a son. There could well be descendants of these children living today.
Both having been born in Rotterdam, their two children were:
• Johanna Maria Jansen - Born 30th December 1886
• Pieter Johannes Everardus Jansen - Born 28th August 1888
Apologies, that second birth date should be 24th August 1888.
Alas, Pieter died on the 31st December 1891 aged 3. However, on the 4th March 1914, Johanna Maria, aged 27, married the Arnhem-born Christianus Hendrikus Jacobus Siep, aged 25 (born 3rd October 1888).
At Rotterdam on the 6th August 1914, Johanna Maria gave birth to a son, Johannes Wilhelm Marie Siep. This gets the discussion closer to a living relative if someone can show that this child grew to adulthood and had a family.
I think we already knew (or at least could reasonably assume) that Adrianus was still alive in 1928, as two of his works on Art UK are apparently dated 1932 & 1933. See https://bit.ly/3gSD01k & https://bit.ly/34TK5MX . Marion, could we see a higher-res bottom-right detail of both, please? If we're lucky the date(s) may have escaped the inevitable image crop, and it might say 'Antwerp', too.
You've definitely got a point there, Osmund. LOL.
The Royal Belgian Library has lots of digitized historic newspapers that could be presumably searched for an obituary, but their website appears to be down. I'll try again tomorrow.
I've searched FamilySearch, Geni, Geneanet and Wikitree for a family tree that includes the relevant people, but so far no luck.
The Royal Belgian Library digitized newspapers (https://bit.ly/31OkWkI) are of very restricted availability – they are generally only freely viewable up to 1918 because of copyright issues, real or imagined. I've been trying to get to the bottom of this for days, as I got a number of hits for various variations of our artist's name in a search between 1925 & 1940. However, I’ve now found a page that suggests I may be possibly be able to register for an account (which would allow access to later dates) if it is for "scientific research". I'm not hopeful, but will try and report back.
Just say it's for scientific art history, Osmund.
Well, it's very straightforward, and then surprisingly you get immediate access to all the papers - go to https://bit.ly/34WzP6C and register via the link in the section called 'Access via your MyKBR account'. It seems the published restrictions are a legal nicety, but in practice don't stop you: you are trusted to be researching for the approved reasons.
Unfortunately the website couldn't cope with my geriatric laptop and operating system (or vice versa), and I was still blocked! So I went in using my smartphone, and all was well...except that reading the print was nearly impossible on its little screen (even at max size), and the coloured boxes that should be there to show you where to look on the page were mainly absent. Nightmare. I persevered using a magnifying glass (literally), but none of the hits I'd got from my various searches were relevant once I found them...but I didn't find them all, and eventually gave up. So if anyone else feels like repeating the exercise with a more up-to-date computer and a proper screen, it might conceivably be worthwhile. Or not.
Kieran continues to search for all the basic genealogical details with his usual determination, so I can safely bin most of my existing research findings and leave it to him. But I do have images of the relevant Rotterdam Bevolkingsregister (population register) pages, Gezinskaarten (family cards), and official newspaper listings of marriage & births saved, prepared and annotated. To be honest, there’s not much in them that we don’t know already – Dutch historical records are so good (and often transcribed) that you frequently find the same information in half-a-dozen different original sources; but some may be worth posting for a few extra details. For example, (Adrianus’s father) Pieter’s Rotterdam register page shows that his son had moved there from Gouda in Dec 1884, followed by Pieter himself (with his ?second wife Johanna Mulkes) in Oct 1885; his (Pieter’s) profession had by then changed from the still ambiguous 'Verversknecht' to ‘Tapper’, which means any sort of alcohol seller – usually an innkeeper, but also one who makes off-sales or even just a barman. Pieter and Johanna apparently returned to Gouda in Feb 1886.
Adrianus Jansen’s Rotterdam family card confirms his major family events as already given by others, his first date of arrival there from Gouda, and his movements to and from Antwerp (Mar 1906 – Aug 1914; then again from Jun 1925). His wife Hendrika’s entries on the same card (and on that of her son-in-law Christianus Siep) are a little confusing and/or deficient – she seem to have moved in with her married daughter in Feb 1915, but this was probably to help with her six month-old grandchild rather than a separation from her husband. It’s unclear when she left, but we know from both the Police record and her Death registration that she was with her husband in Antwerp from Jun 1925. The most important thing on Adrianus’s Gezinskaart is the specific reference to his profession as artist-painter (kunstschilder).
I’m still digging out original images of some records – they often have more and important details than the transcriptions, but can be much harder to find. So forgive me for not proceeding at the breakneck speed some might prefer.
Osmund, I registered with KBR and ran a few searches, but I did not come up with anything related to our Jansen. I wondered, too, if he might have returned to Rotterdam towards the end of his life to stay with his daughter, but I can't find any evidence of that either.
Osmund, please find the signatures from 'SS Otto' and 'SS Blyth' attached. We're in luck. Underneath the signature they both have 'Antwerp' followed by 3.
Thanks, Marion. So certainly 1930s, and in all probability (the writing seems very clear) '32 & '33 as given...which of course extends Jansen's known working life (as per Art UK) by a year.
Looking at the many works of his you can find on the web that are signed with place and date, it is notable that every one seems fits the pattern of his movements between Rotterdam & Antwerp deduced from archival sources. The only possible exception is another Titanic painting (with a far less dominant iceberg and wind in the opposite direction), which is signed in his normal style of ‘A J Jansen’: https://bit.ly/2Z2AoYM . According to the listing it’s dated 1918; but though the image is very small, the signature close-up (attached) could be read as 1913’ – i.e. the same ours. However, the top of the last digit is unusual for a Jansen ‘3’, and as he was in Antwerp in 1913 I am inclined to accept the auctioneer’s reading of 1918. This suggests our 'Titanic' may not have been an unusual one-off for him (though the signature style still appears to be), but perhaps a popular and long-lived stock image.
And here's another Titanic with (I think) no iceberg at all, said to be dated 1912: https://bit.ly/3jJ4uYZ. The Australian auction room that sold it has closed down, so no chance of a better image.
As per the attached composite, the three 'Titanic' works all differ in significant details, so at least he was not churning out exact duplicates.
Apart from a death date the attached seems to be broadly what we now know from the very thorough pursuit of information above. Unless there are any further thoughts we can probably begin to wind it up.
Pieter, rather than "painter-decorator" you might consider using Osmund's more accurate "dyer's assistant".
Pieter, to your 28 examples you need to add the nine currently assigned to Alfred Jensen on ArtUK:
but all of which are clearly by Jansen. Presumably ArtUK are waiting for a standardised name before reassigning - and of course they'll need to check with the collections. There may be other misassigned or anonymous examples around as well.
I wonder if we're correct in regarding him just as a pierhead painter, selling to passengers and crew on an ad hoc basis. Some work may have been like this but others commissioned - as these Titanic ones must have been - and possibly painted from photographs as at least one was explicitly:
Also a lot of these pictures seem to come in sets without much duplication and it could that they were actually bought by the shipping companies themselves to display their fleet in board rooms or on board passenger ships (I can vaguely remember this from childhood sea journeys) This might explain why they are on canvas, rather than the more usual board.
These nine paintings that Mark has highlighted were also painted either in Antwerp or Rotterdam. The earliest painting, the 'SS Norwich', however, seems to be signed with a less distinctive signature than usual. Could a clearer image of this be posted?
Of the above-mentioned nine ships, six can be confirmed by their aft mast flags as being owned by the Great Eastern Railway Company. The link below is to the 1912 edition of "Lloyd’s Book of House Flags and Funnels", a very useful reference guide for identifying the owners of various turn-of-the-19th-&-20th-century steam vessels:
Pieter, could we pause a while on the closure? I have some significant new discoveries about Jansen's earlier life and profession in Rotterdam, but am still working on it. I also need to extend the new avenue of research to his second period of activity there (1914-25), though I'm rather hoping there won't be as much as there is from 1884-1906 or I'll be at it till Christmas.
I still have nothing on his death. One of the Titanic listings had a note that the lot came "with a letter from the Maritiem Museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands giving information about the painter". It might be worth contacting them to see what they have on the artist: https://www.maritiemmuseum.nl/en
There are four ship portraits by him in the museum. See http://www.maritiemdigitaal.nl
I found the following information on a German militaria forum: http://bit.ly/mfviola
Someone posted in Jan 2019 that he had in his possession a painting by A. J. Jansen of a ship called the "Viola" belonging to the Hamburg shipping comapany Adolph Kirsten (identifiable by the flags). He is fairly certain that the painting must have been painted after 1935 because of the known history of the ship: it had been built in 1921 and delivered to the shipping company as the "Viola", then had the name changed to the "Estes" in 1926, and then had it changed back to "Viola" in Dec 1935. It was used in WWII and sunk in 1945, thus the interest to military enthusiasts. In the painting the ship is apparently flying an NSDAP flag, which is why the owner thinks it can't have been painted before 1926, though he is also wondering if the painting might have been later "touched up" to include the flag.
He is also trying to identify the artist. There are some jpgs attached to the post, but for some reason I am unable to open them.
No hurry: I will ask Rotterdam and thanks for the other comments, esp. since I hadn't spotted the fact that Art UK seems to have nine more wrongly listed as by Alfred Jensen, who thereby disappears from UK representation!
Other extant paintings:
on a German (eBay-like) auction site the "Jervaulx Abbey", Antwerpen 1908.
There's also a whole whack of them listed on Invaluable, mixed in with paintings by Alfred Jensen
And on a Belgian gallery site: https://www.belgian-art-gallery.be/en/aj-jansen/
But here is something REALLY interesting: a still life, signed A.J.Jansen, Antwerpen 1939 http://bit.ly/AJJansenstillife
The signatures look very similar to me.
Another one from a German auction house: https://www.auktionshaus-stahl.de/de/katalog/8-februar-2012?suche=Jansen&katalog=8
Kieran, Please find attached a crop from Art UK's image. It isn't high resolution, but maybe slightly better than you can get by downloading it from the website. I can ask the collection to try to take a better one.
Many thanks, Marion. It is sufficiently clear to see that the signature is of A. J. Jansen.
Maria, that is a great 1939 find. Jansen would have been 76 at time of his painting it. The revealing thing about the work is that it is a still life of fruit and flowers.
That's what has me scratching my head, though, Kieran. It looks so utterly unlike anything he has ever painted before, at least that we've seen - but it surely looks like his signature.
The signature on the still life appears to be the same as on the ship pictures. It may be that by the late 1930s it was more practical, convenient and/or marketable to paint decorative still lifes than ships. By then, I expect the day of the pierhead painter had passed.
Also, the style as such of the still life is quite comparable to that of the Titanic picture above--it is that of a graphic/commercial artist, someone who could well have done poster work, for instance.
I’m not sure his work is even that good, Jacinto. A commercial artist suggests to me someone who has received some sort of training, and I’m pretty sure Jansen was self-taught – basically an amateur who found he had a facility for one type of standard-format work (the ships...though don’t look too closely at the sea), but fell very short when he tried anything else. Here are a couple of works where he does try: https://bit.ly/2F4Wvqf & https://bit.ly/3m2lYlk . The first includes an attempt at a portrait and seems to date from after 1936; but in fact the date of the event commemorated has been overpainted – it actually took place in 1916, not 1936. The second is a riverside scene (certainly *not* a Scottish landscape) from 1924 - to my eye it is pure (and poor) amateur work.
I have no doubt that the 1939 still life is his, and on detailed examination it’s also not good – the reflections on the apple, for example, look very strange, and the perspective in both the china bowl and the flask behind is all over the place. The 1939 date is most important (a brilliant find, Maria) – I have tended to give my searches a cut-off date of 1940, but this means he could easily have lived well into the 1940s or beyond.
The idea of an amateur who did not get into serious, professional painting until he was nearing 30 (i.e. the 1890s) is also given circumstantial support by the new research I mentioned earlier. I’ll try and get some of that up over the weekend.
It is also possible, of course, that in at least some cases, such as this 1913 Titanic picture, Jansen was emulating professional poster work.
Maria, I see you (at least I assume it's you) have your answer from the German Militaria forum as to why you couldn't open the images - to do so requires 'supporter' membership, which costs 20 euros a year. I've 'taken one for the team' quite a few times on AD (for copies of wills, birth certificates, etc) - and in truth AD is the main beneficiary of my Ancestry, Findmypast, BNA and other memberships; but €20 to see one painting is a step too far for me, and I suspect for you too! In any case your 1939 discovery effectively supersedes it.
I found a lot of three pictures by Jansen, all typical Dutch scenes, at least one of which shows it was painted in Rotterdam (though probably in 1919, not 1910 as the listing has it). They are rather amateurish, but they are additional evidence that he did try his hand at non-maritime subject matter (either click on "View Details" next to the lot at upper left or scroll down to the full listing, which includes multiple images with close-ups of the signatures):
Thanks for that, Osmund. I had missed that detail. I did register and respond to that post; if the poster ever sees it he may be interested enough to make contact - after all he was on the same quest we are. But like you said, it is by now almost irrelevant.
Osmund, did you access his "vreemdelingensdossier" through FelixArchief? It says that there is a photo included, I assume of him. Which would be cool. I've tried to download the file twice now, but it is massive and keeps timing out on me.
No, it was via Familysearch here: https://bit.ly/34LqEFJ. I seem to remember the page has a lot of dead links, and it was quite a challenge locating what I wanted. I have to leave this for the moment, but I'll re-find the exact page for his file later, and copy the web address for you. I'm pretty near 100% sure there was no photo, though. I wonder if the one you're trying to access at FelixArchief is an earlier one for his 1906-14 residence. Mine relates to when he returned to Antwerp in 1925, though the earlier stay is also listed.
There was a photo (attached) on his file.
Osmund, here is the link to his FelixArchief file:
The 1916 Fryatt incident is well-known: he was captain of a Great Eastern Railway ferry, and when a surfaced U-boat attacked and called on him to surrender he attempted to ram it. On capture the Germans charged him at court-martial with piracy, given he was a civilian non-combattant, and sentenced him to death, which the Kaiser (against protests) insisted on being carried out. His body was returned for burial at Dovercourt (near Yarmouth) and I think there is a monument to him at Liverpool Street Station, but easily checked. Like Edith Clavell he was considered a martyr to enemy 'schrecklichkeit', as the (obviously photo-derivative) Jansen image shows him.
The still-life on the German auction site is impressive: Jansen's albeit fairly limited 'best style' with obviuus debts to 17th-century precedents. If I were in a Rotterdam or Antwerp museum already holding his more usual shipping fare I might be making a case to get it, because both good within his limits and so unusual. Its currently a 'snip' but will no doubt go up a bit.
I have relisted the NMM 'Titanic' example as by A.J. ('Harry') Jansen, giving his full names in a brief new online database entry crediting this discussion: it will upload when the Museum system backs up. The only previous off-line file database note, by a more technical colleague, points out various inaccuracies in Jansen's representation of the ship, which probably also apply to the other two versions. Since no doubt painted from images seen in magazines etc, this is not surprising.
I agree, Pieter, regarding the still life. Albeit obviously limited, it is better than what I would have expected of him in such a genre, and relatively better than his Dutch scenes with figures.
Oops; typos! 'obvious' and 'Cavell' of course, (not Clavell the American author of p/b doorstoppers)
Thanks for downloading the photo, Kieran!
Kieran, another thought: since you seem to have succeeded in downloading his file from FelixArchief, is there perhaps an "end date" when the file was closed? Perhaps that would give us at least a rough estimate of his date of death.
Death registers in Belgium for that time are open to the public (they changed the law in Dec 2018 to reduce the closure time after event from 100 to 50 years). They just haven't managed to catch up on digitizing 50 years of backlog yet. But if we have at least an approximate date, we could perhaps ask someone in Antwerpen to go and look at the physical register.
I've downloaded it, Maria, thanks to your link (which worked fine for me, despite having the oldest functioning computer in England). It's a big pdf with masses of information on Jansen and his second wife Aplonia Zevenbergen (1880-1966) - it looks like the Nazi occupation may have triggered a lot of it (including the photos shared by Kieran, which are of Adrianus and Aplonia in 1942, not his first wife). The file I'd previously found (which is at https://bit.ly/3h326KX) is essentially just a single sheet - the vast majority of the info on him is in this new one. You can also read the full one on Familysearch a page at a time, but it's harder to find - see https://bit.ly/321IgeU.
I've only skimmed it so far - it includes such things as his addresses and even income levels at various stages of his residence in Antwerp, and I think there's a disability declaration. But the most important thing is his death details are there - on 31 Dec 1943 at Antwerp (I think - the place to be checked). There are also earlier photos (1925) of Adrianus & Aplonia - attached.
If anyone else wants to take on the task of deciphering, translating and digesting it all, please feel free...
I assume the second wife was named after Saint Apollonia, but presumably the name is spelled differently in Dutch and/or Flemish.
The relationships in the FelixArchief file seem rather confusing: Jansen's first wife Henriette Gentrop died in Rotterdam in 1928, but was noted as still then resident in Antwerp. Despite that, there is an Antwerp document in the file dated 11 July 1925 which includes them both but under para 14 (Opmerkingen) also reads 'Leeft in boelingschap met: ZEVERNBERGER, Aplonia [plus her Ridderkerk (NL) birth date of 6.2.1880 and registration no. Then it ends] Belanghebbende is nog werksloos.' If someone can translate it would be useful: does it suggest Jansen was in fact separated from his wife by 1925, for example, but already living with Aplonia? And when did they later marry? No date is immediately obvious.
In 1942, one of the documents relates that "The man is a painter by trade but is currently unemployed. The man receives a retirement pension of 1,650 francs a year plus 94 francs a week from the C.O.O. This provided for the family."
Another of the documents states that he arrived in Antwerp (aka Anvers, in French) on the 3rd April 1906, and was described as "Artiste Peintre". Irrespective of the objective quality of his work, Jansen would appear to have been a professional painter, making his living from his worker over forty years, and not an amateur.
We now know that Adrianus Johannes Jansen was born in Gouda, Holland, on the 20th April 1863 and died, aged 80, at Frankenstraat, 3, in Antwerp/Anvers, Belgium, on the 31st December 1943. To accord the artist his full dignity, rather than describing his as A. J. ('Harry') Jansen I would suggest that ArtUK recognise his full name as Adrianus Johannes ('Harry') Jansen (1863 - 1943). This would solidly remove any confusion that he might be Alfred Jensen (1859 – 1935).
Pieter, it means that Jansen was living in a adulterous relationship with Aplonia.... and that he is still unemployed.
Kieran, I don't think anyone was ever suggesting that he didn't paint as a money-earning professional; he obviously did, as many bits of documentation I've previously posted made clear. My use of the word 'amateur' in relation to his work was qualitative, as the context surely made clear? And since, as it turns out (from yet to be posted evidence) he was a licensed publican/innkeeper in the 1880s and beyond, as was his father (they are both described as 'kastelein' in his full marriage document), and was also much involved in other activities (athletics and cycling), it does seem likely to me that he began as an amateur painter, and moved into doing it professionally circa 1890 without the benefit of any training. I remain unmoved by his non-ship work (pace Pieter & Jacinto); I was also briefly impressed by the overall appearance of the still-life, but much less so on looking closer - I attach details of the two areas I mentioned before as being particularly (in my opinion) amateurish.
Adrianus and Ap(o)lonia - it's sometimes spelled with a second 'o' in the dossier - lived together in Antwerp "in adultery" from Feb 1909 - Aug 1914, when they apparently returned together to the Netherlands. They then lived together in Rotterdam, probably throughout (though I can't be certain), from Aug 1914 to June 1925, when they returned together to Antwerp. They continued living together as man and wife (but not) until May 1942 ("she takes care of the household for him, and he provides for her maintenance"), when they finally married at Antwerp on 9th of that month.
After his death 8 months later she seems to have stayed on at their home on Frankenstraat until 1960. Its description (in the detailed 1942 alien surveillance report on them, which also noted they were "not Jews") sounds unappealing: "... a room and an attic with own furniture. The rent is 100 francs per month." They had clearly fallen on hard times – as Kieran says Adrianus was unemployed, and the 94 francs a week he received in addition to his old age pension was “steun”, i.e. extra aid from (?)the state.
So yes, Adrianus left his wife, and long before 1925. It’s not clear if he and Aplonia met in Antwerp, or had already done so in R’dam before he left in 1906. She seems not to have arrived in Antwerp until early 1909, nearly three years after Adrianus; but as she immediately moved in with him – at least, that’s the first address given for her – it may well be that there is more history between them than was recorded.
I must say - as far as art is concerned, Jansen's oeuvre does absolutely nothing for me. But the human story behind it that we have been uncovering is quite fascinating!
Thanks for those clarifications. No-one would suggest Jansen is a high-quality painter in aesthetic terms but he is a notable one as a ship-portraitist -which is a very longstanding specialisation in itself and one of the reasons that shipping as a whole is so well documented until (and after) mass photography took over. He has a distinctive personal style (i.e. not likely to be mistaken for anyone else, or vice versa), is well 'self-documented' in the sense that he very consistently signs his work with location and date, and he produced a very large number of images over a long career. For these he clearly had a ready market among professional seafarers at least, which was then a massive one (though now comparatively minor), on which all of his ilk largely depended from the days of van de Veldes onward, their output including a large number. Jansen's general work is also very usefully 'local', as above all recording the North Sea shipping in his time. Put another way he's a distinctive, albeit minor and relatively late phenomenon in a trade with a long history, and while 'amateur' is a reasonable tag to summarise his aesthetic level measured against 'marine masters', he was very clearly in all other senses a 'professional'. He also isn't the only one who also had another line of work. One of the less appealing traits of the 'art business' -though I make it solely as an observation not an accusation at anyone participating here - is the aesthetic snobbery which deploys terms like 'amateur' as derogatory when applied to 'commercial' painters of Jansen's calibre, but not to other higher-quality practitioners of whom appreciation is considered a mark of cultured sophistication. Its worth remembering, for example, that Jan van de Capelle (1624-79) - undoubtedly one of the finest marine painters of his age - was an 'amateur', since he was primarily a wealthy cloth-merchant who could afford to do it for pleasure, albeit no doubt also selling rather than giving away! He and Jansen are towards opposite ends of the scale in quality terms but -while few exceed van de Capelle - there are many worse hands than Jansen's, so it's better to avoid catch-all labels that imply unfair judgements in very different contexts. In Jansen's the 1939 still-life appears to be good -for him - and very unusual, as well as his last picture that we as yet know of: that is the reason I would (hypothetically) adduce for it going somewhere safe and retrievable.
Further clarification please: Kieran gives Jansen's date of death as 31. 12. 1943: Osmund confirms his second marriage as in May 1942 but then refers to his death 'eight month's later' (i.e. Dec. 1942). No doubt a slip somewhere here but where? In either case the obvious implication is declining health in the near-80-year-old Jansen and legal regularisation of the couple's longstanding circumstances for her benefit, however limited, as next-of-kin on his death.
Osmund, the subtleties of the English language might be lost on me, but your and Jacinto's use of the word amateur suggests a level of incompetence or lacking in quality, whereas when I was being taught the language the word was always imbued with the sense of "lover of" or someone who engaged in an unpaid-for activity out of passion (such as Olympians), but not ever necessarily implying that they were inept at their tasks. No reputations should be impugned by the use of the word. Are the paintings by Winston Churchill or the Prince of Wales, or any of the other very many non-professional artists who works are featured on ArtUK and elsewhere, amateurish, even though painted by amateurs? The pejorative effect of using the word amateur might be avoided, perhaps, if the description of non-professional were to be employed instead. The qualitative description as brilliant or of high-quality or inept or incompetent can then be applied to works by both professional and non-professional artists alike as each subjective assessment is made.
Pieter, Osmund did state above that Jansen had died on the 31st December 1943. For reassurance, attached is the relevant extract from the artist's file. A very rough translation reads:
"City of Antwerp - Administrative Intelligence : for peacekeeping
In the civil registers is the following:
Adrianus Johannes Jansen died here on the 31st December 1943, born on the 20th of April 1863 in Gouda in the Netherlands, resident here, widower of Hendrika Christina Gentrop, husband of Apolonia Zevenbergen, son of Pieter Jansen and Johanna Maria Snelleman - Franckenstraat 5. - Dated 6th January 1944"
I essentially agree with Pieter's comment (11:06), so I will avoid repeating it--though I will say (to Osmund) that I was not so much "moved" by Jansen's still life as *relatively* surprised by it (and yes, it weakens upon close inspection).
I will hardly presume to have a better grasp of the subtleties of English than Kieran, since it is not my native tongue, but I think the use of the word amateurish (or any other) is at the discretion of the speaker or writer based on his or her understanding and intent, and should not be subject to extrinsic regulation. We should all simply say what we mean as clearly as possible--though admittedly the clarity is not always optimal.
As for Jansen's de facto second wife, I expect the name was almost certainly Apolonia as opposed to Aplonia, but that is a minor point.
Her name is spelled Apolonia on all of the relevant official documents.
Thanks Kieran: typos -inc. mine- often creep in here, which sometimes causes confusion, but all now clear: ditto re: 'Apolonia', since the one that makes sense. I have a running summary in hand, clearing up as we go. (Others also in hand but behind for extraneous reasons.)
Jacinto, English is not my native tongue either, but I do think that care should be exercised when attempting to correctly identify the status of an artist. Professional or non-professional is a far more objective description than professional or amateur, given the oft-times pejorative use of the latter word. However, from now on I'll attempt abide by the "Suum cuique" motto.
Well, this has been a remarkably successful investigation, rather more so than I initially expected, though I evidently underestimated the investigative staff, as it were. Thus, I will soon propose a similar investigation of a British (probably Scottish) pierhead painter whose works on Art UK are all in the same collection--though there are 7 of them, and I think 6 more currently listed as by "unknown artist."
Yes, sorry, 31 Dec 1943. It was 6 a.m., I hadn't been to bed, and I was so busy counting the number of months between early May and the end of Dec (and deciding whether to call it 8 or 7) that I failed to notice there were 12 more in there.
I am sorry, too, to have stirred up a hornet's nest with my lazy and unclear (not to mention judgemental) terminology. The same dual meaning is common in the theatre, and context informs the understanding of what is meant. But I accept the criticism - I was unhelpfully using it in both senses (one intended to be pejorative, one not) simultaneously, and that was at best confusing. In truth I should really tone down or eliminate the judgements altogether. To be clear, though, I have no problem at all with Adrianus's ship paintings - in fact I rather like them, the more so because he's so consistently informative about when and where he painted them! The others I imagine grew out of a need to find new markets - I suspect the generic Dutch scenes, in particular, were for the tourist trade.
And I, Osmund, am not sorry, for given my background, any notion of "wrongthink" or "wrongspeak" is abhorrent, as it inevitably leads to oppression and abuse. However, let us drop the matter, as this is not the appropriate forum for such discussions. Let us rather strive to be honest and clear, and be done with it.
As it happens, the initials of who will be my proposed new subject of investigation are J. A., a mirror image of A. J. I hope the outcome will be similarly satisfying.
“It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” - George Orwell, '1984'. Sorry Jacinto, no notion of "wrongspeak" or "wrongthink" on your part is being implied in what I have written. In a world where the word protester is being distorted to mean anarchist or democratic to mean extremist or opposing to mean fake, any opportunity to protect the truest meaning, beauty, power and integrity of English words must be seized. I had understood that whole effort of the Art Detective stream of the ArtUK project was to find accurate, verifiable, indisputable and objective facts about the artworks on its database. Consequently, this, and any other forum where free speech is still possible, is an appropriate one for such discussions. Not to be allowed to caution against the breaking of our collective tacit agreement on the proper use of important words is more likely to lead to the oppression and abuse of which you write.
Kieran, at the risk of being tiresome but to be precise, I never used the word "amateur" but rather "amateurish," referring specifically to the style or execution of some generic Dutch scenes which, as Osmund suggested, were probably meant for the tourist trade and would appear to have been outside Jansen's métier. I stand by that *opinion* of artistic quality for those pictures, though of course you or anyone else may have a higher opinion of them.
There was never any question in my mind that Jansen was a professional ship painter, of whatever quality, and I never meant to imply otherwise. I trust you are not implying that the expression of a personal opinion regarding artistic merit is inappropriate or out of place in a forum devoted to works of art, as it is not incumbent on anyone else to accept or share such an individual opinion.
Returning to the central topic at hand, I don’t think that’s right about his second wife's name, Kieran – indeed the very document you posted shows ‘Aplonia’!
In fact in the 31 images in the Antwerp file with substantive information, representing 23 documents (eight are double-sided), her name appears 19 times. Nine times it’s as ‘Aplonia’ (between 1909 & 1966), nine times it’s ‘Apolonia’ (between 1925 & 1943 – six of them in or shortly after 1925)...and once (1941) it’s ‘Apolinia’! That fails to produce a resolution, so I went back to the Netherlands. Her original Feb 1880 state birth registration in Ridderkerk (just across the Maas from Rotterdam) was as ‘Aplonia’, and in the vast majority of her subsequent Dutch official listings it is spelled the same way – see attached. Some light internet research suggests that ‘Aplonia’ is quite specifically a name of Dutch origin, though now found elsewhere (especially places with Dutch historical links). I suppose it’s possible she chose to call herself ‘Apolonia’ for a period, but that is unknowable: I think we must go with Aplonia.
Am I right in reading the Belgian file as implying Jansen's wife Hendrika was making the same moves as he was (Antwerp 1906, Rotterdam 1914, Antwerp 1925) even though they appear to have been separated by about 1906-09? If so one has to ask why, which may have been continuing financial/legal dependence -including that for their daughter in earlier years - and that divorce was not possible for whatever reason.
Here is an interior scene by A. J. Jansen, found by Andrew Shore: https://bit.ly/2ZdDN74
I stand completely corrected, Osmund. At birth, in Ridderkerk on the 6th February 1880, she was indeed named Aplonia:
She died at Paardenmarkt 89, in Antwerp, on the 11th October 1966, aged 86.
As pure conjecture, given the seventeen year age difference between Adrianus and Aplonia, I wonder if, when she came to Antwerp in 1909 and lived at his address, when he was 46 and she was 29, she had come as a housekeeper, at a time when he would have been right at the start of his most productive period of painting. She could have moved with the family between 1914 and 1925, during which time they appear to have returned to Rotterdam. Bearing in mind that he was 79 and she was 62 at the time of their marriage, Adrianus and Aplonia could have decided to regularise their affairs in 1942 to avail of legal and financial benefits (however meagre they may have been) during what must have been extremely difficult war-time circumstances.
That's a useful suggestion which might square the circle, dependent on what the earliest date reference is to Jansen and Aplonia living 'adulterously'. I.e what is the other evidence, if any, that Jansen and his first wife were separated, and by what date?
The interior scene found by Andrew Shore is a copy, as noted under the signature, of a frequently copied work by David Adolph Constant Artz (Dutch, 1837-1890). The original is here:
Both Aplonia and Apolonia occur as names in Dutch usage, and I expect they are both derived from or versions of the name of the once-popular saint, which at least in English usage is Apollonia.
Kieran, I was thinking the same thing about Aplonia originally coming to Antwerpen as a housekeeper or something like that. In fact, in their Rotterdam registration papers there was a female servant (not Aplonia, someone else) living with them at some time, so they obviously could afford one in those years.
Attached is a composite of Jansen's signatures from his Antwerp file with two from his paintings.
Pieter, to answer your question above: I had another look at Jansen's/Zevenbergen's joint "dossier". The way I read it, Jansen's wife never did return to Antwerpen when he did in 1925, never mind what her death register in Rotterdam said in 1928. The entries in Jansen's file record, in 1925, in two separate places, that his wife is resident in Rotterdam. Perhaps the people who reported Hendrika's death to the authorities in Rotterdam, probably neighbours, were trying to keep up appearances for the sake of her memory or her daughter's reputation.
You are certainly correct, Maria. I've been examining the Antwerp Police file in detail in the last few days (oh, how I wish it were ordered more logically!), and will go further: I'm now 99% sure that Hendrika / Henriette never went to Antwerp at all - and if she did, it was not as a resident. I also agree with your analysis of why the 1928 Rotterdam death record could have been wrong about this, but with one important extra detail: Adrianus, his first wife and both their families were all Roman Catholics, and the couple were married in a Catholic church. This also explains - another query of Pieter's - why they never divorced, despite the relatively modern period.
I am attaching marked-up images of the very first documents drawn up for Adrianus after he settled at Antwerp - they are dated 5 April 1906 & 3 July 1925, in each case just two or three days after his arrival. As you say, in 1925 his wife's "current place of residence" is still in Rotterdam, and is different to the "last residence abroad" for Adrianus - and the latter is the same as the one given for Aplonia (Nieuwe Rubensstraat 41, R'dam) in her mirror file. They were therefore clearly already living together before they moved to Antwerp, and both files state they are 'Living in adultery'.
In 1906 Hendrika's "current place of residence" is also still in Rotterdam when her husband has moved to Antwerp. In this case, though, her current address and his last one abroad are the same: van Waerschutsraat no.4, R'dam. So it may be that at this stage they were not technically separated; but as Aplonia was to join Adrianus in Antwerp (unofficially as a visitor) less than three months later, and (officially as a resident) in February 1909, it was clearly something he already had in mind.
I've much more on Aplonia's movements, including her first encounter with Adrianus at Rotterdam in March 1899, and I'll try and get that pulled together and posted later. Must eat now!
Great stuff, Osmund. I had been wondering why he left Rotterdam for Antwerpen in the first place and that would certainly explain it.
Other details on the 1925 document are interesting. In section 14 ('Remarks') a report of 6 July states that "Interested party lives in a furnished room at St Elisabethstraat 46, and for the time being is still unemployed. He is a painter and hawks** his work." This has subsequently been crossed out, but that he is "still unemployed" is re-stated.
So it's clear that times were already very hard for Adrianus when he arrived in Antwerp in 1925 - indeed his second move there may have been triggered by a lack of work in Rotterdam.
(**A free translation, but after some research I think that's what is meant.)
Attached is Aplonia's 1925 Antwerp "mirror file", mistakenly dated 5 June (it must be July). Her 6 July report says "She is actually resident at St Elisabethstraat no. 46, and lives in adultery with Jansen Adriaan for whom she takes care of the household and who provides for her maintenance." The rest of the details correspond with those of Adrianus, including their joint previous address in Rotterdam. These are the first documents that explicitly state that they are living "in boelingschap".
It is not recorded when they moved from the room in St Elisabethstraat. The next document to give an address (a tax receipt) dates from 1934, by which time they were living at their later (and final) address, the room and attic at Franckenstraat 5. From 1937-43 there are also annual 'Declarations of [financial] Incapacity' ("with a view to free issue of identity card") by both of them, along with details of income. The free cards were duly issued. For the last couple of years the declarations also included a statement that they were being "supported by the public welfare committee".
Thanks to both for persevering with the dossiers: all now much clearer for summation purposes. Interesting that the phrase 'hawks his work' is at least there though crossed out. If (OB) there is also record of him as a publican/bar keeper or at least a bar man, that is perhaps the occupation from which he was then noted as 'unemployed'. It certainly looks like a case of lives of struggle compounded presumably from 1914 on by the local circumstances of two world wars and economic depression between.
Superb research, Osmund. Well done.
You're very kind, Kieran, but I regret to say there is more. You and Maria were right to suspect that Aplonia first encountered Adrianus (& his wife) as an employee, but the when and how is rather different.
The information about Aplonia’s movements (which greatly inform her relationship with Adrianus) was getting much too wordy for posting, so a summary follows hereafter. A fuller exposition of the evidence is attached, along with the two main sources: a marked-up re-post of her 1890s-1900s Bevolkingsregister (population register), and also her first (12 Feb 1909) document in the Antwerp Police file. In the former her occupation is given as ‘dienstbode’ – a catch-all term for female domestic servants, living in and not. In the latter she is a ‘femme à journée’ – a daily domestic servant or charwoman.
The summary (fingers crossed that it formats OK):
1892-99. Aplonia lives mainly with her parents at various addresses in Rotterdam, probably working elsewhere as (usually) a daily, non-resident servant. She may well have been just 12 when she began work.
1899 March 10. Aged 19, moves in with the Jansens at Westerhade 17, apparently as a live-in domestic servant.
1901 Feb 18. Moves to a different live-in post, and for the next 5 years lives/works at various places in R’dam (and once in Den Haag). Also lives for a while back with her parents at Westzeedijk 297 in R’dam.
[1906 Apr 3. Adrianus moves to Antwerp]
1906 Jun 22. Dutch records show Aplonia as moving to Antwerp, though unrecorded in the city. Probably lives with Adrianus at Belegstraat 4, but unofficially and off-record.
1908 Feb 15. Returns to Rotterdam (date of re-registration).
1908 April 18. Obtains change of residence certificate from Rotterdam Town Hall re move from R’dam to Antwerp.
1909 Feb 2. Moves to Antwerp. First residence given is rue van de Werve 101, but possibly just an accommodation address (?secrecy), as all later records say she was living at Belegstraat throughout.
1914 Aug 24. On invasion of Belgium by Germany, returns to Rotterdam with Adrianus.
1914-25 Movements unknown, but by end of period certainly living with Adrianus at Rubensstraat 41 in R’dam..
1925 Jun 30. Moves back to Antwerp with Adrianus. They live first in a room at St Elisabethstraat 46, later moving (before 1934) to room with attic at Franckenstraat 5.
[1928 Mar 25. Adrianus’s wife Hendrike (Henriette) dies at Rotterdam.]
1942 May 9. Aplonia and Adrianus marry in Antwerp.
1943 Dec 31. Adrianus dies at Antwerp. Aplonia remains at their Franckenstraat home, quite possibly until 1960.
1960 & 1964 She makes moves to two other addresses in Antwerp.
1966 Oct 11. Aplonia dies at Antwerp.
A comment about the surprising still-life. As a painter of ships from dockside, he would no longer have been welcome from 1939 onwards and might have found making a living that way increasingly difficult earlier than that on what was the run up to World War II
Roberta, I was thinking the same thing. Also, by then he was quite elderly and sitting at a dock for hours in the weather may not have been very feasible anymore.
That's great, Osmund. I'll admit to being really quite moved by the human story that has been emerging. Almost worth a film script!
I had a thought: how would everybody feel if we entered the genealogial and biographical information on our three main characters into WikiTree (which is not behind a paywall, so accessible to all and sundry). We (well, I am really volunteering Osmund for this, sorry Osmund) could input a little family tree with the information we have and attach the biographies to the individuals. I am pretty sure that is possible. Hm?
That may not be what the people in question would have wanted, Maria, and I expect it is better to stick to what AD normally does--and which it has done remarkably well in this instance.
I have no objection, Maria, but I won't be doing it myself; not a matter of principle, just of time and energy! I don't know why I've been so obsessed with this particular biographical resurrection – in truth it's out of all proportion to the art historical importance of the subject. Perhaps it's just an exercise in finding out what's possible, plus a touch of Magnus Magnusson...I've started so I'll finish! And I haven't finished yet – I’m finally getting back to the promised evidence of Adrianus' life in Rotterdam in the 1880s-early 1900s.
Fine job so far Osmund albeit a 'fight for a plot/ Whereon the numbers cannot hide the slain' in terms of AJJ's artistic significance.
I have it down in draft summary terms to about 800-plus words subject to anything you can add on his recorded non-art activities as bar-keeper etc.
Digging up the pasts of hitherto little-known artists is well worth the effort as far as Art UK is concerned. By way of encouragement, I've just seen the staging that shows how the biographies produced through Art Detective will be displayed on Art UK and it looks great.
I hear you, Osmund. Not to worry, it was just an idea.
That's very good news, Marion, I will persevere. Or rather I am persevering. A number of good discoveries already in newspapers and the (for me) newly-discovered R'dam directories of the period, which draw several strands together nicely.
Probably the most interesting is that Adrianus's bar-café on the Niewe Maas waterfront, which he and his wife ran from c.1886 to 1902, turns out to have been on the very quay (Westerkade) where the Great Eastern Railway's ships from Harwich docked, and a minute's walk from the company's Rotterdam office.
See attached postcard. Look near the centre of the image: the pink mark is the G.E.R. office, the green is the Jansens' bar (which had a garden at the front).
The curator of the Maritime Museum at Rotterdam has sent the following brief addition to the discussion:
"Here is the information that I now have at my disposal:
Adrianus Johannes [Adriaan Jan] was Dutch (b. Gouda in 1863 and died on 31 Dec 1943 in Antwerp) having moved backwards and forwards between Rotterdam (1884) and Antwerp (1906), Rotterdam (1914) and Antwerp (1925 on). 'Harry' appears to have been a nickname among his English clients but we only know one picture signed that way, which is the one of the 'Titanic' in NMM. Two other 'Titanic' versions have been sighted however, both apparently signed A.J. in the usual way.
In Maritiem Digital, the collection search system of a large number of Dutch maritime museums and institutions, I found four paintings by A.J. Jansen, one in the collection of Het Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam and three in the collection of the Maritime Museum Rotterdam. Here are the links to the records:
The website might be a useful addition to the AD search toolkit:
Thanks Kieran: I had been in touch with MMPH at Rotterdam so the biographical note above may in fact be as much based on this discussion than what they already had on file.
So we don't get into repetitions of information I attach an updated summary so far, pending adjustment when other (probably final) details anticipated from Osmund appear, or any other corrections suggested.
I apologise for the unnecessary repetition of information.
Evidently, there are many more of Jansen's ship pictures in the UK than in the Netherlands, no doubt because of his British clientele.
This comment is the 130th in the discussion that I started three months ago, using Jansen's 'Titanic' portrait at Greenwich as 'hook' to find out more about him. It has been very productive, to point of (mild) objection at the recent Art UK Group Co-ordinators annual meeting, that devoting so much effort to 'bad artists like Jansen' (cited as an example) doesn't do Art UK great credit. I am sure many site-watchers will be pleased to know that the overall view was that any discussion started is 'audience-led' and goes where it goes as long as productive, not dictated by anyone's personal value-judgements on what is good or bad , or any other abstract threshold of 'dignity', other than those set by the general guidelines of the site to be cogent, relevant and civil.
There are certainly many worse ship-portraitists than Jansen, and I make no apology for wanting better information on him for the NMM record, given that while it only has a 'Titanic' (as yet unique in being signed with his 'Harry' nickname), there are lots elsewhere in the UK and abroad. The result is that we now have him fully pinned down by what has also - in part - been a text-book demonstration of using Belgian police records from both before and during WWII.
The discussion is, however, unnecessarily 'hanging around', having now slipped to no. 75 on the list. While I know there is a little more personal information on the man promised, I don't think it is going to affect the art aspect, so this is just notice that I will formally recommend closure of the discussion on or just after 1 December. Anything arriving thereafter can go direct to Marion at Art UK for office adjustment of Jansen's biography as it then stands (further adjusted or not) at the point of closure.
I confess, Pieter, to having had some misgivings about clearly lesser art, sometimes in woefully poor condition, being treated here much the same as if it were a lost Raphael. I don't think that reflects badly on Art UK; it's more a matter of use of resources and of priorities. I've opted to focus on the challenge of cracking the case, even if only for the sake of the hunt, so to speak, but the objection raised is not entirely groundless or unworthy of some consideration. However, I do not wish to prolong this discussion further by prompting some potentially heated argument. The hunt, after all, has been enjoyable enough.
Thanks Jacinto: no do I. Its also not the place to have such a separate debate of principle so if one starts here it will prompt earlier recommendation to closed Jansen, rather than waiting to the end of the end of the month!
please forgive me, but as you have raised the issue....
An eminent writer once wrote about a now-highly revered painter in the following critical terms: "O ye gods! Why will he not stick to copying [Nature's] majestical countenance, instead of daubing it with some absurd antics and fard of his own?"
A different writer wrote of the same artist: “Introduced today to the man who beyond all doubt is the greatest of the age; greatest in every faculty of the imagination, in every branch of scenic knowledge; at once the painter and poet of the day.."
Subjective opinions and fashionable appreciations of the quality and value of artworks have blown the artistic weathervane in every direction over the centuries, and artists' individual works have been simultaneously pilloried or lauded as critics and pundits have made known their thoughts through exhibition reviews, articles, books and lectures.
It has never been my understanding that contributors to Art Detective were ever assisting in the identification of works, or their details, based on some aesthetic value judgement or within some quality assessment parameter. It was aways my assumption that the purpose of the facility was to assist in filling in missing factual elements from an artwork's record, be it by way of an artist attribution, a title, a date, an acquisition record, or some other such nugget of information that might contextualise its relevance in its host organisation's collection.
However mild their expressed objection might have been, it is rather disheartening to think that any member of the Art UK Group Co-ordinators body would deem it a discredit to Art UK that any of us have devoted, for free and with immense interest and passion, what they consider to be a wasted effort on 'bad artists like Jansen'. It is also depressing to realise that, in their minds, we might also be about to do so on any other one of the 37,000 artworks currently in the Art UK database that have an "unknown" element of detail attached to them.
In cases such as Jansen's, the quality of the work is not the only valid reason for its being considered important or valuable or worthy of investigation. Prior to the arrival, in 1907, of the first commercially successful color photography process, paintings such as his would have been a cheap and effective way of capturing and communicating the livery of a commercial shipping company's fleet. For that matter, paintings of record such as these might have been the most effective way of conveying a sense of colour and status to any viewer of any art work for any reason prior to that date. The number of portraits in the database of noble personages and their coats of arms, the Mayors and Aldermen in their civic regalia, or learned gentlemen and ladies in their university's academic dress, are bodies of work that could easily be considered in this light. That works such as Jansen's might not be considered, by some, as reaching any pinnacle of painterly achievement does not negate the value of trying to understand the when and where and the how and why his works were commissioned and collected.
The critical assessment of the quality of an artwork as being "good" or "bad" is surely benefitted by the exact details of its creation being known. That process of discovery is what I understand the role of Art Detective to be, leaving those aesthetic judgements, such as Thackeray's versus Ruskin's on Turner, to be fought out in a different arena at a later time.
I guess it depends on whether you view the function of something like ArtUK to be mostly focused on the artistic quality of artworks, or to equally include their historical and social importance. As several people have pointed out, Jansen's oeuvre, whatever its artistic merit, has importance as historical documentation. Personally, I don't think it makes sense to separate those different aspects of art, but certainly there are different opinions, particularly when resources are limited.
Here’s the first tranche of my final bumf on Adrianus Jansen. Some of it repeats, but perhaps clarifies, things previously posted. Much of it is in truth of little relevance to the basic story, at least from an art historical perspective, but there are occasional illuminations. I’m leaving it all in anyway as (if nothing else) an illustration of how much can be gleaned from online sources nowadays...even those in a language you don’t speak!
The Bevolkingsregister (population register, henceforth ‘BVR’) gives Pieter Jansen’s first registration date in R’dam, with his second wife Johanna Mulkes, as Oct 1885. He may have arrived from Gouda slightly earlier, however, as in September he had applied to the authorities for a permit to retail alcohol at the same address given for him in the BVR, Westerkade 17 (attached). This was (and is) one of an elegant 1860s terrace of houses on the Nieuwe Maas waterfront, immediately opposite the dock where (to quote a Dutch website) “the Harwich boats of the Great Eastern Railway Company carried off. They maintained a daily service that transported passengers, goods and livestock across the North Sea.” The noise and bustle seem to have limited the houses’ residential desirability, as by the 1880s many were being used for commercial purposes. I’m also attaching a group of postcards of Westerkade as it was early in the C20th.
In the BVR Pieter’s profession is given as ‘Tapper’ (bar-keeper), Also registered with him was our artist Adrianus (Pieter’s surviving son from his previous marriage), though his registration date was in Dec of the previous year. Oddly, Pieter apparently returned to Gouda with his wife Johanna just a few months later, early in Feb 1886, shortly after Adrianus’s marriage. I suspect that opening a bar-café in R’dam may have been the latter’s idea (he had already been in the city for nine months), but that he needed his father to make the official application as he was only 22 and single; but once the business was up and running, and he was respectably married, his parents were able to return home and he could transfer the business to his own name, which he duly did – his own application for an alcohol licence came in April ’86 (see previous attachment). From the date of his marriage Adrianus has his own city registration, but now in the form of a ‘Gezinskaart’ (family card, henceforth ‘GZK’ - I was wrong to say these only began in 1920, at least in R’dam). This initially gives his profession as ‘Kastelein’ (inn-keeper), but at some unknown date (though certainly before his first move to Antwerp in March 1906) this was changed on the card to ‘Kunstschilder’ (art painter).
Thereafter we can follow the fortunes of Café Jansen (as it is sometimes referred to), and of Adrianus himself, through further newspaper articles and small ads, plus listings in contemporary city directories and the address changes in his GZK. Disappointingly, though, outside official documents I have yet to find a single contemporary reference to his artistic life. There follows a summary of the timeline with references to some of these sources.
1884 Dec 11 - Adrianus, aged 21, first registered as resident in Rotterdam (from Gouda) [BVR]
1885 Sep ? - His father Pieter applies for retail alcohol licence for premises at Westerkade 17
1885 Oct 2 - Pieter & wife Johanna first registered as residents in R’dam (from Gouda) - same address [BVR]
1886 Jan 6 - Adrianus marries Hendrike Gentrop in R’dam (banns published 28 Dec 85). He & his father both described as ‘Kastelein’
1886 Feb 4 - Pieter & Johanna return to Gouda [BVR]
1886 Apr ? - Adrianus applies for alcohol licence at Westerkade 17
1886 Dec 30 – Birth of daughter Johanna Maria
1888 Aug 24 – Birth of son Pieter Johannes Everardus. Adrianus’s profession ‘Kastelein’ [Birth cert.]
1887-1903 - R’dam Directory entries every year for ‘A J Jansen’ at same address: 1887-99 he is a ‘tapper’, 1900-02 ‘koffiehuishouder’ (coffee-house keeper) & 1903 ‘bierhuishouder’ (beer-house keeper). Selection attached, some showing the nearby office of the Gt Eastern Railway Co agent. By a strange coincidence a completely separate street 2 km away with a similar name (Smalle Westerkade) seems to have been something of an artists’ colony – the 1899 Directory shows nine of them in the first ten houses.
1891-1902 – Series of at least 26 local newspaper ‘wanted’ adverts for a domestic servant / housemaid (‘dienstbode’) at Westerkade 17. Selection attached.
In most it’s not clear if the job relates to work in the café, their home (in the same building), or both. There are usually several every year, but with a notable gap 1899-1900 when Aplonia was working for them**. They’re mainly in the name of (presumably) Jansen’s wife, who was either unlucky with staff or a difficult mistress...or of course Adrianus’s wandering eye may have been a problem long before Aplonia came on the scene. The final ad of Oct 1902 may possibly have been placed by a new occupant – there’s conflicting evidence about when the Jansens left. More on that tomorrow, along with Adrianus, athletics and cycling.
[**It is interesting to see that the first ad after the gap (in Jan 1901) is a request for a short-term stopgap maid as their present one is ill. In fact by mid-Feb 1901 Aplonia had found a new home / employment. I wonder if she (and/or Adrianus) found the situation impossible, and had to leave suddenly feigning illness – I don’t think his wife Hendrika can have known the truth, or why would she have advertised for just a short-term replacement?]
Osmund, thank you for this latest tour de force on Adrianus Jansen. The amount of time and effort required to produce such discoveries is huge, as I well know, and very much appreciated.
I blame Covid.
And (you'll be relieved to hear) the final parts.
1901 Apr ? – Heineken Brewing Co. applies for retail alcohol licence for Westerkade 17 & c.50 other R’dam premises. See attached.
These seem to have been existing bars (the other one ringed was also called Café Jansen, but unconnected), and I would guess that this related to the brewery taking them on as managed or at least ‘tied’ houses – perhaps they always were, but the nominal licensee legalities changed. Anyway we know from ads (attached) selling a piano and a billiard table (which they’d been trying to sell since 1898) that the Jansens were still there in April 1902 and it was still a Café in June. But in April 1903 Adrianus placed a newspaper ad (attached) selling a racing bike from a different address – Hillelaan 44, which is also the second of those shown after Westerkade on his GZK. On the other hand there is a news report (also attached) implying Westerkade 17 was still a beer-house in Dec 1903 – and the directories show no new bar-keeper there after Jansen. Confusing.
There is a sprinkling of earlier ads and stories relating to the bar-café, but only two (which suggest it was frequented by seafarers) add anything to the narrative. In April 1898 there was trouble with an English sailor reported in the press; and in Sept 1899 a newspaper ad from a skipper looking for work gives the bar and Jansen as his address. Attached. I wondered for a moment if it was Adrianus himself looking for a sea berth, but it’s not possible.
The bicycle ad leads us neatly on to Adrianus’s parallel sporting life. Because there were at least two other men called ‘A J Jansen’ active in Rotterdam c.1885-1905, I was unsure for a long time if the man involved was Adrianus. Fortunately he couldn’t resist giving his home address in a pair of rather unctuous birthday messages (attached) he sent to the Royal family in 1899 on behalf of the Rotterdamsche Athletiek Vereeniging (RAV), the R’dam Athletics Association, of which he was 1st Secretary. From these and numerous other press reports, his periods with the RAV and two other sporting organisations seem to dovetail perfectly, and stop just before his departure for Antwerp; I feel sure they all relate to Adrianus. The reported timeline is:
1899 Jun 21 – elected 2nd Secretary Nederlandsche Athletiek Bond (NAB), the Dutch Athletics Association
1899 Jun 30 – on the NAB jury for the provincial athletics championships in Rotterdam as 2nd president-judge
1899 Aug 5 – by now 1st Secretary RAV
1900 Jan, Jun, Aug – still 1st Sec RAV
1900 Dec 31 – at AGM in Rotterdam of the Nederlandsche Wieler Bond (NWB), the Netherlands Cycling Federation, elected to the board as 1st Secretary. The NWB had been established in Dec 1898 “by and for the riders”
1901 Sep 5 – still Sec of the NWB
1902 Nov 10 – at crowded and fractious SGM of NWB in the Hague acted as keeper of the minutes (both the President and his secretariat had “thought it better not to appear”)
1902 Dec 23 – Re-elected for 1903 as 1st Sec of NWB
[1903 Apr 28 – Sells his racing bike]
1905 Jun 19 – (?Re-)elected to board of NWB
1905 Sep 25 – Crisis board meeting of the NWB in the Hague – he a member of the board as 1st Sec
1905 Dec 28 – AGM of the NWB in the Hague – one of only three board members and a handful of others present. Annual report not approved, crisis apparently continues
[1906 Mar/Apr – Moves to Antwerp]
After leaving Westerkade in 1903 or perhaps late 1902, there’s little evidence of what happened to the Jansens until he went to Antwerp. His R’dam GZK gives a string of seven further addresses during this period, but they are not dated (and hard to read) – most of the last few appear to be flats. And Adrianus never again appears in a Rotterdam directory. He, Hendrika and daughter Johanna (their son Pieter had died aged 3 in Dec 1891) were probably still together, as the Antwerp police documents give a common R’dam address for them when he arrived – van Waerschutsraat no. 4. This is also the last one of this first group on his GZK, though there’s a move to no. 12a shown, which was likely by his wife & daughter after he’d gone. Johanna left home to get married in March 1914, but Hendrika’s first official separate move is not until she joins her married daughter and family in Feb 1915, i.e. after Adrianus’s return from Antwerp in Aug 1914. So I think we must assume the separation took place then, not before his first move to Belgium.
Evidence of what became of him (and presumably Aplonia) in the Rotterdam years 1914-25 is sparser still. Of Aplonia I can find no mention whatever, and Adrianus is also all but invisible. His GZK shows four or five more addresses, and these begin to be dated (though that tells us little): attached is a map of their wanderings. The last ones are not even flats, but rooms – the addresses are followed by ‘bij’ (at) and a surname. And this is borne out by the only two occasions I can find his name (it’s definitely him) in a newspaper: a pair of rather sad small ads (attached) from May 1920 seeking a room with sleeping facilities, furnished or unfurnished – and the wording implies it’s for two people. As we already know, things were to get no better when they returned to Antwerp...
Osmund, thank you! Pieter will be sending an updated biography and recommending closure when that's done.
This might be called a 'gross' discussion simply on grounds of having reached 144 contributions to reach point of conclusion - the most substantial being by Osmund and Kieran, but many thanks to all others who have also joined in.
In starting it, I had in mind the express Art UK hope that 'collections' would use the resource it represents to fill gaps in their own records. The NMM has three Jansen paintings and the (in fact, not very accurate) one of the 'Titanic' that was pretext for this enquiry has had disproportionate influence by being the only one so far known to be signed 'Harry J. Jansen'. This is why he appears - not as Adrianus Johannes - in all three impressions/editions of the 'Dictionary of Sea Painters', one of the standard ready-reference works on the subject, by E.H.H. Archibald (formerly NMM's longstanding curator of oil paintings). His short entry only mentions two other Jansen paintings of 1919 and 1920 that he had seen in the Peabody Museum at Salem, Mass., and just places and dates him as 'working in Rotterdam in the first quarter of the 20th century'. Having now done a re-count on Art UK, there are in fact 27 ship-portraits certainly by Jansen in UK collections alone (plus several doubtfuls), let alone elsewhere, and we have now learnt far more - and accurately so - about him than his artistic significance really warrants in terms of the labour put into it!
That is not, however, a 'chronicle of wasted time'. One of the immemorial tensions in regard to marine painting (though also with other technical subjects) is between its self-evident value as a form of historical record and its aesthetic status. As regards the pictures themselves this is relatively unproblematic in assessing whether they are technically skilful or not: where things can get 'catty' is in value-judgements more aimed at sorting out hierarchy in commentator pecking-orders, be it that of 'nautical buffs' competing to score points over technical faults in representation, or the altitude differentials between equally competitive aesthetes looking down on tastes and abilities apparently unconcerned with more than subject literalism. Neither of these viewpoints help with the pre-requisite of historical enquiry which, given any reasonable question asked, is simply to uncover the primary information that either constitutes an answer in itself, or provides the basis for more judgemental and comparative ones. I asked 'the Jansen question' solely on the former basis, to fill a gap evident in NMM knowledge (and therefore almost axiomatically in many other places) and am very grateful to everyone who has now comprehensively done so: nobody, anywhere, should ever need to repeat the exercise. Any public collection (or private owner) holding 'Jansens' now has chapter and verse about him for cataloguing purposes, though it would be worth further note to find examples of his work painted elsewhere than Rotterdam and Antwerp, or others clearly signed 'Harry'. A final draft ready-reference biography is attached, with renewed thanks to all contributors.
Marion, Thanks for your email about the above as not registering for some technical reason as a recommendation to close the discussion. It is, so could you action when ready.
Before imminently closing this discussion, I’d like to comment on the number of Jansen pictures in public ownership. Seven collections have between them 28 pictures by Jansen on Art UK, but there are a further 17 in public ownership which are not on Art UK, a total of 44. Eventually we hope to add these pictures, which are to the best of my knowledge still in storage and not yet photographed (although they were catalogued by the previous owner).