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Jantzen, Hans

    Full Name: Jantzen, Hans

    Other Names:

    • Hans Jantzen

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 24 April 1881

    Date Died: 15 February 1967

    Place Born: Hamburg, Germany

    Place Died: Freiburg im Breisgau, Hesse, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Medieval (European)


    Medievalist art historian. Jantzen initially studied law in college, switching to art history, archaeology and philosophy taking classes at various universities as was standard among humanities students in Germany. He studied under Henrich Wölfflin in Berlin and Adolph Goldschmidt in Halle. His doctorate was granted at Halle in 1908 under Goldschmidt with a dissertation written on the topic the depiction of architecture in Netherlandish painting. After writing his Habilitationschrift, Jantzen lectured at Halle in 1912. He fought in World War I in 1916 (on the infamous Western Front). The same year he succeeded Wilhelm Vöge as ordentlicher (full) professor at the University in Freiburg im Breisgau in the department Vöge had created. During his Freiburg years, Jantzen struck up a close relationship with the classicist art historians Ernst Buschor, who was teaching at Erlangen, and Ludwig Curtius at Freiburg. He also developed a friendship with the Freiburg philosophers Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and Husserl’s assistant, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). His attention turned to the middle ages at this point, a topic he continued the rest of his career. In 1925 he published his book Deutsche Bildauer des 13. Jahrunderts (German Sculptors of the Thirteenth Century). Appearing, as it did in the years after the War, the book became controversial because of the prominence and primacy it placed on German sculptors in period traditionally thought of as having its roots in France. In 1927, Jantzen published his groundbreaking essay, “Über den gotischen Kirchenraum und andere Aufsätze,” where he set forth his theory of Gotikforschung. He moved to the university at Frankfurt am Main in 1931. Jantzen accepted the professorship at Munich Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in 1935, succeeding Wilhelm Pinder as senior professor of art history. Jantzen joined the Nazi party as a “sustaining member” (Fördermitglied) of the SS and a member of the National Socialist People’s Welfare (NS-Volkswohlfahrt). In 1942 he wrote an article, “Deutsche Kunstwissenschaft 1933-1942,” evaluating in positive light the accomplishments art history under the Nazis. Because of this, Jantzen was dismissed in 1946 from teaching, but reinstated shortly thereafter. In 1947 Jantzen published on monograph on Ottonian art, Ottonische Kunst; he was one of the first art historians (along with Vöge) to consider the Ottonian a stand-alone period for art history (Metzler). He remained at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität until his retirement emeritus in 1951, succeeded by Hans Sedlmayr, returning to Freiburg to lecture in 1953 as an honorary professor. In an essay in the Festschrift Kurt Bauch, “Wert und Wertung des Kunstwerks,” 1957, he again emphasized that artistic quality was not the standard for art-historical importance, but instead whether a spiritual achievement had been attained by the viewer. In the English-speaking world, his fame rests largely on another 1957 work, his essay-length book on three Gothic cathedrals, Kunst der Gothik, which appeared in English as High Gothic (1962). His students included Julius S. Held, Werner Cohn, Robert Oertel, Paul Wescher, Martin Gosebruch, Willibald Sauerländer, Hans Curjel and Kurt Bauch. His son was the classical art historian Ulf Jantzen. Jantzen developed a concept of Gotikforschung or a special theory of Gothic esthetics and analysis, an elaborate theory of diaphanous layers and spaces in Gothic architecture. Jantzen’s innovative approach to art history began with his dissertation, an examination of buildings or ruins in 16th- and 17th-century Netherlandish paintings. Jantzen noted that the production of these paintings indicate an interest in architectural styles and the knowledge of linear perspective. His fame as a post-war art historian rests with his monograph on Ottonian art (Metzler). Jantzen considered Ottonian a genuinely German art form, emphasizing its spirituality. His thinking was deeply affected by Husserl’s phenomenology and Heidegger’s existential ontology, particulary from Heideggers Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes of 1935.

    Selected Bibliography

    [collected essays and complete bibliography:] über den gotischen Kirchenraum und andere Aufsätze. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1951; [complete bibliography:] [this is an update of the Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte (1951)] Jantzen, Ulf. “Bibliographies Hans Jantzen.” in, Jantzen, Hans. Über den gotischen Kirchenraum und andere Aufsätze. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2000, pp. 149-171; [dissertation:] Das niederländische Architekturbild. Halle, 1908, published, Leipzig: Klinkhardt & Biermann, Year: 1910; [habilitation:] Farbenwahl und Farbengebung in der holländischen Malerei des XVII. Jahrhunderts. Parchim i. M.,1912; “Deutsche Kunstwissenschaft 1933-1942,” Forschungen und Fortschritte 18 (December 1942): 341-348; Ottonische Kunst. Munich: Münchner Verlag, 1947; and Hackelsberger, Berthold. Festschrift Kurt Bauch. Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverl., 1957, p. 9 ff. Kunst der Gotik: klassische Kathedralen Frankreichs: Chartres, Reims, Amiens. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1957, English, High Gothic: the Classic Cathedrals of Chartres, Reims, Amiens. New York: Pantheon Books, 1962.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 46 mentioned; Hüttinger, Eduard, and Boehm, Gottfried. Porträts und Profile: zur Geschichte der Kunstgeschichte. St. Gallen: Erker, 1992, pp. 118-124; Kuder, Ulrich. “Hans Jantzens kunstgeschichtliche Begriffe.” in, Jantzen, Hans. Über den gotischen Kirchenraum und andere Aufsätze. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2000, pp. 173-187; Held, Jutta. “Kunstgeschichte im ‘Dritten Reich’: Wilhelm Pinder u. Hans Jantzen an der Münchner Universität.” in, Papenbrock, Martin, ed. Schwerpunkt: Kunstgeschichte an den Universitäten im Nationalsozialismus. Göttingen: V-und-R-Unipress 2003, pp. 17-59; Held, Jutta. “Hans Jantzen an der Münchener Universität (1933-1945). in Drude, Christian, ed. 200 Jahre Kunstgeschichte in München: Positionen, Perspektiven, Polemik 1780-1980. Munich: Deutschen Kunstverlag, 2003, pp. 154-167; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007, pp. 208-211. Dictionary of German Biography 5: 324; [obituary:] Gazette des Beaux-Arts 69 (May 1967): supplement 28.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Jantzen, Hans." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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