Jan Voss

Jan Voss

1936 -, Hamburg, Germany

Painter, Graphic Artist


Jan Voss is of German origin but currently lives in Paris, where he has been based and worked since 1960. In the years from 1956 to 1960 Jan Voss studies at the Art Academy in Munich. From 1966-1967 he is a guest lecturer at the Art Academy in Hamburg. Five years later some of Voss’ artworks are presented in Kunsthalle Kiel. Later that year one of the artist’s widely discussed solo-exhibitions takes place at Art Cologne. He teaches as a professor at École Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris from the years 1987 to 1992.

Verdächtige Gestalten (1989)
Oil on canvas, 114x145 cm.


In the exhibition catalogue for Jan Voss’ third solo-exhibition in Galerie Birch, Børge Birch writes in the preface:
The first time Jan Voss exhibited in Galerie Birch was in 1964, and then again in 1969. Both times with great success. Everything was sold out, and they received spectacular reviews. Now, seven years later, Jan Voss has turned 40 years old and has painted pictures for more than 20 years. It is this point in an artists life that galleries all over the world are waiting for. It is the shift from looking at a young talented man that you expect something of – to experiencing a mature artist’s deeply personal expression. This is who Jan Voss is today. A great artist, and a great person, that I with the deepest respect and friendship allow myself to write these words about.


Today Galerie Birch presents an exquisite collection of artworks that documents Jan Voss’ artistic development from 1964 to 1991. Seen in general, Voss’ paintings develop from the concrete and naive figuration to becoming more fragmented and complex. In the beginning Voss creates a narrative figuration, as a member of the group with the same name, and later finds himself creating a more abstract imagery, which he conceives, in the collage-painting format. In the painting “L’ecume des Jours” from 1964 the artwork is still two-dimensional and with a very neat, almost fragile drawing, Voss depicts humans, animals, places and objects in a multitude of small scenes. The light and almost childish portrayal of the world is a poignant tale.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Voss simplifies his artistic expression to a non-figurative scenery in which the colour and formal elements takes over and overlap each other and connect in a mutual network of symbols and lines. Here the painting stands out as even more subtle. Later in the 1980s he starts working in three dimensions, where both the canvas and the paper gets folded, glued, crumpled and even torn apart, hereby cementing the relief-like collage aesthetics that characterises the later artworks of Voss. In the artwork “Local Colorit” from 1991 the canvas is ripped apart and thereafter applied in many layers and painted in a clear and almost Yves Klein-blue colour.

The ongoing theme in Jan Voss’ painting is actually the “orderly” but at the same time finds itself in the composed situations chaos of constant movement. Voss experiments with a variation of techniques and materials and at the same time shows how he in his paintings masters to combine powerful and intense colours with more calm and muted colours.

Together with Kandinsky and Klee, Jan Voss inscribes himself in the nativistic figurations imagery, which the CoBrA group also explores in the post-war period. Together with Erro, Hervé Telemarques and Valerio Adami, Voss is a part of the art movement La Figuration Narrative from the beginning of the 1960s and is part of creating the narrative imagery.

Jan Voss is considered to be one of the greatest art-personalities of his time, and is presented at a variety of permanent collections all over the world, for example at Galerie Lelong in Zürich, Musée d´Art Moderne and Musée des Beaux-arts in Paris and also Fondation Maeght in Vence. In Denmark Voss’ paintings can be experienced at Museum Jorn, Randers Kunstmuseum and The National Gallery of Denmark.

As of today, Voss has had more than 50 international solo-exhibitions and has also participated in several group-exhibitions. Galerie Birch has held solo-exhibitions with Jan Voss in the years 1965 -69-70-76-81-2008 and also in several mixed exhibitions.


Biennale A Paris
Musée d´art Moderne, Paris
Seibu, Tokyo
Lefebre Gallery, New York
Nippon Gallery, Tokyo
Documenta IV, Kassel
Musée des beaux-arts, Lille
Tübingen, Berlin
Galleria Nazionale d´Arte Moderna, Rom
Galerie Maeght, Barcelona
Die Galerie, Frankfurt
Art Forum Ute Barth, Zürich


Randers Kunstmuseum
KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art Aalborg
Statens Museum for Kunst
Museum Jorn