Jacob Gerard (Job) Hansen was born in Groningen in 1899. He developed artistic ambitions at a young age, but eventually chose a different direction. After graduating from the ‘Hogere Handelsschool’, he found a job in Amsterdam in 1920 as a correspondent abroad at the ‘Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Fijnhouthandel en Stoomzagerij’ (‘Company for the Operation of Fine Timber Trade and Steam Sawmill’). He lived in rooms in the same house in Amsterdam as Johan Dijkstra. There he also met Jan Wiegers. In 1922 he returned to Groningen to work as an architectural draftsman at the architectural firm of Evert van Linge. For the latest developments in architecture, Job Hansen read, among other things, the avant-garde magazine De Stijl. His first own construction project consisted of two houses in Leiden, in which his interest in De Stijl was expressed. In 1930 he designed a house for Ekke Kleima in Warffum. Hansen completed most of his architectural projects before World War II.
In 1923 Hansen joined De Ploeg. Although he was one of the non-painting members, his great knowledge of and interest in modern painting soon gave him a position of his own within the group. He wrote several pamphletic texts for exhibition catalogues of De Ploeg and in 1923 he contributed to the avant-garde magazine The Next Call of Hendrik Werkman. In 1924, the Ploeg edition of Teekeningen printed by Werkman was published, containing drawings by Jan Wiegers, Jan Altink and Hendrik Werkman and texts by Job Hansen. In his characteristic, pregnant writing style, Hansen sketches the artistic atmosphere in Groningen, examines the creative, personal character of the drawing, and gives his vision on the artistry of Wiegers, Altink and Werkman on the basis of their drawings.
In 1924 Hansen and Siemon Steenmeijer formed the admission committee for the annual Ploeg exhibition in Pictura in Groningen. In retrospect, the jury's venture to select exclusively work by modernists resulted in the most important and most pronounced exhibition in De Ploeg's history, but also led to internal conflicts. The administrative unwillingness to bend the association in a modernist direction made Job Hansen decide to leave De Ploeg in 1925.
When Evert van Linge was forced to give Hansen an honourable discharge due to the lack of assignments in 1927, Hansen decided to focus on his first love: painting. That year, he and Jan Altink went out almost daily to paint in the open air in the rural surroundings between the Reitdiep and the Boterdiep outside Groningen. Inspired by the impressionist technique used by Altink during that period, Hansen used oil paints that were heavily diluted with petrol and a palette of atmospheric shades. He developed a vision and working method that made his work very different from that of Altink and other Groningen colleagues. In contrast to them, Hansen applied his paints not to absorbent surfaces, but to white-painted plywood, which dispersed every stroke of paint into transparent clouds of colour. Because of the strong similarities with watercolour, this technique was called ‘benzinerel’ (‘petrol riot’). Hansen mainly used the ‘benzinerel’ technique in the period 1929-1933. Then he would use it in combination with undiluted oil paint.
Hansen initially painted in the open air, but after moving to the Grachtstraat with his family in 1933, he increasingly worked in the studio. He had the attic room on the first floor of the small house converted into a studio space with an open view of the Noorderplantsoen. From this space he painted, under constantly changing weather conditions, with great regularity the view over the park, the canal pond and the adjacent houses. In 1934 he became a member of De Ploeg again. Although Hansen developed from an open-air painter to a studio painter in the 1930s, the visual observation remained the starting point in his work and, as before, he was inspired by impressions, or rather sensations, of light and colour.
After the Second World War, Hansen did not rejoin De Ploeg. In the early years after the war, he was mainly preoccupied with caring for Werkman's family and his estate. His close involvement with Werkman's art brought him into contact with Willem Sandberg, director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, who greatly appreciated his work.
In the 1950s, Hansen's experimental painting almost naturally dovetailed with the then current modernism that proclaimed freedom of visual means. His use of colour became more powerful, his form language sketchier and his technique more expressive, but as much as his work moved towards a lyrical, figurative expressionism, it remained impressionistic.
An important breakthrough was the major exhibition that Willem Sandberg put together of his work in 1953 in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Hansen's work was subsequently presented at many important exhibitions of modern painting and found warm advocates not only in Sandberg, but also in Jos de Gruyter, director of the Groninger Museum and Hans Paalman, director of the Stedelijk Museum in Schiedam. In 1956 he exhibited at the Prinsenhof in Delft at an exhibition of modern art. In the same year he took part in the exhibition ’35 jaar moderne kunst in Groningen’ (‘35 years of modern art in Groningen’) in the Groninger Museum, organized by Jos de Gruyter. In 1957 his work was shown abroad for the first time, in Krefeld. In 1960 Hansen took part in a European Community painting competition and received an honourable mention, and was invited to participate in the Europe-traveling exhibition Pix de Marzotto with displays in Valdagno, Milan, Brussels, Munich and Paris. Job Hansen died shortly afterwards. After his death, major exhibitions of his work were organized in the Stedelijk Museum in Schiedam (1960), the Groninger Museum (1960, 1989, 1997), De Beijerd in Breda (1998) and Museum Belvédère in Heerenveen (2008).
Text: Han Steenbruggen
Cees Hofsteenge, De Ploeg 1918-1941, De hoogtijdagen. Groningen: Benjamin & Partners 1993. Henk van Os, Job Hansen. Avantgardistisch schilder, architekt en pamflettist in Groningen. Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff / Forsten 1989. Han Steenbruggen (red.), Job Hansen - door de wind getekend, door het licht gekleurd, Catalogus bij de tentoonstelling 28 september - 19 november 1997. Groningen: Groninger Museum 1997. Han Steenbruggen, 'Grachtstraat 42', Afslag Noord, no. 2, 1997, pp. 3-7. Han Steenbruggen, Grachtstraat 42. Het klein schildersobservatorium van Job Hansen, Heerenveen: Museum Belvédère, 2008. Adriaan Venema, De Ploeg 1918-1930, Baarn: Het Wereldvenster 1978.