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Artists Marcel Janco

Marcel Janco

Romanian/Israeli Painter, Sculptor, and Architect

Movements: Dada, Expressionism, Constructivism

Born: May 24, 1895 - Bucharest, Romania

Died: April 21, 1984 - Ein Hod, Israel

Quotes

"The art of children, folk art, the art of psychopaths, of primitive people are the liveliest ones, the most expressive ones, coming to us from organic depths, without cultivated beauty."
Marcel Janco
"I'm still very close to 'Dada,' to the true Dada which at bottom always defended the forces of creation, instinctive and fresh, colored by the popular art that one finds in all people."
Marcel Janco
"It is true that I have not always painted abstractly, because I believe that one must always say something, but without being deformist or expressionist, my painting is oriented to a strong expression, like you find in folk art."
Marcel Janco
"A force coming from the physical instincts."
Marcel Janco
"The modern house is the result of the new life approach, which goes hand in hand with urban planning. The balance and co-ordination between the exterior and interior values create the core of new architecture."
Marcel Janco
"Janco paints concrete with an abstract hat , Janco paints abstract with a concrete hat."
Hans Arp
"Janco's work of the Dada period has remained one of the most solid plastic expressions of this movement."
Artist/Critic Michel Seuphor
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"We had lost confidence in our 'culture.' Everything had to be demolished."

Synopsis

Romanian born artist Marco Janco relocated to Zurich in his twenties and joined forces with his friend Tristan Tzara in developing the Dada movement. They eventually expanded their new aesthetic, based on a combination of Cubism and Expressionism, to three-dimensional works and then a kind of early performance art. Eventually Janco abandoned the militaristic anti-art of Dada and concentrated instead on a form of Constructivism. In the 1920s-30s he expanded his area of expertise to architecture and opened up a firm that would eventually be responsible for introducing modern architecture to Bucharest. Faced with the brutal persecution brought on by growing anti-Semitism in Europe, Janco left Romania and immigrated to what was then, the Palestinian Mandate. His immediate involvement with local artists had a formative influence on the development of modern Israeli Art.

Key Ideas

Janco and Tzara collaborated in establishing performances at the Cabaret Voltaire. Purposefully wild and primitive in nature, these performances were intended to join a canon of work challenging traditional society and art. One of Janco's primary contributions was the creation of unusual primitive masks, which transformed the performers into shamans that broke many conventions.
Janco eventually abandoned Dada, finding it somewhat negative in outlook, and instead, embraced Constructivism. His exploration of this style, eventually moving into the fields of urban planning and architecture, resulted in the introduction of a modernist aesthetic to central Bucharest.
Janco played a major role in the modernization of Israeli Art, importing the latest trends in Constructivism from Romania. Once established he joined local artists in developing a more abstract approach to depictions of the local landscape and also turned his attention to pertinent local themes. Janco's significance for avant-garde Israeli Art continues today, through the still-active artist's colony he established in Ein Hod.

Most Important Art

Cabaret Voltaire (1916)
This crowded canvas conveys the chaos, action, sound, and fury of a night at the Cabaret Voltaire. The jumble of performers, spectators, and inanimate objects fill the overcrowded space to bursting. One man on stage plays piano, one wrings his hands, one recites and a few dance. In the audience individuals are seen laughing, enraged, attentive, and also bored. The artist makes little distinction between the performers and the audience, instead emphasizing the morass of individuals as a whole. One of the masks for which Janco was known, is mounted on the wall above the stage, to the right of the image, as if overseeing the chaos. Janco's flat delineation of form, reflective of Cubist descriptions of space, is combined with a kinetic use to color similar to that noted in Futuristic works. His friend Arp called his style a kind of "zigzag naturalism."

This work provides a vital visual record of the sensory overload of sight and sound engendered by a night at the Cabaret Voltaire. The Dada artists who developed the idea for the Cabaret hoped to eliminate the distinction between art and life, and by extension, the performer and the audience. Accordingly, the Cabaret anarchy that would inflame the audience to the point where they lost control and became part of the performance. Hugo Ball later recalled how Tzara danced, Janco played an invisible violin, Hennings did the splits, Huelsenbeck drummed, and Ball played the piano as the audience booed, hissed, and screamed in fury.
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Biography

Childhood

Born to a wealthy family in Bucharest, Marcel Iancu was an emotional, dreamy boy, who recalled his childhood as a time of "freedom and spiritual enlightenment." From a young age, he felt guilty about his wealthy lifestyle and developed a desire for social justice. In 1912, he began his artistic career by creating illustrations for the Symbolist magazine Simbolul, co-editing it with his friends Ion Vinea and Tristan Tzara. Other early influences on the artist were the work of Cézanne, Cubism, and Futurism.

Early Training

At the outbreak of World War I, Tzara, Iancu, and his brother Jules moved to Zurich, where Marcel changed his surname for the more easily pronounceable 'Janco.' He studied architecture at the Federal Institute of Technology where he was inspired by the philosophy of "Gesamtkunstwerk" --the concept that decor should be integral to architectural design. These three young Romanians, along with Hans Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, Hugo Ball, and Emmy Hennings, created an artistic collective that would eventually become known as Dada.

Disillusioned with Western culture and repulsed by war, they violently attacked convention in poetry, photography, sculpture, painting, and collage. In February 1916, they started infamous, anarchic performance nights at the Cabaret Voltaire. Inside the Cabaret nothing was taboo. Sex, death, vomiting, painting, nonsense verse, African chants, drumming, and kinetic, masked dances were rampant and shocked and exhilarated their audiences. Janco served as set designer, costumer, and performer at the Cabaret in addition to being responsible for crafting the terrifying masks worn by some of the performers. The artist described a typical audience at a Dada soiree, usually found both booing and screaming, as a collection of "painters, students, revolutionaries, tourists, international crooks, psychiatrists, the demimonde, sculptors, and police spies." Additional significant Dada projects produced by the artist include posters, plaster reliefs, and a set of colored woodcuts.

The artist himself was later described by fellow Dada artist Hugo Ball as "A ladies' man, handsome and tall, with broad shoulders, winsome ways, and other qualities that no girl could resist for long." In late 1919 he married Lily Ackermann, a dancer, with whom he had a daughter. It was around this time that he began to find life in the Dada cabal disruptive, and to resent Tzara's love of self-promotion. He began to conceptualize Dada as having "two speeds," (one positive and one negative) and gravitated away from what he saw as Dada's destructive nihilism and spiritual violence, alternatively embracing the socialist ideals offered by the Constructivists.

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Marcel Janco Biography Continues

Mature Period

Marcel Janco Biography

By 1922, Janco had returned to Romania where he was still known as Marcel Iancu. Here he became a vital nexus for modernist currents, joining Das Neue Leben and the Radikale Künstler along with Arp and Hans Richter and attending Theo van Doesburg's First Constructivist Congress. He founded the modernist magazine Contimporanul (1922-1932), writing articles on a range of subjects including design, abstraction, architecture, film, and theatre. He believed in the power of primitive art, noting in 1924: "The art of children, folk art, the art of psychopaths, of primitive people are the liveliest ones, the most expressive."

Janco continued working in illustration, sculpture, and oil, but at this time also significantly established an architectural studio known as the Bureau of Modern Studies. Influenced by Le Corbusier and Marinetti, the artist aimed to turn old-fashioned, stale Bucharest into a modernist landmark. By 1940 his studio had designed some 40 buildings across Bucharest including private homes, apartment blocks, and a sanatorium. His projects were defined by both function and beauty, incorporating sculpted reliefs in plaster (Imobilul Jacques Costin - 1933), triangular decorative panels (Imobilul Solly Gold - 1934), ceramics, stained glass, fresco, and innovative utilitarian details such as dual kosher pantries (Stelea Spatarul - 1935).

His first marriage to Ackerman ended in divorce in 1930, and Janco married Clara Goldschlager, the sister of a childhood friend, Jacques Costin, with whom he had another daughter. Greatly affected by the atmosphere in Bucharest created by the anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi Iron Guard, his brother in law's murder, and the Bucharest pogrom of 1940, Janco and his family relocated to Israel (then Mandatory Palestine).

Later Period

Marcel Janco Photo

On arrival in Israel (under control of the British Mandate until 1948) Janco worked as an architect, taught art and produced numerous sketches reflecting his experience in Bucharest including Two Nazi Soldiers Abusing a Jew and Tearing Out his Beard (1942) and Jews Forced to Wash Windows (1941). These works were intended to exorcise the horrors of the Holocaust that he had personally witnessed in Romania and the stories of other Jewish refugees. Janco noted that these works were not well received in Israel as the local population was, at that time, trying to look forward to what would be, not backward to what had been.

Accordingly, he began to use a brighter palette, more reflective of the local Israeli light, and, although still exhibiting the Cubist and Expressionist style for which he was known from early in his career, a more abstract style. He joined forces with other artists, such as Joseph Zaritsky, in founding the Ofakim Hadashim (New Horizons), a group devoted to capturing the local landscape with bold, expressionistic brushwork and a style similar to that being developed in Europe at the time.

The artist never adopted abstraction completely because, as he explained to Hans Richter, "I believe that one must always say something, but without being deformist or expressionist, my painting is oriented to make a strong expression, like you find in folk art." Indeed, after the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, Janco used a figurative abstract style to record the personal cost of war in his iconic Wounded Soldier series.

In May of 1953, Janco established an artistic colony in a deserted Arab village near Haifa named Ein Hod. Here he attempted to create a sort of utopian society. Janco called Ein Hod his "last Dada activity" and, during his time there, created his last Dada works. He died in 1984, just one year after the opening of the Janco Dada Museum.


Legacy

Best known for his Dada years, Janco's oeuvre explored and bridged multiple genres, from Dada to Constructivism to Israeli Modernism, and influenced artists in many fields including architecture, painting, and sculpture.

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His architectural theories and modernist creations in downtown Bucharest inspired the next generation of urban planners. Many survived the appropriation of personal property by the Communist regime, the revolution of 1989, and are thus still standing. A walk around downtown Bucharest reveals at least 18 residential and business buildings designed by Janco.

Janco was a formative influence on the art of the new Israeli nation, influencing Zaritsky, Stematsky, and Streichman;, as well as 'fathering' Ein Hod. He mentored a new generation, influencing the Neorealistic work of Michail Grobman and Avraham Ofek. Today, at the Janco Dada museum, the Ma'abadada (Dadalab) continues in Janco's eclectic style - staging exhibitions of his work, and continuing the Dada philosophy of questioning and experimentation.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Marcel Janco
Interactive chart with Marcel Janco's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart

Artists

Paul Cézanne
Pablo Picasso
Hans Richter

Friends

Hugo Ball
Tristan Tzara
Hans Arp
Richard Huelsenbeck

Movements

Symbolism
Cubism
Futurism
Marcel Janco
Marcel Janco
Years Worked: 1912 - 1984

Artists

Michail Grobman
Avraham Ofek

Friends

Joseph Zaritsky

Movements

Dada
Constructivism



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Useful Resources on Marcel Janco

Books
Websites
Articles
Audio
Videos
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
biography
Marcel Janco

By Michael Seuphor

Marcel Janco

By Marcel L. Mendelson

Israeli Painting: From Post-Impressionism to Post-Zionism

By Ronald Fuhrer

Dada Art and Anti Art

By Hans Richter

More Interesting Books about Marcel Janco
Ein Hod - Artists Village

Main website, explaining history and current operation of the village

Janco Dada Museum

All information regarding the museum history and current events

Janco in Zurich and Bucharest, 1916, 1939

By Adele Avivi
University of California
2012

Virtual Walk of Janco's Bucharest Modernist Buildings

Urban Route Romania
2008

Modernist Buildings in Bucharest

Bucharestian
March 8, 2016

From Dada to Surrealism: Jewish Avant-garde Artists from Romania, 1910-1938

Jewish Historical Museum
October, 2011

More Interesting Articles about Marcel Janco
Mask for Firdusi

MOMA, New York

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Jen Farren

Edited and revised by Caroline Igra

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jen Farren
Edited and revised by Caroline Igra
Available from:
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Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara was a Romanian and French poet, playwright, and avant-garde performer who played a key role in the development and founding of Dada. A proponent of pure automatic techniques, he had an at-times contentious relationship with the Surrealism's direction in Paris.
TheArtStory: Tristan Tzara
Dada
Dada
Dada
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in 1916. It arose in reaction to World War I, and the nationalism and rationalism that many thought had led to the War. Influenced by several avant-gardes - Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism - its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting and collage. Emerging first in Zurich, it spread to cities including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York and Cologne.
TheArtStory: Dada
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
TheArtStory: Cubism
Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism is a broad term for a host of movements in early twentieth-century Germany and beyond, from Die Brücke (1905) and Der Blaue Reiter (1911) to the early Neue Sachlichkeit painters in the 1920s and '30s. Many Expressionists used vivid colors and abstracted forms to create spiritually or psychologically intense works, while others focused on depictions of war, alienation, and the modern city.
TheArtStory: Expressionism
Constructivism
Constructivism
Constructivism
Russian Constructivism emerged with the Revolution of 1917 and sought a new approach to making objects, one which abolished the traditional concern with composition and replaced it with 'construction,' which called for a new attention to the technical character of materials. It was hoped that these inquiries would yield ideas for mass production. The movement was an important influence on geometric abstraction.
TheArtStory: Constructivism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism is an artistic and literary movement that first emerged in France in the 1880s. In the visual arts it is often considered part of Post-Impressionism. It is characterized by an emphasis on the mystical, romantic and expressive, and often by the use of symbolic figures.
TheArtStory: Symbolism
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was an influential French Post-Impressionist painter whose depictions of the natural world, based on internal geometric planes, paved the way for Cubism and later modern art movements.
TheArtStory: Paul Cézanne
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism was the most influential Italian avant-garde movement of the twentieth century. Dedicated to the modern age, it celebrated speed, movement, machinery and violence. At first influenced by Neo-Impressionism, and later by Cubism, some of its members were also drawn to mass culture and nontraditional forms of art.
TheArtStory: Futurism
Hans Arp
Hans Arp
Hans Arp
Hans Arp (also known as Jean Arp) was a German-French artist who incorporated chance, randomness, and organic forms into his sculptures, paintings, and collages. He was involved with Zurich Dada, Surrealism, and the Abstraction-Creation movement.
TheArtStory: Hans Arp
Richard Huelsenbeck
Richard Huelsenbeck
Richard Huelsenbeck
Richard Huelsenbeck was a German poet, writer and musician. He was a founding member of the Berlin Dada group and was the editor of the Dada Almanach. When he later moved to New York City, he practiced Jungian psychoanalysis under the name Charles R. Hulbeck.
Richard Huelsenbeck
Hugo Ball
Hugo Ball
Hugo Ball
Hugo Ball was a German-born author, poet and artist who is credited with leading the Dada movement in Zurich. In 1916, Ball penned the first Dada Manifesto, and claimed that he coined the term 'Dada' by randomly choosing the word from the dictionary.
TheArtStory: Hugo Ball
Hans Richter
Hans Richter
Hans Richter
Hans Richter was a German-born American painter, graphic artist and experimental most importantly, filmmaker. Associated with the German Expressionist group The Blue Rider, and later with the Dada movement and De Stijl, Richter's life work is renowned for spanning much of the twentieth-century modern canon.
TheArtStory: Hans Richter
Theo van Doesburg
Theo van Doesburg
Theo van Doesburg
Theo van Doesburg was a Dutch artist, who together with Piet Mondrian established the De Stijl movement. Van Doesburg's most famous work experimented with geometric abstraction and archetypal forms. He was also a prominent architect and writer.
TheArtStory: Theo van Doesburg
Michail Grobman
Michail Grobman
Michail Grobman
Michail Grobman is a contemporary artist currently working in Israel and Russia.
Michail Grobman
Avraham Ofek
Avraham Ofek
Avraham Ofek
Avraham Ofrek was an Israeli known for his lyrical style and murals, paintings an prints.
Avraham Ofek
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Picasso dominated European painting in the first half of the last century, and remains perhaps the century's most important, prolifically inventive, and versatile artist. Alongside Georges Braque, he pioneered Cubism. He also made significant contributions to Surrealist painting and media such as collage, welded sculpture, and ceramics.
TheArtStory: Pablo Picasso
Joseph Zaritsky
Joseph Zaritsky
Joseph Zaritsky
Joseph Zartisky is considered to be one of the greatest artists of Israel, and is one of the famous founders of Ofakim Hadashim, an artist group.
Joseph Zaritsky
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