Hans Jaenisch was born in Eilenstedt, Thuringia, in 1907. After attending school, he went as a young man to Berlin, where he would spend most of his life. Self-taught, Hans Jaenisch belonged to the generation of artists caught up in the vibrantly diverse revolutionary tendencies of the first thirty years of the 20th century.
At first leaning towards a Cubist-Expressionist style, Hans Jaenisch joined the "November Group" and showed work at twenty at Herwarth Walden's "Sturm". From 1929 Jaenisch taught at "Der Weg", an art school. In the early 1930s Surrealist elements began to surface in Hans Jaenisch's work and continued to reverberate in later paintings.
While serving as a soldier in the second world war in Tunis, Jaenisch discovered colour and became enthralled with Islamic decoration. After internment in an American prisoner-of-war camp, Hans Jaenisch returned to war-ravaged Berlin in 1946 to execute relief paintings, whose crevassed surfaces were created with the palette knife, for the "Enklave Berlin" series as well as the abstract "Flugbilder" ["Flight Pictures"], which reproduce the zooming of planes.
In the 1950s - in 1953 Jaenisch embarked on a teaching career at the Berlin Art Academy which would last for more than two decades - his work became increasingly abstract even though the object remained his starting point: ornamental lines criss-crossing colour surfaces, colour surfaces and rays in subtle gradations of one colour shot through with lines and grids. Analogously with music, the rhythms of line, form and colour play an essential role in Jaenisch's paintings of this period and - in contrast to Informel - composition is thought through, as the title given the 1960s "Fugetten" pictures indicates.
Hans Jaenisch's late work is strongly shaped by the island of Amrum, where he spent so much time: ornaments and signs which float, echo each other, are refracted and intricately detailled and crisply contoured elements that awaken associations of lighthouses, ships or birds move against a diffusely illumined background. In the work Hans Jaenisch did in the late 1970s figuration becomes clearer, the decorative elements become geometricising over large surfaces and shadowy figures in suggested landscapes invoke almost romantic, poetically melancholy moods.