The steamship 'Titanic'

Oil painting of the RMS 'Titanic' with an iceberg to the left, signed 'Harry J. Jansen / Antwerp 1913' at lower right. The painter's real name was Adrianus Johannes or, more familiarly, 'Arie' Jansen, this being the Dutch contracted form of Adrianus. He was born at Gouda on 20 April 1863 as the second and only survivor of his parents' eight children: all the rest died soon after birth and none reached the age of three.

He moved to Rotterdam in 1884 where he ran a cafe on the Westerkade until 1902/3 and married there to Hendrika Christina Gentrop (1864-1928) in January 1886. The cafe was alongside both the local ferry offices of the Great Eastern Railway Company and where its ships berthed, and he probably started painting and selling ship portraits about this time to seamen and shipping people who frequented his cafe. After his marriage broke down he moved to Antwerp in 1906 but returned to Rotterdam when the Germans invaded Belgium in 1914 and only went back to Antwerp in 1925.

Jansen painted almost exclusively North Sea ship portraits, especially Great Eastern Railway ferries and other vessels using the Hook of Holland, Rotterdam and Antwerp as their continental ports. He was in effect a 'pierhead painter' and understandably gained the English nickname of 'Harry' from his British seaman clients as a version of the Dutch 'Arie'. Two other similar paintings of the 'Titanic' by him have been sighted, one dated 1918. They are the only so far known examples of a ship he could not personally have seen, and the present one the only painting yet known on which he signed himself 'Harry' rather than his more usual 'A.J. Jansen'. It is also a far from accurate representation of the ship in many technical aspects.

Jansen had two children; his daughter Johanna Maria was born in December 1886 and married Arnhem-born Christanus Siep at Rotterdam in March 1914, with at least one son (Johannes) born in August that year. Her brother Pieter, born in 1888 died as a child in 1891. Jansen left their mother Hendrika in 1906 when he first moved to Antwerp, having formed a relationship with a former maidservant of theirs, Aplonia Zevenberg (1880-1966), at the Rotterdam Westerkade cafe. She followed him and they remained together for the rest of his life. Being Roman Catholics, Jansen and Hendrika never divorced: she died in Rotterdam in 1928 and he eventually married Aplonia in May 1942, when both were living in straitened circumstances on his small Belgian public pension. He died in Antwerp on 31 December 1943.

These notes are based on information that emerged from an Art UK discussion linked to the present picture, August - December 2020. At that time, Art UK listed 28 works online by him in UK public collections (including two attributed) but with another 16 yet to be photographed and added. The other two in the Museum are BHC3523 and BHC3563.

Object Details

ID: BHC3667
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Jansen, Harry J.; Jansen, Adrianus Johannes
Vessels: Titanic (1912)
Date made: 1913
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 485 mm x 775 mm

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.