Georg Janny was an Austrian theatre designer and easel painter, who developed an intriguingly atmospheric strain of fantasy painting, depicting rocky coasts inhabited by sirens and mountain gorges populated by fairies.
Georg Janny was born in Vienna on 20 May 1864, three years before it became one of the two capitals of the newly-established Austro-Hungarian Empire. He worked in the studios of Brioschi, Burghart and Kautsky, Imperial and Royal Court Theatre Painters in Vienna, alongside Alphonse Mucha, Konrad Petrides and Leopold Rothaug, among others. The company produced sets for companies abroad as well as at home, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera. In 1898, Janny collaborated with Karl Schüller in painting the safety curtain at the Vienna Volksoper for the golden jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph I.
Following the death of Hermann Burghart in 1901, Janny, Petrides and Rothaug took over the company, and based themselves at Paletzgasse 38. In 1904, they exhibited together at the Austrian Pavilion of the St Louis World’s Fair with scenes from the Imperial Royal Austrian State Railways (that are now in the collections of the Technisches Museum, Vienna).
Two years later, Janny produced the designs for a production at the Vienna State Opera of Karl Goldmark’s Die Königen von Saba, one of the most popular operas of the late nineteenth century.
During the First World War, Janny turned from theatre design to easel painting. This was probably as an outcome of the impending dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the resulting lack of opportunities to work on elaborate theatrical productions. He painted landscapes and figures, including scenes from fairy tales or imaginary worlds, which were compared at the time to the works of Arnold Böcklin and Hermann Vogel. These he exhibited most regularly at the Kunstverein in Baden bei Wien and with the artists’ co-operative, Albrecht-Dürer-Bundes, of which he was a member and sometime archivist. He died in Vienna on 21 February 1935.
The contents of his estate are now in the possession of the Hernals District Museum in Vienna.