Jan E. Adlmann
Santa Fe, N.M. — To say that Jan Ernst Adlmann had a flair for living is to put it mildly — he loved to say, “If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.” And so, at age 80 — despite various infirmities and a portable oxygen tank he called FiFi, Jan embarked on his last journey to Vienna, the city that held his heart, his artistic focus, family, friends, and a love for all things Hapsburg … and there he died April 12, 2017, of pneumonia.
Born in the seaport village of Rockland Sept. 18, 1936, to Adelaide Shepard Adlmann and Ernst Adlmann, Jan was a precocious child, a voracious reader and denizen of the local library. His first job as a teenager was at a fishery, where he was fired for reciting Shakespeare out loud. Encouraged by local artist and family friend Louise Nevelson, Jan embarked upon a career in the arts.
Jan attended the University of Maine, where he majored in art history, and completed his graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. Jan also studied at the University of Berlin and the University of Vienna.
Jan’s long career in the arts was primarily as an art museum director of the National Arts Club of New York, the Wichita Art Museum, Tampa Art Museum, Long Beach Museum of Art, and the Vassar College Art Museum. He served as professor of modern art history at Hamilton College, and was an instructor and visiting lecturer at the University of Colorado, the College of San Mateo, the State University of New York, and UC Berkeley. Before retiring to Santa Fe, N.M., in the 1990s, Jan served as an assistant director at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Jan wrote many essays for artist catalogs, articles for magazines, such as Art in America, ART News, Sculpture, Trend and the Santa Fe-an, and a book entitled "Contemporary Art in New Mexico." In his later years, Jan became an “assemblage sculptor,” culminating in three gallery shows of zany sculptures made from curiosities and rarities he gathered on trips around the world and from the Black Hole in Los Alamos, N.M.
Jan was extremely proud of having been awarded the Knight’s Cross decoration in 1981 by the Federal Republic of Austria for his expertise and work on the art and architecture of early modern Vienna.
In Santa Fe, Jan held court at his home with friends in the “Firefly Lounge”— laughing incessantly, conversing over a martini, listening to Blossom Dearie or watching some old movie, like "Gaslight." Jan loved a savory breakfast, beefsteak tomatoes from the farmers’ market, reading the New York Times at Starbuck’s, visiting artists and art galleries, drinking “Bloodies” or a Dark and Stormy on Sunday mornings, writing scathing letters to the editor, and oh so many other things.
Jan leaves a large number of bereaved friends from all over the country and in Europe. He made each of us feel that we were the friend he loved best of all. Jan also leaves his sweet cat, Bijou. A memorial will be held later this spring in Santa Fe and another in late summer in Rockland.
To paraphrase from one of his favorite World War II songs — Dear Jan, “We wish you luck as we wave you goodbye…”