Liss was born in Oldenburg (Holstein) in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. After an initial education in his home state, he continued his studies, according to Houbraken, with Hendrick Goltzius in Haarlem and Amsterdam. Around 1620 he travelled through Paris to Venice. He moved to Rome around 1620–1622, and his first works there were influenced by the style of Caravaggio.
Although his earlier work was concerned with the contrasts of light and shadow, his final move to Venice in the early 1620s modified his style and gave impetus to brilliant color and a spirited treatment of the painted surface. In 1627, he painted an admired large altarpiece, the Inspiration of Saint Jerome in San Nicolò da Tolentino. His loose brushstrokes seem precursor to rococo styles of the Guardi brothers. This final style, along with that of other "foreign" painters residing in Venice, Domenico Fetti and Bernardo Strozzi, represent the first inroads of Baroque style into the republic.
Liss fled to Verona to escape the plague spreading in Venice, but succumbed there prematurely in 1629. According to Houbraken, he worked day and night on his paintings, so that Joachim von Sandrart felt that his health was at risk and urged him to join him in Rome.
His legacy is as a painter of both sensuous mythological and pious biblical subjects, a master of colors and Baroque painting. He was most influential to Venetian 18th-century painters like Sebastiano Ricci, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Giovanni Piazzetta.
Joachim von Sandrart wrote in 1675 that "because he fared well in Venice, he soon returned there ... he died along with many others during the plague that began in 1629."
Nazi looting and restitution
In 1939, the Liss drawing entitled "Allegory of Christian Faith" was one of 750 Old Master drawings seized from the home of Arthur Feldmann and his wife by the Nazis. The Cleveland Museum of Art, which acquired the drawing from the art dealer Herbert Bier in 1953, reached a settlement with the Feldmann heirs in 2013. The Feldmanns, a Jewish couple, were murdered in the Holocaust.
Examples of work
- Lute Player
- Visitation of St Jerome
- Vision of Saint Jerome
- Peasants playing mora
- Judith in the Tent of Holofernes (c.1622, National Gallery, London)
- Death of Cleopatra
- Abel mourned by his parents
- Venus in front of mirror (1625–26, Uffizi)
- Death of Phaeton
- Cupid (Cleveland Art Museum, Cleveland, Ohio)
- Jan Lis biography in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature
- Spear 1976, p. 582.
- "Allegory of Christian Beliefc. 1622 Johann Liss". Cleveland Museum of Art. 31 October 2018.
- "World War II legacy: Artworks looted by Nazis and recovered by the Monuments Men now belong to the Cleveland Museum of Art". www.lootedart.com. The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
- "Cleveland Museum of Art settles claim over Johann Liss drawing said t…". archive.is. 2019-04-11. Archived from the original on 2019-04-11. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
- "Four Old Master Drawings – Feldmann Heirs and the British Museum — Centre du droit de l'art". plone.unige.ch. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
- "EMuseum". visitors.ringling.org. Archived from the original on 17 March 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
- "The Death of Cleopatra by Liss, Johann". Wga.hu. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
- "Venus in front of the Mirror by Liss, Johann". Wga.hu. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
- "NG London/Full Collection Index". www.nationalgallery.org.uk. Archived from the original on 1 January 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
- General studies
- Biedermann, Rolf; Lee, Shermann E.; et al. (1975). Johann Liss (exhibition catalogue). Augsburg: Presse-Druck- und Verlags-GmbH. ISBN 0-910386-25-0. OCLC 1256249652 – via the Internet Archive.
- Klessmann, Rüdiger (1999). Johann Liss: Eine Monographie mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog (biography and catalogue raisonné). Jahresgabe des Deutschen Vereins für Kunstwissenschaft (in German). Doornspijk: Davaco. ISBN 90-70288-07-9. OCLC 231834709.
- Additional studies and notes