Biography

Vera Martha Pauline Joho (née Fahrner)

*1895 Pforzheim, Germany  †1987 Cuernavaca, Mexico

 

Vera was the older daughter of Theodor Fahrner, a well-known designer and manufacturer of Art Noveau jewelry in Pforzheim, Germany. Vera’s artistic and musical talent showed at an early age, and her father, a modern and socially progressive person, sent her to study with well-known artists both in Germany and in Paris. Among them was Amédée Ozenfant.

Vera was strong-willed and passionate in everything she did. In 1916 she married Bert (Albert) Joho, a fellow artist and a professor at the Arts and Crafts Academy in Pforzheim. They both painted and drew, taught courses at the academy, and also designed jewelry for her father.

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Together they organized festivals for the artists’ association. These were complete productions – the play, the set, choreography and music, costumes, masks, decor, everything was created by these two all-around talents.
They were prominent figures in the town’s cultural and artistic scene during the 1920s and 30s, they were well-liked and admired; her fiery temperament and outgoing personality were complemented by his somewhat quieter disposition and dry sense of humor.

The advent of the Nazi regime changed their life. Bert was forced into retirement, Vera supported the family with private art lessons and works of art on commission, they were not allowed to exhibit anything. Nonetheless, they continued to paint, and after the end of World War II their work reappeared in galleries and exhibitions.

Vera and Bert Joho during the early 1900s (last row, first and third from left).
Vera and Bert Joho during the early 1900s (last row, first and third from left).

Historical background

It is important to know some of Germany’s history in order to better understand why Johos stood out in the society of their times, why they became prominent in cultural and artistic circles – and why they were ostracized by the Nazi regime.

The National Socialist Party took over the government of Germany in 1933, a fascist and totalitarian system that controlled every aspect of society, including the arts. Not only did Bert refuse to join the party -after all, he was a senior professor at an institution of higher learning -, his paintings did not comply with the official guidelines. His and Vera’s work was declared ‘degenerate art’ (entartete Kunst) and unworthy of being shown to the public.

Bert (Albert) Joho

*1877 Bruchsal, Germany  †1963 Zurich, Switzerland

 

Bert was the younger son of a headmaster in Karlsruhe, Germany. He started to draw and sketch when he was still a child, and after studying and teaching art in Karlsruhe, he moved to Pforzheim in 1904 to teach at the local Arts and Crafts Academy.

When World War I began, Bert enlisted but was discharged because of a sight impairment. In 1916, however, he ended up being drafted, and he and young Vera Fahrner decided to get married before he was deployed. After his return in 1917 he continued to teach and to paint.

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He was not only a prolific artist, but a gifted and cherished pedagogue. Many of his students would later apply their acquired skills in the goldsmithing and jewelry workshops and factories of Pforzheim, the main industry in this city known as the gold and watchmaking center of Germany.

Although many of his paintings survived two wars and the ravages of time, most of his oils were destroyed during the devastating air raid on Pforzheim on February 23rd, 1945, that destroyed a large swath of downtown and killed at least one fourth of the town’s population.

It was Bert’s birthday.

Vera and Bert Joho were inseparable and supportive of each other until his death in 1963.