Eugène Jansson was born in 1862 in Stockholm and grew up under very poor circumstances. As a teenager, he suffered from a serious illness that would plague him for the rest of his life. In 1878 he began studies at the University College of Arts, Crafts & Design in Stockholm, which was known as Tekniska Skolan at that time, at the same time that he studied with Edvard Perseus, who ran a private art school.
Three years later he was accepted to the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, but he quit after the first year. Instead, he joined the Opponents Movement led by Ernst Josephson, which accused the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts of providing an outdated education and mismanaging its role as exhibition organizer. Jansson participated in their exhibition in 1885, “Från Seinens strand” (From the shores of the Seine), which was a great success and an important blow against the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. The following year the Opponents formed an artists’ association known as Konstnärsförbundet and Jansson’s membership was a given. Unlike most other members of the association, Jansson never had the opportunity to study in Paris as a young man due to lack of funds. Only when his art caught the eye of patron and banker Ernest Thiel was Jansson able to afford to travel in Europe.
Jansson’s first important motifs consisted of mood pictures from his many nightly walks through the deserted Stockholm night. Jansson preserved his impressions of the urban landscape in his memory and painted them on canvas in a hasty session once back in his studio. This method allowed the city's night sky and its reflections of light and water to be depicted as experienced by the various human senses. Jansson's mood paintings are characterized by sweeping brushstrokes in deep, rich shades of blue, for which reason he was referred to as the “Blue Painter.” Jansson survived financially thanks to Thiel’s 1898 purchase of about 30 of these paintings, but it would be a few more years before Jansson's innovative city views became generally accepted by contemporary art enthusiasts.
During the first decade of the twentieth century an interest in outdoor activities and vitalism emerged that Jansson shared, in part due to his poor health. “Outdoor vitalism” became the theme of Jansson's other major motifs when in 1904, aided by patron Thiel, he began to devote himself to figure studies of naked sailors and athletes. Before his death in 1915 Jansson completed a large quantity of paintings of young nude men, often painted in natural size. Most of Jansson’s works are on display at the Thielska galleriet in Stockholm.