Born in The Hague, Jan Hulsker received his doctorate from the University of Leiden in 1946. From 1948 to 1954 he was the head of the university's art department. In 1970 he served on the editorial board for the revised De la Faille catalogue raisonné of Van Gogh's works.
Jan Hulsker was one of the world's leading authorities on Vincent van Gogh. Specifically in terms of Van Gogh's letters, Dr. Hulsker was acknowledged as the foremost expert. Dr. Hulsker authored a number of books about Van Gogh, the most important being The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches--a new catalogue raisonné which would, unlike the De la Faille, order Van Gogh's complete works chronologically. As a result of this new ordering, Dr. Hulsker introduced his own unique catalogue numbers for each art work: "JH numbers" which are used along with the De la Faille ("F numbers") system. Dr. Hulsker also wrote Vincent and Theo van Gogh: A Dual Biography which remains one of the most well regarded Van Gogh biographies to date.
Dr. Hulsker and his wife, Chris, moved to Victoria, Canada and in 1981 he became an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria. A recipient of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science silver medal for this contribution to Dutch art and literature, Jan Hulsker's decades of devoted research made him a leader in Van Gogh scholarship.