Armin Hansen: Man and the Sea on the California Coast

20 May

hansen-storm-birds-LARGEArmin Hansen, Storm Birds, (c. 1920s)

Note: click on any image to enlarge

Armin Hansen (1886 – 1957) was a prominent American painter of the California Impressionist or plein air school, best known for his marine canvases. His father  Herman was also a famous artist of the American West.  Armin Hansen studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art and later the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich.  He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1926.

hansen-fishermen-salvaging-a-wreckArmin Hansen, Fishermen Salvaging a Wreck (c. 1920s)

Born in 1886 Armin Hansen learned a great deal from his father about portraiture and “old west” landscape painting.  At Mark Hopkins he studied under Arthur Frank Mathews from 1903 to 1906. While in Europe, he became a deck hand on a number of commercial vessels, including a Norwegian steam fishing trawler.

hansen-Crossing-the-Bar-1922-LARGE-NICEArmin Hansen, Crossing the Bar (1922)

hansen-nino-VERY-NICEArmin Hansen, Nino (c. 1920s)

Returning to the United States he taught at the University of California, Berkeley and in 1913 moved to Monterey, then a budding art colony.  He was a founding member of the Carmel Art Association and focused heavily on marine scenes — he was especially interested in elaborating man’s relationship with the sea.  In this way he reminds me very much of Winslow Homer.

hansen-reef-sea-fishermen-tmontereyArmin Hansen, Reef Sea Fishermen, Monterey (c. 1920s)

Hansen-AgroundArmin Hansen, Aground (c. 1920s)

In the early 1920s Hansen lived almost full-time in Monterey and often entertained other artists, including members of the so-called Society of Six. In the 1920s Hansen was not only one of the best known California artists, he was widely considered the best teacher of his era on the West Coast. Somewhat unusually, Hansen had friends among both the avant garde Monterey School and the more conservative Carmel artists.

hansen-fisher-fleet-montereyArmin Hansen, Fisher Fleet, Monterey (c. 1920s)

hansen-low-tide-nice-imageArmin Hansen, Low Tide, Monterey (1920)

hansen-boy-with-a-codArmin Hansen, Boy With a Cod (c. 1920s)

hansen-still-life-title-unknownArmin Hansen, Still Life (date unknown)

In the 1930s Hansen’s paintings become more intense and his use of light more pronounced.  He was the leader of a group of artists who opposed the removal of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf as part of a redevelopment scheme.  Amazingly, the artists prevailed and the Wharf was saved.

Hansen-Before-the-Storm-1935-NICEArmin Hansen, Before the Storm (1935)

hansen-boats-and-cloudsArmin Hansen, Boats and Clouds (date unknown)

hansen-men-of-the-seaArmin Hansen, Men of the Sea (c. 1930s)

For my own part I love Hansen’s dramatic use of light-dark value contrasts and his deft use of beautiful warm and cool grays.  I’ve seen nobody but Winslow Homer who better conveys the ruggedness of life at sea.  Armin Hansen has fallen off the map a bit in recent years, which is unfortunate.  I hope this post exposes a few more people to one of my favorite artists!


2 Responses to “Armin Hansen: Man and the Sea on the California Coast”

  1. Simon June 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Dear Bob,
    Glad to read your blog. I have exciting news to share with you. The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is working on a new retrospective show and book on Armin Hansen. Crocker Art Museum’s Scott Shields is the guest curator. The show will open in Jan 2015 at PMCA, then travels to Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. There will be additional 1-2 travel venues afterwards. The book’s specs will be very similar to the Edgar Payne: The Scenic Journey published by PMCA with Pomegranate for last year successful exhibition of the same title. The research work is quite extensive, and there are plenty of info to be included in the book that are never published before. Stay tuned.



    • bobbalouie June 5, 2013 at 12:30 am #

      Thanks for the heads up, Simon, I’ve become a big Armin Hansen fan. I will be sure to spread the news on the blog! Bob

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