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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!