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 Herman Wendelborg Hansen  (1854 - 1924)

About: Herman Wendelborg Hansen
 

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Lived/Active: New York/California / Germany      Known for: frontier-horse genre painting, graphics

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Dithmarschen, Germany, Herman Hansen created meticulous watercolors expressive of by-gone days of the Old West, its horses, cowboys, and others passing through.

As a youngster, his imagination was stirred by James Fenimore Cooper's novel "Leather Stocking Tales" of the rugged life in the American West. His father, a rector and draftsman who encouraged his son's talent, sent him at age 16 to Hamburg, Germany to study with a painter of military battles and another who did detailed still lifes. In 1876, he studied in England for a year and learned a meticulous graphics style which determined his photo real western genre. Hearing stories of the American West sparked his imagination, and he emigrated to New York City in 1877.

Several years later he went to Chicago where Northwestern Railway personnel in 1879 commissioned advertisement scenes of the West including ones of trains going across Indian country. His most famous western genre work was "The Pony Express," 1900.

In 1882, after studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and supporting himself as a commercial artist, he made San Francisco his permanent home, and from there he made frequent sketching trips to Montana and the Southwest. Artist friends and painting companions in San Francisco were William Keith and Maynard Dixon, and he held his first exhibition in 1901. During the earthquake and fire of 1906, his studio was destroyed, and he relocated across the bay to Alameda, where he lived until his death in 1924 at age 70. Toward the end of his life, he took up etching, but he always preferred watercolors. His son, Armin Hansen, became a famous marine painter and etcher.

In 1903, he painted for a summer on the Crow Reservation in Montana. Of his discouragement with the waning West, he said of Tucson, Arizona: "they have shut down all the gambling houses, and not a gun in sight. Why the place hasn't the pictorial value of a copper cent any longer."

Source: Peggy and Harold Samuels "Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West".

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Dithmarschen, Denmark (now Germany) on June 22, 1854 Herman Wendelborg Hansen came from a family where the father was a draftsman and recognized his creative ability at an early age.  At 16 he was sent to Hamburg to study, and in his early twenties continued his art studies in London.

Stories of America's Wild West motivated him to leave Europe, and in 1877, he immigrated to the U.S.  He studied and worked for a year in New York City, and then moved to Chicago where he enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago while supporting himself as a commercial artist.  His opportunity to go West came when he was commissioned to paint scenes along the route of the Northwestern Railway.

Hansen spent a few years roaming the cattle country of the West before settling in San Francisco in 1882.  There he became friends with William Keith and Maynard Dixon and held his first exhibition in 1901.  He made regular sketching trips to Montana and the Southwest in search of subject matter.  An exacting draftsman, he did meticulous renderings that accurately depict the horses, riders, and equipment of a bygone era.

Eugen Neuhaus stated in his History and Ideals of American Art: "His concern was more with photographic records of frontier life than with the beauties of design and color."  He has been hailed as the "Frederic Remington of the West Coast."

After the earthquake of 1906 destroyed his studio, Hansen moved across the bay to Alameda where he remained until his death on April 22, 1924.  During his last few months he did eight etchings under the tutelage of his son.  His work is in the collection of the California Historical Society.

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Herman W. Hansen was one of the earliest fine artists to popularize cowboy action scenes and other Wild West imagery.

Born in Dithmarschen, Denmark (now Germany) Hansen showed artistic promise early on, and his father, a draftsman, sent him to Hamburg at age 16 to study with a painter of battle scenes. In 1876 he went to England for study, but stories of the American West had piqued his imagination and he emigrated to New York the next year. He worked as a commercial illustrator in New York and then Chicago where he also took classes at the Art Institute. In 1879 one of the western railroads sent him to paint advertising scenes in the Dakotas, giving Hansen his first taste of the West.

After spending a few years exploring western cattle country, Hansen settled in San Francisco in 1882. There he married Olga Josue and the couple had two children. Their son, Armin Hansen (1886-1957) became a famous painter and etcher of marine images.

From San Francisco, Hansen continued to make summer sketching trips through the Southwest and the northern Plains. He became friends and painting companions with William Keith and Maynard Dixon though each cultivated a very different painting style. Hansen had his first exhibition in 1901. After his studio was destroyed by the earthquake and fire of 1906, he moved across the Bay to Alameda, California where he lived the rest of his life.

Hansen was a superb draftsman who made highly realistic and detailed depictions of horses, riders, and the rugged western landscape. Although he did work in oil, most of his paintings are watercolor, and he is considered a virtuosic practitioner of the medium. His greatest skill was in capturing the movement and tension of horse and rider in action. Near the end of his life, Hansen made eight etchings under the tutelage of his son, Armin.

Hansen's art had been inspired by the romance of the mythic West and he became one of the great portrayers of that myth. Like many of his contemporaries, at the end of his life he mourned the passing of the untamed life land he had loved.

Biography from Thomas Minckler Fine Art:
Herman W. Hansen or Henry Wendelborg Hansen was born in Dithmarschen, Germany in 1854.  Hansen's father, a draftsman, sent him to Hamburg, Germany when he was sixteen to study under Simmonsen, a painter of battle scenes.  In 1876, he studied in England for a year, then emigrated to New York City.

He worked as a commercial artist there and in Chicago where the railroad in 1879 commissioned three paintings, one of a locomotive in the Dakotas.  This was Hansen's first Western experience.

In 1882, after further study at the Art Institute of Chicago, he went to California, making San Francisco his permanent home.  Hansen made frequent summer sketching trips in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico, accumulating the data for his historically accurate and realistic portrayals.  His most famous painting, The Pony Express, was completed in 1900 and was widely reproduced.

In 1903, he spent the summer at the Crow Agency in Montana.  From 1906 on, Hansen's paintings were all sold each year, mainly in the East and in Europe.  Unlike his contemporary, Frederic Remington, he was not an illustrator, although he did concentrate on genre relating to the horse and rider, professionally depicting a story or an incident.

By 1908, the living West had passed him by, as "Tucson is killed from my point of view. They have shut down all the gambling houses tight, and not a gun in sight. Why the place hasn't the pictorial value of a copper cent any longer."

Herman Hansen only made 8 etchings in his lifetime.  Hansen’s son, Armin, was born in 1886, and is a well known etching maker in his own right.  Herman W. Hansen died in Oakland California in 1924.

For more information see Anthony R. White's The Graphic Art of Armin C. Hansen: A Catalogue Raisonne (appendix).

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, II:
Born: Dithmarschen, Germany 1854
Died: Oakland, California 1924

Important California watercolorist of the traditional Western genre, etcher.

Hansen’s father, a draftsman, sent him to Hamburg, Germany when he was 16 to study under Simmonsen, a painter of battle scenes. In 1876 he studied in England for a year, then emigrated to New York City. He worked as a commercial artist there and in Chicago where the railroad in 1879 commissioned three paintings, one of a locomotive in the Dakotas. This was Hansen’s first Western experience. In 1882, after further study at the Art Institute of Chicago, he went to California, making San Francisco his permanent home.

Hansen made frequent summer sketching trips in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico, accumulating the data for his historically accurate and realistic portrayals. His most famous painting, The Pony Express, was widely completed in 1900 and was widely reproduced. In 1903, he spent the summer at the Crow Agency in Montana. From 1906 on, Hansen’s paintings were all sold each year, mainly in the East and in Europe. Unlike his contemporary Remington, he was not an illustrator, although he did concentrate on genre relating to the horse and rider, professionally depicting a story or an incident. By 1908, the living West had passed him by, as “Tucson is killed from my point of view. They have shut down all the gambling houses tight, and not a gun in sight. Why the place hasn’t the pictorial value of a copper cent any longer.”

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
HERMAN W. HANSEN (1854-1924)

Herman Wendelborg Hansen was born in Germany, educated there, England and finally the Art Institute of Chicago. Unlike his contemporary, Frederic Remington, he was not an illustrator but a strict western genre painter who cherished the West. While studying in Chicago he finally got his chance to see the wild frontier. He received a commission from the Northwestern Railways to do a series of transportation advertisements. His painting, The Pony Express brought great success to the young artist, and copies of this work are now found all over the world.

After his travels throughout the West from Montana and the Dakotas in the north to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona in the Southwest, Hansen finally settled in San Francisco when he was twenty-eight, and married Olga Josue. There family consisted of a daughter, Frieda and a son, Armin who became one of the great west coast marine painters and etchers. Except for brief absences, California remained the elder Hansen’s home until his death in 1924 at the age of seventy.

Herman Hansen was an accomplished draftsman and was known for his superb action portrayed in his horses. Though a painter of oils and an etcher in late life his primary means of expression was watercolor. His works are found in public and private collections worldwide.



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