Hannig, born in Hirschberg, Germany on 27 February 1883, came to America with his parents at the age of seven. He attended school in the southwest suburbs before the family settled in Chicago. Young Henry enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts where Lawton Parker became his mentor. He made ends meet by working in industrial design and illustration.
By 1908 he was a pupil in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where students followed the traditional European drawing curriculum, beginning with the copying of master engravings and drawing after plaster casts, then concentrating on the nude figure. Students worked toward the goal of winning various academic prizes. One of Hannig’s fellow students was Louis Ritman. Hannig’s paintings reflected the mainstream American style of the early twentieth century -- broadly executed impressionism. Like so many others, he worked with a high-keyed palette and shingle-like strokes of broken color. Consequently, the same spontaneous “on-the-spot” image is found as the basis of many of Hannig’s drawings.
Unfortunately, Hannig had no wealthy patron or family who might have subsidized his career as a painter and he remained dependent upon his various jobs as a commercial artist. Eventually he became art editor for the South Town Economist, a Chicago newspaper. Meanwhile, he was involved with Chicago’s German community, in the Steuben Society. He executed pen drawings that are quite within the stylistic boundaries of illustration, yet many are more powerfully rendered than a usual illustrator’s work. Sometimes he executed Western subjects — cowboys at work and play.
Around 1939 Hannig moved to Charleston, West Virginia to work at the Union Carbide Company. He died there on 22 December 1948.
Richard H. Love. Henry Hannig: Drawings. Exh. cat. Chicago: Haase-Mumm, 1991.
Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D., Art Historian