Armin Hansen

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Armin Hansen (1886–1957), native of San Francisco, was a prominent American painter of the en plein air school, best known for his marine canvases. His father Herman Wendelborg Hansen was also a famous artist of the American West. The younger Hansen studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, and achieved international recognition of his scenes depicting man and the sea off the California northern coast. He was elected to the National Academy of Design in the year 1926.

Early years[edit]

He was born Carl Armin Hansen in San Francisco on October 23, 1886 and learned much from his father regarding portraiture and genre scenes of the old west. At the Mark Hopkins Institute he studied under Arthur Frank Mathews from 1903 to 1906. Moving to Germany, he became the student of Carlos Grethe at the Stuttgart Royal Academy and also studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. He also had exposure to the art centers at Paris, Amsterdam and Bruges. Wishing to see the world through marine eyes, he became a deck hand on a number of commercial vessels, one being a Norwegian steam fishing trawler.

Life in Northern California[edit]

After his studies in Germany, Armin Hansen taught at the University of California, Berkeley and in 1913 moved to paint in Monterey, a budding art colony of the era. In this period he utilized both painting and etching techniques in the style of Impressionism. He was a founder of the Carmel Art Association and became enamored of creating marine scenes, particularly involving man's relationship with the sea. In 1914 he produced his Self Portrait.

In the early 1920s Hansen lived near the Stevenson House, and he often entertained other artists, including members of the Society of Six. By this time Hansen was not only one of the most well known California artists, but arguably the best teacher of the era. A typical Painting of his early period in Monterey, Men of the Sea, illustrates his bond with his subjects. In 1920 be began outdoor lessons for both C.S. Price and August Francois Gay. E. Charlton Fortune also studied with Hansen. Hansen was also unique in that he had friends in both the avant gard Monterey School and the conservative establishment of Carmel artists. An important work of this period is The Salmon Trawlers (1923), which is in the permanent collection of the Monterey Museum of Art.

In the 1930s Hansen's paintings become more intense and use of light more pronounced. One of his masterpiece's of this era was Sardine Barge circa 1933, which appropriately is in the permanent collection of the Monterey Museum of Art.

Later in Monterey Hansen led a group of artists in opposing a plan to remove Fishermans Wharf as part of a grandiose redevelopment scheme. The wharf was an important subject of their art, besides the fact that Hansen identified with the simple life of a fisherman. These artists were considered a bohemian group, living in the Peters Gate area of Monterey, but amazingly they prevailed against bigger business interests.

Posthumous honors[edit]

In 1997, a film Time Captured in Paintings: The Monterey Legacy was produced honoring Hansen, along with E. Charlton Fortune, William Frederic Ritschel, Xavier Martinez and others. The film, narrated by actor Jack Lemmon won the Golden Eagle Award from the prestigious CINE for documentary films in 1997.

Permanent collections[edit]


  • Scott A. Shields, "Armin Hansen: The Artful Voyage", Pomegranate (2015)
  • Facing Eden, edited by Steven A. Nash, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (1995)
  • Ilene Susan Fort, Paintings of California, Chameleon Press (1993)
  • John Walton, Storied Land: Community and Memory in Monterey, University of California Press (2003)
  • Kim Coventry, Monterey Peninsula, Arcadia Publishing (2002) ISBN 0-7385-2080-2
  • Nancy Boas, The Society of Six, University of California Press
  • Susan Landauer, California Impressionists, University of California Press (1996)