Stephen Hannock

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The Oxbow: After Church, after Cole, Flooded (Flooded River for the Matriarchs E. & A. Mongan), Green Light, 2000. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Stephen Hannock (born March 31, 1951) is an American painter known for his atmospheric landscapes––compositions of flooded rivers, nocturnes and large vistas––which often incorporate text inscriptions that relate to family, friends or events of daily life. The artist is known for creating a unique luminosity[1] using a signature technique that involves building up layers of paint on the canvas, sandpaper-polishing it, applying new layers of paint and polishing again. Some of his work is thought to be inspired by the Hudson River School.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

It was at Deerfield Academy, where he spent a post-graduate high school year, that Hannock took his first art class since grade school. He later attended Bowdoin College for two years before taking classes at Smith College. In 1976, Hannock earned a degree from Hampshire College based on work done at both Bowdoin and Smith.

While at Smith College, Hannock caught the eye of sculptor and printmaker Leonard Baskin with whom he apprenticed for several years creating anatomical drawings, woodcuts, sculptures and paintings. In an interview, Hannock described his apprenticeship with Baskin:

“I got permission to take a season back from hockey to work privately for Baskin, but I never went back,” Hannock said. “Art just took off and required all my focus. Working with Baskin was the best art school you can imagine, going one on one with a guy who was arguably one of the half dozen great artists of the time."

When he left Baskin, Hannock found an abandoned factory in Northampton, Massachusetts, to begin a career as an artist.[3]

Early career (1974-1984)[edit]

While studying with Leonard Baskin, Hannock began experimenting with phosphorescent paints, creating large scale, imaginary landscapes that glow when placed under black lights. These luminous canvases were an attempt to simulate glowing movie screens and became the basis for the artist's first museum shows at the Smith College Museum of Art (where he was the youngest artist ever to be given a one-man show) and the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts.[4]


In 1984, Hannock moved from Northampton, Massachusetts to New York City where Neo-Expressionism was in full swing and conceptual works which, at first glance, seemed a world apart from the landscapes Hannock was creating. Hannock relied on grants from patron Irene Mennen Hunter––along with odd jobs and occasional work as a fashion model––to pay for studio space and groceries. As Hannock says, "It took me two years before anyone would even look at my slides."

In December, 1988, Newsweek featured an article by writer Cathleen McGuigan entitled, "Transforming the Landscape" in which––along with artists such as April Gornik and Mark Innerst––Hannock was spotlighted as one of the "maverick" landscape painters whose seductive works map "a place that feels at once familiar and strange."

Visitor to Marlborough Gallery in New York City standing in front of Stephen Hannock's "Moving Water for Frank Moore; Niagara Falls" (Mass MoCA #170) 2004-2012, Polished Mixed Media on Canvas, 96 x 240 inches.

In 2000, an exhibition of paintings inspired by views of the Oxbow in the Connecticut River, subject of Thomas Cole's The Oxbow (1836), included Hannock's The Oxbow: After Church, After Cole, Flooded, (Flooded River for the Matriarchs, E. & A. Mongan), Green Light (2000)[5] It is held in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[2][6] Also part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the artist's painting Kaaterskill Falls for Frank Moore and Dan Hodermarsky, acquired in 2007. The painting includes collage elements and written words. In addition, Hannock's work is in such collections as the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Smithsonian American Art Museum,[7] Washington, D.C.; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y.; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.[8]

By October 17, 2005, Hannock was the subject of a Fortune magazine article entitled, Portrait of an A-List Artist by Andy Serwer.[9] That article includes quotes from a museum director, a curator, and a critic––each with his own view of the artist:

"Because his works are so arresting and immediately accessible, much of the contemporary art world is deeply suspicious of him," says Hugh Davies, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. "They think it's too pretty to be profound. It takes time to realize that there is real profundity and depth to his work."

"What is interesting is that Hannock has defied modernism," says Gary Tinterow, Engelhard curator in charge of 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum. "He isn't doing abstract painting, or painting according to critical demand. He painted what he wanted to make. The key to Hannock's work is that it is beautiful. Since the fall of modernism as an exclusive ideology, anything goes."

"Are Hannock's paintings too derivative? Too accessible? Certainly a devotee of the avant-garde would say so. And it's true that neither the Museum of Modern Art nor the Whitney, the two pantheons of contemporary art, have Hannock's paintings in their collections. Several prominent art critics contacted by FORTUNE either didn't want to talk about Hannock or hadn't heard of him. When I explained to the critic Robert Hughes that many wealthy collectors own Hannock's work, he responded, "The taste of the American rich is shit.""

Note: In 2007, the Whitney Museum of American Art acquired one of Hannock's works––Maternal Nocturne: Clearing Storm (Mass MoCA #66-C); polished mixed media on envelope over Chuck Close daguerreotype; 2007.

In 1991, restaurant owner Danny Meyer and his partner/chef Tom Colicchio approached Hannock with the idea that he work with architect Peter Bentel on the interior of their New York City project, Gramercy Tavern, which opened in 1994. Their novel idea was that, rather than an afterthought, art could be a fundamental part of the restaurant's design. To date, Hannock has created over a dozen paintings for the team's restaurants, including a huge canvas of the Chelsea Highline at Colicchio and Sons on the Hudson River in New York City.

In 1999 Hannock, along with the rest of the film's technical crew, won an Academy Award for "Special Visual Effects" for the film, What Dreams May Come. Dozens of paintings Hannock began in 1996 were the foundation for the film's "Painted World" scenes.

In 2002, the musician Sting commissioned Hannock to make a painting of his home city of Newcastle upon Tyne, England to mark the 2004 grand opening of The Sage Gateshead––a performing arts center designed by Sir Norman Foster. Northern City Renaissance, Newcastle, England, (2008)[4] was completed and unveiled in the Fall of 2009 at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne. Newcastle, a former coal and shipbuilding capital that fell into harsh economic times by the 20th century has recently been enjoying a cultural regeneration.[10] In its description of the 8 by 12 feet painting, the Laing describes how Hannock captures both past and present in his multi-layered work:

Hannock depicts a view of the River Tyne as it is today, with The Sage Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Millennium Bridge. Partially hidden from sight under the layers or paint are images and text relating to the city's mining heritage.[5]

Speaking to Barbara Hodgson of The Journal Hannock shares his belief and hope that his painting tells the story of many cities: “'industrial cities coming back on the wings of culture'” – a comfort, he feels, in view of the current economic climate."[11]

In June, 2009, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree from Bowdoin College.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Hannock married Bridget Watkins, then PR director and assistant to restaurateur Danny Meyer, in 2000. The couple's daughter, Georgia, was born in June of that same year. Just four years later, in October, 2004, Hannock was widowed when his wife died due to complications stemming from a brain tumor diagnosed while she was pregnant.


  • Stephen Hannock, Recent Paintings: Vistas with Text by Jason Rosenfeld, copyright 2012, Marlborough Gallery, Inc.
  • Stephen Hannock by Jason Rosenfeld, Martha Hoppin, Garrett White and with an introduction by Mark C. Taylor.
  • Luminosity: The Paintings of Stephen Hannock, preface by S. Lane Faison, Jr., introduction by Duncan Christy. Published in 2000 by Chronicle Books.
  • Stephen Hannock; Mckenzie Fine Art, Inc. New York; Michel Kohn Gallery; Los Angeles; 2002; essay by Jason Rosenfeld.
  • Stephen Hannock, Space & Time; The Dayton Art Institute, 1999; Russell Gallery, Deerfield Academy, 1998; essay by Hal Fischer.
  • Master and Apprentice, Selected Works from Leonard Baskin and Stephen Hannock; Hampshire College Library Gallery, 1998; essay by Hosea Baskin.
  • Stephen Hannock; James Graham and Sons, New york, 1996; introduction by Hugh M. Davies, catalog essay by Robert Atkins.
  • After Church, After Cole: Stephen Hannock's Oxbow; Timken Museum of Art; 1995; essay by Robert Aktins.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Vogel, Carol (6 January 2012). "Grand Galleries for National Treasures". The New York Times. p. 25. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "Untitled Stephen Hannock Project". Two Ponds Press. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Luminosity: The Paintings of Stephen Hannock, preface by S. Lane Faison, Jr., introduction by Duncan Christy. Published in 2000 by Chronicle Books.
  5. ^ Glueck, Grace (13 September 2002). "Hymning a Mountain in Many Views". The New York Times. p. 32. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ Serwer, Andy (17 October 2005). "Portrait of an A-List Artist". CNN. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "2009 Honorary Degree Recipients Announced". Bowdoin College. 18 February 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 

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