Armin Carl Hansen was born in San Franciso, California on October 23, 1886. His mother was Olga Josué whose name is listed as having translated a book from Italian to English titled The Education of Woman in the United States by Angelo Mosso Professor at the Royal University of Turin, published in 1902 in San Francisco. His father was German-born artist Herman Wendelborg Hansen (1854-1924) who was renowned for his lively and mythic scenes of America’s Old West and frontier life. Armin had one sibling, a sister by the name of Frieda. As a boy growing up in San Francisco, Armin Hansen was surrounded by art and artists, which included his father’s close friends William Keith (1838-1911) and Maynard Dixon (1875-1946).

Hansen’s initial art training came from his father, followed by three years at San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Institute where he studied under the instruction of Arthur Mathews (1860-1945) from 1903 to 1906. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake compelled him to travel to Stuttgart, Germany where he spent the next two years studying at the Royal Academy under the instruction of Carlos Grethe (1864-1913).

Hansen continued his art education by visiting the major art centers of Paris, Munich, Holland, and Belgium. He opened a studio in the coastal town of Nieuwpoort, Belgium where he became inspired by the sea and local fishing culture. From his father he inherited a sense of adventure and storytelling, and combined with his interest in marine subjects, Hansen signed on to a Norwegian steam trawler as a deckhand and experienced firsthand life at sea. He spent the next four years as a merchant seaman working onboard numerous ships in the North Sea. His painting Low Tide (location unknown) was exhibited at the 1910 Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles where it received first prize.

In 1912 Hansen returned to San Francisco and taught painting at the University of California, Berkeley and California School of Fine Art. Yearning to return to the sea, the following year he settled in the small fishing town of Monterey, California where he became an avid part of the community and found meaningful subjects to paint. He became active in the local arts, taught private classes, and became a member of Monterey’s “Big Four” along with William Ritschel (1864-1949), Paul Dougherty (1877-1947), and Arthur Hill Gilbert (1894-1970). Two of Hansen’s best-known students were August Francois Gay (1890-1948) and E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969). In 1922 Hansen married Frances Rives (1890-1968), a former student of E. Charlton Fortune. They had one child, a son by the name of Wendelborg Hansen.

Armin Hansen exhibited extensively throughout the United States. He received many honors and was given several solo exhibitions, including at the Helgesen Gallery in San Francisco in 1913. During the 1920s he exhibited his work in New York City at Milch Galleries and at the National Academy of Design, which in 1925 elected him as an Associate Member and presented him with the distinction of full National Academician in 1948. The Los Angeles Times art critic Antony Anderson wrote of the nearly six-foot-four gregarious Hansen, “Looking at the paintings by Armin C. Hansen…, you will at once and inevitably conclude that the painter of such big men and breezy seas must be big and breezy himself. No other sort of man could possibly have done them. …You will be right, for Armin Hansen is big and young and strong—the living embodiment of his own pictures. (L.A. Times, May 23, 1915)

Hansen is quoted as saying, "Every move I have made and everything that I have done has always been to go back to the water and to the men who gave it its romance." Armin Carl Hansen passed away in Monterey, California on April 23, 1957.

American National Academy (1926), National Academy of Design (1948); Carmel Art Association (pres. 1934-37, 1948); California Society of Etchers; Salmagundi Club, New York; Société Royale des Beaux Arts (Brussels).

Select Exhibitions:
International Expo (Brussels), 1910 (1st prize); California Printmakers, 1910 (gold medal); Helgesen Gallery (SF), 1913, 1916 (solos); PAFA, 1914; PPIE, 1915 (silver medal); San Francisco Art Association, 1915-25 (silver and gold medals; Oakland Art Gallery, 1917 (solo); Print Rooms (SF), 1920 (solo); NAD, 1920 (prize), 1925 (prize); LACMA, 1923 (prize); Painters of the West (LA), 1924-25 (gold medal); Smithsonian Inst., 1928 (solo); Calif. WC Society, 1930; De Young Museum, 1932 (solo); Grafton Gallery (SF), 1934; Penthouse Gallery (SF), 1934 (solo); Paris, 1938 (gold medal); Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939; Chicago Society of Etchers, 1947 (1st prize); California Palace Legion of Honor, 1957 (solo); Oakland Museum, 1959 (solo), 1981; Monterey Peninsula Museum, 1986, 1993 (solos).

Select Public Collections:
Cleveland Museum of Art; de Young Museum, San Francisco; Library of Congress; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art; Newark Museum; National Academy of Design; The Oakland Museum; and San Diego Museum of Art.

Elaine Adams
American Legacy Fine Arts

Press and Publications

Armin Hansen (1886-1957) by Scott Shields, California Art Club Newsletter, Fall-Winter 2014-2015

Nearly six feet four and an imposing 250 pounds, Armin Carl Hansen (1886–1957) was as powerful as his paintings. When he entered a room, it was as though a blast …

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