Salmon trawlers signed 'Armin Hansen' (lower left) and signed and titled 'Salmon Trawlers / by / Armin Hansen' (on the reverse) oil on board 18 x 24in overall: 24 x 30in
PROVENANCE: With Montgomery Gallery, San Francisco, California, 1988 Collection of Edward Charles and Doris Bassett, Mill Valley, California
Armin Hansen was one of the most celebrated and respected West Coast marine painters of the twentieth century. Hansen's art instruction came first from his father, Herman W. Hansen (1854-1924), the popular Western painter. At age 17 Armin enrolled in the Mark Hopkins Institute to study under Arthur Matthews. When the San Francisco earthquake hit in 1906, Hansen left for Europe. Instead of going to Paris where most of his contemporaries were studying the latest new styles in art, he enrolled in the German Royal Academy, to work under the German Impressionists.
After two years of study and touring, Hansen signed on as a crew member of a Norwegian fishing trawler. He worked as a fisherman in the North Sea and the North Atlantic for the next four years.
Returning to San Francisco in 1912, Hansen set up a studio and taught at UC Berkeley and the California School of Fine Arts. The next year he moved to Monterey where he taught privately and began to specialize in painting seascapes, coastal views and, most especially, images of the hardworking local fishermen with whom he felt an obvious kinship. Hansen submitted two paintings to the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition taking place in San Francisco in 1915 and won two silver medals in the process.
Some of Hansen's earlier paintings suggest the influence of tonalism, although most of his production is considered post-impressionist, with strong colors applied in flat blocks with bold, free brush strokes. He often favored a dark palette which probably derived from his instruction at the German Royal Academy. 'Salmon Trawlers' is a classic example of Hansen's best work. The painting is part abstract, part allegorical. The boats seem to be in such perilous waters, seemingly engulfed by a powerful, cold sea. The indigo blue water and the quick wispy brushstrokes that make up the boats suggest so much drama and power with a minimum of detail. John Singer Sargent was the master of this technique, taking a simple swath of color to suggest a figure or an object with perfect effectiveness.
Armin Hansen's etchings and paintings have made him an important figure in American art. He once said: "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 its romance. I love them all."