Herman Wendelborg Hansen Biography

Although Herman Wendelborg Hansen produced only eight known etchings, it seems fitting, nevertheless, to conclude this catalogue with the prints of Armin Hansen’s father, a painter of such classical Western subjects as cowboys and Indians.

Born in 1854 in Tellingstadt, Schleswig-Holstein, then a part of Denmark, H.W. Hansen began his art training at sixteen in nearby Hamburg. In 1876-77, he continued his studies in London, emigrating in the latter year to America. Keeping a small studio in New York, he explored the East Coast, especially the Alleghenies, Great  Smokies, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Moving westward, he stopped briefly at the Art Institute of Chicago before setting out on a journey across the Plains. For the next few years he crisscrossed the West, travelling in the Dakotas, the country from Montana to Texas, and the Southwest.

Supplied with a fund of memories, which were to serve him in his art for forty more years, Hansen settled in San Francisco in 1882. At that time, opportunities for practicing fine art in San Francisco were scarce, and Hansen began working for some of the city’s many distinguished lithographic firms. For several years he produced designs for posters, handbills, product labels, and book illustrations. After a time he was able to apply his talents as a fine artist, gradually gaining a reputation for his watercolors and drawings, particularly of horses from every angle and in every state and shade of motion.

Encouraged by Armin, his son, to try his hand at etching, H.W. produced several characteristic scenes. They are confirmation of the elder Hansen’s enduring love for the shape and form of the Western cowpony. Most show a horse and rider in motion, usually portrayed in the thick of a Western drama - the getaway, the pursuit, the stage coach pulled at a break-neck pace by a team of four. Only one is a sketch of repose - The Fencemender. Although he signed some impressions, the majority are signed by Armin Hansen, with the careful notation: “etched by H.W. Hansen, printed by Armin Hansen, his son.  H.W. Hansen died in San Francisco in the spring of 1924.

Source: The Graphic Art of Armin C. Hansen:A Catalogue Raisonne by Anthony R. White/1986.