Hansen Paintings

The Artwork of Harry Hansen & Dee Hansen

Harry HansenHARRY HANSEN

 

This is Harry Hansen’s story. Because he can no longer tell it himself, I will present my version of his long history in the teaching field, and as an accomplished artist.
Dee Hansen, Harry’s wife & best friend

Harry Hansen taught at the University of South Carolina for 33 years, from 1970 to 2003. He worked his way up to Professor of Art and Associate Head of the Art Department. USC was his life, where he loved teaching students about the basics of art. He also taught Encaustic Painting and Watercolor, two fields in which he excelled. Many of his students have gone on to successful careers in diverse fields of art: art teachers, painters, graphic designers, and even an award winning editorial cartoonist.

Harry’s own artwork is in public and private collections throughout the southeast. His paintings, shown nationally and regionally, have won numerous awards. He often traveled around the state to teach painting workshops and to jury art exhibits for South Carolina’s many art groups. In 2006 McKissick Museum, USC, hosted a retrospective exhibition, The Essence of Nature: Works by Harry Hansen. Comments collected during the exhibition, especially from former students, are heartwarming in their regard to Harry as a teacher and as a person who cared for each student’s future.

Harry's New Drawings

Dog

Dog from Harry's memory. (2009 or 2010)

Cat

Harry's cat Mesha
(2009)

Two Buildings

Two buildings, with smoking chimneys and lightning rods. (9/2009)

Tennis

Tennis match? (6/2011)

Car

Car (6/2011)

Colorful Landscape

A colorful landscape (11/2008)

Orange

An early design, beginning to take a landscape form. (6/2008)

Green

Landscape in green
(early 2009)

Colors

Complex design in 4 colors (2009)

Green & orange

Design in orange & green (2009)

In Harry’s late 50’s he began showing signs of confusion and stopped making any art. No one knew what was happening to him, as he went from doctor to doctor. He began to withdraw from friends and stopped playing squash, a sport he’d played and enjoyed for years. Finally an official diagnosis of Vascular Dementia, akin to Alzheimer’s Disease, was given in 2005, when he was 63. Harry continued to sink more and more into his own world, which became smaller and smaller. That he doesn’t know what is wrong with him, is the blessing of his disease. The difficulty has been for family and friends to watch him slowly slip away. He now lives in the moment and is content. Amazingly, Harry still recognizes his own artworks and still enjoys the activity of drawing.

For many years he was not able to make any artworks; whether he was afraid to try, or because of his shaking hands, I am not sure. In 2008, after months of trying to prod him into doing drawings again, Harry broke through to where he’d stored all the basic elements of art. By this time, having apparently lost his fears and inhibitions, he began anew, like a child with fresh eyes, to make works of art. They were different, often child-like drawings, but to us they were beautiful. He began with relish and strength, making marks upon page after page of his new sketchbooks. He’d overlay colors and create wonderful, purely abstract color fields. Then one day he began digging back into his memory for the elements of design that he had taught for so many years. The works now took on landscape qualities, with perspective, value, and subject matter. Some had strange shapes, or surprising color choices, and were really quite striking.

During the time between 2008 and 2010, Harry reinvented his drawings skills. He liked to do portraits of people, if the subject was willing to sit for him. Although these are often not a true likeness, or even flattering, there is the definite “essence” of each sitter, which must have come from Harry’s stored knowledge of facial features. All of these drawings and paintings show a wealth of learned and accessible knowledge still existing in his diseased brain. The drawings comprise a personal picture of his disease, enabling others to understand dementia and learn from his point of view.

We all miss Harry’s former abilities, jovial presence, and interaction with those around him. We are celebrating who he was with this new web site and are offering for sale “giclée” fine art prints of some of his favorite watercolor landscapes.