San Francisco native Armin Hansen was a painter, etcher, teacher, and National Academician (1). He was first trained by his father, Herman Wendelborg Hansen, and then began formal study at 17 under Arthur Mathews at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco. After three years, he went to Europe, studying in the ateliers and art galleries of Munich and Nuremberg. While in Nuremberg, he was impressed by a painting by Carlos Grethe, whose colorful maritime scenes prompted Hansen to seek his instruction at the Royal Academy in Stuttgart.
Hansen left Stuttgart in July 1908 and traveled first to Paris and then to Nieuwpoort, off the Belgian coast. For the next four years, he was a crew member on a trawler and sailed the North Sea. He also continued to paint, specializing in marines of the North Sea and fisher folk.
With 100 new canvases, he returned to San Francisco in 1912. Shortly thereafter, Hansen moved to Monterey where, after some additional traveling, he decided to settle. Although the calm, nocturnal setting of Drifting Fog is unusual for Hansen, the iconography of boats off the Monterey shore is one of his signature subjects. The painting parallels closely in subject and date a poem entitled “Boats in a Fog,” written by Robinson Jeffers, the Monterey Peninsula’s premier poet. Hansen certainly knew the poet, and his poetry
[. . . . One by one moved shadows
Out of the mystery, shadows, fishing-boats, trailing each
Following the cliff for guidance,
Holding a difficult path between the peril of the sea-fog
And the foam on the shore granite.
One by one, trailing their leader, six crept by me,
Out of the vapor and into it,
The throb of their engines subdued by the fog, patient and
Coasting all round the peninsula
Back to the buoys in Monterey harbor. . . .](2)
(1) Hansen was made an Associate National Academician in 1926. He became a full Academician in 1948. This painting is inscribed A.N.A. after the artist’s signature.
(2) Robinson Jeffers, “Tamar,” Roan Stallion, Tamar, and Other Poems (Peter B. Boyle, 1924; reprint ed., New York: Boni & Liveright, 1925), 88.