Robert William Hansen (1924-2013)
Robert William Hansen was born in Osceola, Nebraska in 1924. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945. In December 1945 he was transferred to Munich and assigned to the Regierungsbezirk Oberbayern Section of the Office of Military Government for Bavaria under the direction of Monuments Man Capt. Jonathan T. Morey. Stationed in Munich, Hansen worked as part of the motor pool delivering works of art found in the field to various collecting points. He was involved in the transport of the collection of Martin Bormann found at Berchtesgaden, a collection of Russian icons looted by the Schwarzhuber brothers, and multiple truckloads of works of art and other cultural objects belonging to the Russian state museums from Schloss Höchstädt. Hansen was redeployed in February 1946.
Following his return home to the United States, Hansen received two Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Nebraska. He earned a Maestro de Bellas Artes (M.F.A.) from the Escuela de Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in 1949, and later returned to Mexico in 1953 to study at the University de Michoacan in Morelia. There, he studied mural painting under well-known Mexican muralist Alfredo Zalce, and was soon commissioned to paint three murals of his own in public buildings in Mexico. Hansen taught briefly at Bradley University and the University of Hawaii before beginning a long career as a professor at Occidental College in 1955, which culminated in his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1987. During his tenure as professor, Hansen travelled widely, including a period from 1961 to 1962 when he studied art in India and Southeast Asia as both a Guggenheim fellow and a Fulbright fellow.
Hansen was also a successful painter, lithographer, and sculptor. His work was featured in numerous one-man shows in prominent galleries and universities across the country, as well as group shows at the Museum of Modern Art (1961) and The New Vein Show (1969-71). Today, his work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego.
An avid birder and conservationist in his later years, Hansen became active with the Carpinteria Creek Commission in Carpinteria, California. For his work to conserve the wetlands near his home in Carpinteria, the city council named the Bob Hansen Creeks Preservation Program in his honor in 2011. He passed away on February 10, 2013 in California.
Photo courtesy of Hansen Family (private collection).