The Passing of My Mentor


February 25, 2013 by smithartonline

Bob Hansen

Bob Hansen, my mentor from college days, died on the 10th of this month. He one of the teachers I had the privilege to learn from during my days at Occidental College. He was a good friend and a loving teacher: someone I shall miss. Miggie, his wife, was a real fixture at the campus: always welcoming and supportive. I must admit, I think I was a little bit in love with her.

Here is the obituary from Coastal View News up in Santa Barbara –

Robert Hansen


Local Environmentalist

Robert Hansen, a painter and professor of art at Occidental College for more than 30 years, died Sunday, Feb. 10, at his home in Carpinteria. Born Jan. 1, 1924, in Osceola, Neb., Mr. Hansen was a prolific painter, lithographer and sculptor who taught generations of art students with his exacting standards of perspective and excellence, and was a seminal figure to legions of studio artists, graphic artists, commercial artists, and others who simply wanted to learn how to draw or paint better

During World War II, Mr. Hansen served in the Army as a public relations official in Europe, where he was a member of “The Monuments Men,” helping recover priceless works of art stolen by the Nazis. A graduate of the University of Nebraska (BA, BFA), Mr. Hansen earned his MFA at the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes, San Miguel de Allende in 1949. He studied mural painting with Alfredo Zalce and executed three murals in public buildings in Mexico, while teaching at Bradley University from 1949 to 1955. After a year at the University of Hawaii, he accepted a tenured position on the art faculty at Occidental in 1956 and remained there for the rest of his academic career

During his time at Oxy, Mr. Hansen traveled extensively in Europe, Southeast Asia and India with the help of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright grant. He exhibited frequently over the years in solo shows in Los Angeles and was featured in-group exhibitions nationally and internationally. His works are held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art among others, as well as numerous private collections.

Mr. Hansen was profoundly affected by his travels in Mexico and India—and perhaps the fact that his father was a butcher. When he first began exhibiting his work in Los Angeles in the mid-50s, he had already embraced a subject (the human figure) and the technique, Duco lacquer, that would define a movement. Duco was an industrial paint used primarily to coat appliances and cars, and Mr. Hansen would pour the lacquer on pressed wood panels laid flat on the floor. Mr. Hansen painted stylized, fragmented figures, body parts that may have had their origin in his early work as a teenager, helping his father carve steaks and roasts.

He retired from academia in 1987, and stopped painting for a decade to focus on his other passion, the environment. An avid birder, Mr. Hansen spent most of his free time as an advocate for the Carpinteria Creek Commission. In 2011 the Carpinteria City Council voted unanimously to name the city’s creek programs the Bob Hansen Creeks Preservation Program to honor his years of work to preserve the watershed

Mr. Hansen was pre-deceased by Margaret “Miggie” Kuhlman Hansen, his beloved wife of 64 years, and his older son Eric Hansen. He is survived by his son Fritz Hansen, his daughter-in-law, Katherine Hinds, and his only grandchild, Harper Hansen, of Hamden, Conn.; his daughter-in-law Marilynn Hansen of Eagle Rock; and his sister Margaret Hansen of Laguna Woods. He was eased the last few years of his life by the tender ministrations of Connie MacDonald and Ginny, Shawn, Brenda, Terri, Joe and Rosa, his caregivers in Carpinteria.

An update 1 December 2014:

There is a site that gives some details about Bob Hansen’s time working with the Monuments Men during WW2. It may be found at Monuments Men Foundation.


4 thoughts on “The Passing of My Mentor

  1. Anna Stump says:

    Hi Smith,
    I just received an invitation to Bob Hansen’s Memorial Exhibition at Occidental College, and looking around Google, found your reference. Thanks for posting. I’m glad you had a good experience with him. My own, at Oxy right before he retired, was less fortunate. I got the distinct impression he did not think women could or should be artists. In spite of this I have persevered, and even think he may have influenced my work. I do plan on seeing the exhibition.
    best regards,
    Anna Stump, Oxy class of ’86

    • My experience was very positive throughout the four years I attended Oxy. I was not aware of prejudices from anyone at the college…perhaps I am too thick. My own plan during those years was not to become an artist per se, but to become a special education teacher. As things turned out, the teaching did not come into play until late in my life for various reasons. Everyone meets challenges on their path; I worked around mine as you did yours.

      I highly recommend folks take a look at the work of this artist on the web. The work is well conceived and exquisitely produced. Check it out at

    • Fritz Hansen says:

      I’m sorry to hear you felt that my father did not think women should be artists. I know of several women students whose work he admired and whom he talked about during the time he was at Oxy and beyond. And I don’t mean to imply that he may have thought it was just you who should not be an artist. A former student who spoke at his memorial mentioned that he eventually praised some work she had done, but never did again after that one time; he felt she now knew what to do and that further praise was not necessary. He was like that.

      I too have been trolling the web for references to my father since he died, and just came across Smith’s blog and your post. It is enlightening to hear what former students and colleagues have to say about him. Thanks for sharing with the world.

      Fritz Hansen, ’76

  2. […] have recently added a link to my posting about Bob Hansen, my mentor from college days. I found a page devoted to his time as a member of the “Monuments […]

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