Unlike his contemporary, Frederic Remington, Herman Wendelborg Hansen was not an illustrator, although he did concentrate on similar genre relating to the horse and rider, professionally depicting a story or an incident. Hansen was an accomplished draftsman and was known for the superb action he portrayed in his horses. Though a painter of oils and an etcher in later life, his primary means of expression was watercolor, with which he created meticulous paintings expressive of the by-gone days of the Old West, its horses, cowboys, and others passing through.
Hansen was born in Dithmarschen, Germany, and studied in Hamburg under Simmonsen, a painter of battle scenes, when he was sixteen. He continued his art education in England, and the Art Institute of Chicago. While studying in Chicago, Hansen received a commission from the Northwestern Railways to do a series of transportation advertisements. This gave him an opportunity to finally see the wild frontier of the American West. After this experience, Hansen made frequent summer sketching trips in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico, accumulating the data for his historically accurate and realistic portrayals. His most famous painting, The Pony Express, was completed in 1900 and was widely reproduced, bringing great success to the young artist.
After his travels throughout the West from Montana and the Dakotas in the north to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona in the Southwest, Hansen finally settled in San Francisco, California when he was twenty-eight, and there married Olga Josue. In San Francisco, Hansen and Olga raised their daughter, Frieda and son, Armin, who became one of the great West Coast marine painters and etchers.
Hansen continued his summer sketching trips. However, by 1908, the living West had passed Hansen by; “Tucson is killed from my point of view. They have shut down all the gambling houses tight, and not a gun in sight. Why, the place hasn’t the pictorial value of a copper cent any longer.”
Except for brief absences, California remained the elder Hansen’s home until his death in 1924 at the age of seventy. His works are found in public and private collections worldwide.
Reference: AskArt.com, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, Peggy and Harold Samuels