Early History

About the earlier Carmel art institute
Hansen came to Monterey in 1922 to study with E. Charlton Fortune and became active in the art community on the peninsula. He helped found the Monterey History and Art Association and was a leading member of the Carmel Art Association. He was also a skilled etcher and received the gold medal award from the Printmakers Society of California. Hansen’s favorite subjects for painting were fishermen and the sea. Armin Hansen taught a whole generation of modernist artists including the sisters Helen and Margaret Bruton, and Jeannette Maxfield Lewis.

The Carmel Art Institute was founded by Hansen and the Paul Whitman in 1937 providing year-round instruction. In 1939, when Hansen resumed his own painting career, artist John Cunningham, who had been a professor of art at Mills College in Oakland, California and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, took over directorship. Cunningham had studied with Hans Hoffman in Munich, and Andre L’Hote in Paris and had also worked with Benjamin Buffano in France. His international connections brought well known European artists such as Ferdinand Leger, Alexander Archipenko, and Salvador Dali as instructors to the academy, reviving Carmel’s reputation as a teaching center.(1)

Hansen’s paintings and etchings attracted both admirers of realistic art and those who preferred abstract styles. Despite this broad appeal, Hansen found it hard to sell his works at times, and relied on teaching for an income. In 1937 he and two friends–Paul Whitman, an etcher, and his wife, Kit–founded the Carmel Art Institute, with studios in Bert Heron’s Seven Arts Building. Two years later, however, Hansen became ill and asked another active Carmel Art Association member, John Cunningham, to take over the instruction. The adventurous Cunningham, who had once been a barker for Barnum and Bailey at Coney Island (“the highest-paid spieler on the boardwalk,” he later boasted), had originally appeared in Carmel in 1926 with a cast of amateur actors from Berkeley who put on a Noel Coward play at the Theatre of the Golden Bough. Savoring life in the village, he stayed for a few months, painting sets for the Forest Theater. A decade later he and his wife, Pat, an oil painter and muralist who was the California Art Association’s first woman president, settled in Carmel. In 1939, the Cunninghams bought the Carmel Art Institute form Armin Hansen and the Whitmans, moving it first to the Court of the Golden Bough and then to the city-owned Flanders Mansion on the hill above the town. The Carmel Art Institute was an essential part of Carmel’s art scene for decades. (2)

1. The Carmel Monterey Peninsula Art Colony: A History, Barbara J. Klein, footnote 18:  Harold and Ann Gilliam, Creating Carmel, The Enduring Vision, Layton, Utah: Peregrine Smith, Gibbs Smith, 1992
2. Harold and Ann Gilliam, Creating Carmel, The Enduring Vision, Layton, Utah: Peregrine Smith, Gibbs Smith, 1992, Pages 154 – 155

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