Duane Hanson's archetypes of humanity by James A. FindlayLibrarian Bienes Center for the Literary Arts
Apparently from the start, Duane Hanson's primary interest was in recreating the human form. His first extant sculpture is a three-dimensional wood rendering of the figure in Thomas Gainsborough's famous portrait The Blue Boy (c. 1770). Remarkably, Hanson created his version of Blue Boy in 1938 when he was thirteen, while living with his family in Parkers Prairie, Minnesota, an isolated town of 700 inhabitants. According to the artist, there was only one small library in town, which had only one art history book, in which he discovered Gainsborough's portrait of a dashing young man wearing blue satin breeches. Hanson carved Blue Boy out of soft wood, possibly a log, using whatever implements were available, including his mother's butcher knife.
Hanson's early sculptural efforts also included carving his mother's old broomsticks into miniature representations of the human form (or portions thereof), both nude and clothed. Like Blue Boy, these miniatures are naturalistically rendered. Striking a variety of poses, they suggest that Hanson was exploring the different postures that the human body can assume.
In 1941, on a trip to Minneapolis, Hanson visited an art museum for the first time, where he joyfully discovered that actual works of art were on display.Read the entire articleSource:
Duane Hanson portraits from the Heartland by Mark M. Johnson
Upon encountering one of these extraordinarily realistic sculptures, the typical reaction of a museum visitor unfamiliar with Duane Hanson's work can be among the most interesting and amusing events one might witness in a museum or gallery.
Hanson's sculptures, especially those that are appropriate in a gallery setting such as Seated Artist, Museum Guard, Janitor or Old Couple on a Bench, are often dismissed as people at rest--sitting or standing like any other visitor. Many visitors may never know that those people they passed were actually artworks. On other occasions a visitor might try to engage the sculptures in conversation. Of course, after a few moments they discover that these are not real people after all!
Duane Hanson was an extraordinary craftsman and an observer of life. In creating an artwork, he first determined the proper pose for the sculpture. Working with a model, the artist took photos until he was satisfied with the figure's position. Then the artist formed rubber and plaster molds of each part of the subject's body--arms, legs, torso and head molds were each created separately. When the molds dried, they were cut off the model and filled with flesh-colored polyester resin reinforced with fiberglass. Read the entire articleSource: