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The Practice and Patience of Joanna Hansen's Watercolors

Posted on 05/22/2020 at 04:00 PM by Allison Sheridan



During our added time spent at home, being socially distant, many have chosen to attempt to learn new skills in the creation of art. Countless virtual classes, kits, and tutorials are offered by museums far and wide including by our ISU friends at the Workspace, and peers in Ames at The Octagon Center for the Arts. Watercolor painting is a popular and affordable option for many to experiment with, however, true skill lies in years of practice and patience. Be inspired for your next artistic adventure by learning more about several recent acquisitions to the permanent collection, all watercolors by former ISU faculty in Applied Art, Joanna M. Hansen. 

Joanna M. Hansen was born in Denmark in 1879 and emigrated to America at age 1. She went on to obtain a diploma in applied art from the Pratt Institute in 1905, a BA at the Iowa State Teacher’s College (Cedar Falls, IA) in 1917 and an MA from Columbia University in 1924. She attended the well-regarded Art Students League of New York and the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Her artistic development also included two summers at Grant Wood’s Stone City Art Colony in Iowa. Her influential art teachers included Ralph H. Johonnot (1880–1940), Belle Cady White (1868 - 1945), Willard D. Paddock (1873 – 1956), Otto Walter Beck (1864-1954), Marvin Cone (1891-1965), Adrian Dornbush (1900-1970) a co-founder of the Stone City Art Colony, George B. Bridgman (1865–1943) at the Art Students League, and Charles James Martin (1886 –1955) at Columbia. 

Her early career in Iowa K-12 education included stints as an elementary teacher in Estherville, a principal in Ottumwa, and supervising art instruction for the Sioux City public school system. In 1915, Hansen was invited by then dean Catherine McKay to come to Iowa State College as an instructor. Within five years, she became the chair of the Applied Arts program part of the Division of Home Economics, a position that she held for the next twenty years (1920-1941).

While employed at Iowa State, Hansen served on two national boards for home ownership, edited and authored many articles on home design and rural life including numerous articles in The Iowa Homemaker, served as a member of Herbert Hoover’s President’s Council on Housing (1930-1933), and remained an active painter, namely in watercolor. Noted exhibitions featuring her paintings included the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs (1931), the Iowa Art Salon (1935-1936), Iowa Artists Exhibit, Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa (1938); the Five States Exhibit at the Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha (1937); as well as exhibitions in Boston, London, St. Louis, Chicago, and Boulder, Colorado. Hansen hosted a popular radio series on painting (1927-1928) airing on WOI-Ames. 

One of her major impacts at Iowa State was designing the 1926 wing of MacKay Hall, incorporating large hallways and fountains by famed ceramic art tile maker Ernest Batchelder (1875 – 1957). Hansen helped to activate the College Art Committee, expanding the art holdings of Iowa State with original art acquisitions, fine art prints, and other works of art.  She also collected on behalf of the Applied Art Department to expand the teaching collections, including decorative arts and many of the Japanese woodblock prints on exhibition at the Brunnier Art Museum’s Contemplate Japan exhibition. Most of this Applied Art collection was transferred to the University Museums in the 1970s. Hansen was an artist-in-residence at Iowa State from 1949 to 1950, and remained an active faculty member, retiring in 1941 as a full professor. She was an avid world traveler, collector and lived in the Ames area for most of her life, dying in 1965.

Previously in the permanent collection there was only one example of Hansen’s art, Taxico, a 1940 watercolor. In late 2019 Pam Goepp of Durham, CA donated her collection of watercolors given by Joanne Hansen to her great niece Joanne Rider, Pam’s mother who passed them on to her. Needless to say, considering Hansen’s long and artful career at Iowa State, University Museums was delighted to acquire the watercolors. The six watercolors – a barn scene, the Des Moines riverfront, a road and church, a log cabin, a hill scene, and one titled Brick House Row – are wonderful new additions to the Iowa artist collection and continue to tell the story of artists at Iowa State. 



IMAGES
TOP: Untitled (Des Moines Riverfront), August 13, 1935 by Joanna Hansen. Watercolor on paper. Gift of Pam Goepp in memory of her parents, Jerry and Jodi Rider. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2019.256

ABOVE LEFT: Brick House Row, n.d. by Joanna Hansen. Watercolor on paper. Signed lower right: Jo. M. Hansen Signed on reverse: Brick House Row Joanne M. Hansen, Ames, Iowa. Gift of Pam Goepp in memory of her parents, Jerry and Jodi Rider. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2019.257

ABOVE RIGHT: Untitled (Road from Church), n.d. by Joanna Hansen. Watercolor on paper. Gift of Pam Goepp in memory of her parents, Jerry and Jodi Rider. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2019.259 


Sources: Artists in Iowa: The First Century, by Lea Rosson DeLong, 2019 published by University Museums. Available for purchase here $45.00. All proceeds go to fund future publications. 

“Iowa Artists of the First Hundred Years,” Wallace-Homestead Company, 1939, p. 94-95. 

Raine, K., & Scarth, L. (2003-2020).  When tillage begins: The Stone City Art Colony and school.   Cedar Rapids, IA: Mount Mercy University, Busse Library.  

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