Maurice Hansen   1941 - 2000

Maurice Hansen, "LAST SUPPER"
acrylic on mural canvas, 10' wide x 4' height.
Dana Hansen Legacy Collection (NFS)


Maurice Hansen died of leukemia on October 15, 2000, one week after his 59th birthday, possibly caused by the toxicity of the artist’s materials he had used over the years to create his large-scale paintings and wall murals depicting hundreds of miniature mythical scenes interlaced into overall themes of well-known and popular fables.

As a well-known New Haven artist, his work had achieved a great deal of local recognition with articles appearing in the New Haven Register, and later in the New Haven Advocate, every decade since 1958, when he was first photographed with his painting "Khruschev Eating the Dove of Peace." His art was exhibited in numerous galleries and public facilities from Boston to Baltimore during these years. Three months before his death, Hansen was featured in the New York Times in an article on Outsider artists. The phenomenal imagery in his work could easily identify him as a modern-day Hieronymus Bosch.

Beginning in 1992, Maurice’s work began appearing in mainstream as well as Outsider art exhibits in Connecticut and New York City. His mural "Coney Island," measuring 8 by 30 feet, was displayed in Lincoln Center’s Cork Gallery at Avery Fischer Hall in 1995. His work was often represented by Margaret Bodell (formerly of New Haven’s Art in Heaven gallery in the 1980’s,) at her Greenwich Village gallery, and in her booth at the annual International Outsider Art Fair in SoHo from the inceptions of each, and at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In March 1993, Whitey Jenkins curated a retrospective exhibit of his art work called "Inner Visions," which included 63 paintings and drawings spanning four decades, in the 3,000 square foot Aetna Conference Center Gallery in Hartford. Sal Scalora, of the Atrium Gallery at Storrs, wrote the essay which was included in the broadsheet for the show, and called the exhibit a "tour de force."

Mr. Hansen’s work was featured in a solo show in May, 1994, at the York Square Cinema Gallery and also in a group show there called "New Haven Folk Aesthetic," in May, 1995. As a founding member of the Chris Butler Group, his work was shown in "Cat Tales," in April, 1996, at New Haven’s Connecticut Mental Health Center; at The Underground Gallery in Provincetown, 1996; and at Bittersweet Farm in Branford, continuously from 1996 to 1999. Mr. Hanen's paintings were also exhibited in Audart's "Art In The Raw" exhibition in the Spring of 1997; a group show that was organized and curated by Chris Butler of the Chris Butler Group in Branford, Connecticut.

Material on Maurice Hansen has also been included in Betty Carol Sullen’s new reference book "Self-Taught and Outsider Artists of the 21st Century," published in 1999, and in magazines such as Provincetown Art, Folk Art Finder, and the American Folk Art Museum’s publication, Folk Art Magazine.

One of Mr. Hansen’s large-scale paintings is installed in the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum, (in the stairwell landing leading to the Aetna Cinema Theatre.) The piece, purchased by an Atheneum Board member, and donated to the museum in 1996, is labeled only by its artist’s signature: "Maurice."

Mr. Hansen also produced an extensive and highly imaginative series of video movies, still shown frequently on New Haven’s Citizen’s Television, depicting his personal view of the lives of the world’s most famous artists, often starring himself and the members of his pet animal family, includes "Vincent Van Gogh," "Leonardo," "Raphael," "Michelangelo," and a surrealist film called "The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse."

Hansen’s earless cat, named "Vincent," appeared in both his films and his paintings. "Self-Portrait as Sherlock Holmes with Vin as Watson," for instance, reveals the close companionship with his pets. Hansen's works are full of humor and subtle yet profound meaning.

The extent and sheer quanta of miniaturized stories contained in Mr. Hansen’s visionary powers, taking in their breadth the vastness of many lives and many stories, clearly shape the need for a neo-logism to illustrate the "maximal" quality of his universal view of humanity -- in its pathos, predicament, and folly.

(credit York Square Cinema Gallery for the above article)

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