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Realistic Representation. Duane Hanson. "I'm not duplicating life. I'm making a statement about human values," - Duane Hanson. Enduring Understanding. Through the study of these artworks, students discover: 1.Why naturalism is selected as a means of expression.

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enduring understanding
Enduring Understanding

Through the study of these artworks,

students discover:

1.Why naturalism is selected as a means of expression.

2.How artists use the mechanism of realistic representation to realise its purpose and function.

essential questions
Essential Questions

Overarching Questions

1. What are the criteria for a realistic artwork?

2. How do artists use realistic representation to express their artistic intentions?

3. How do artists use realistic representation as a mechanism to express social issues?

Topical Questions

1. How is the subject matter in the artwork being represented?

2. Which artist is more successful in using realistic representation to express social issues?

3. Which artist is more successful in depicting a high level of technical skill?

keywords phrases
  • Hyperrealism
  • Social Realism
  • Sculpture
  • Life-like
  • Blur boundary between art and life
  • Mundane everyday life
  • Life casting
key dates
Key Dates

1925: Born in Minnesota, America Midwest.

1944: Enrolled into the University of Washington in Seattle but never graduated from there.

1946: B.F.A. from Macalester College in Saint Paul.

1951: M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

1952: First solo exhibition at Wilton Gallery.

1961: Returned to US and taught at Oglethorpe College.

1996: Died of cancer due to over-exposure to his media.



The social and cultural happenings which affects the artist and his works


1939-45: World War II.

1950s: Abstract Expressionism

  • indicated a shift away from naturalism toward abstraction

1955-69s: Civil Rights Movement

Racial Riots

  • made his sculptures in the spirit of contemporaneous social protest and political agitation movements

1960s: Pop Art

  • encouraged Hanson to yield to his naturalistic inclinations

1957-73: Vietnam War.

1971: High Unemployment

Social Discontent

1980 : Ronald Reagan (surge of confidence in the society but US became the world’s greatest debtor in economy)



America, Florida


  • Germany (1953 to 1960 )
    • began to experiment with synthetic media, in particular polyester resin and fiberglass
  • America, NY (1960s)
    • Social and political unrest

Abortion, 1965

Clay, fibreglass and polyester resin, 60 cm long

Housewife, 1970

Polyester and fiberglass, polychromed in oil,with accessories Life-size


Young Shopper, 1973

Polyester resin and fibreglass, polychromed in oil with accessories, life size


Queenie II,1988

Polychromed bronze, with accessories,

life size


Tourists II, 1988

Autobody filler, fibreglass and mixed media, with accessories

life size

Museum Guard,

mixed media,



Man on a bench, 1977

Polyvinyl polychromed in oil and mixed media with accessories,




Social Realism


Photorealism (late 1960s to early 1970s)

  • America witnessed a return to figurative painting in the 1960s as a challenge against Abstract Expressionism.
  • A reaction against Minimalism.
  • Realistic, detailed paintings and sculptures.
  • “Naturalistic form” and “illusionistic space”- presented like flat snapshots, colour slides with photographicexcellence.

- Hugh Honour –

  • Copied from photographs
  • Appear photographic
  • Started from the States and spread to Europe.

- Artlex-

abstract expressionism
Abstract Expressionism

A Brief Overview


  • Paint is applied rapidly, and with force to the huge canvases to show feelings and emotions.
  • Artists paint gesturally, applying paint with large brushes, dripping or even throwing it onto canvas

Subject Matter

  • Usually no effort to represent subject matter.
abstract expressionism1
Abstract Expressionism

A Brief Overview


  • Works depend on supposed accident and chance, but which is actually highly planned
  • The spontaneity of the artists' approach to their work draws from and release the creativity of their unconscious minds.
  • The expressive method of painting was often considered as important as the painting itself.
social realism
Social Realism
  • Also Realism with a capital ‘R’.
  • Denotes a mid-19th century art movement of the realist school.
  • Concerned with social realities.
  • Showed facts rather than ideals.
  • Rejected Academic Art (see next slide) and Romanticism.
  • Dealt with the harshness of life- poverty, human degradation.
academic art
Academic Art
  • Art based on academic principles.
  • Art academies originated from late 16th century Italy.
  • These academies raised the social status of artists from that of an apprentice under the medieval system.
    • Examples are Royal Academy of Art in London, and Académie des Beaux-Arts.
  • These institutions stressed a system of art training that is strictly confined to a hierarchy of subjects.
  • They are classified in ranking order according to historic painting first, then portraits and landscapes, and finally still-life and scenes of everyday life (ideals).
  • It is this system and the system of official support that led to its demise- rejected by the modern artists.


Subject matter

working-class Americans


Socio-Political Criticism

Comical Caricature

The Downtrodden

  • Subject Matter
  • People of the middle or lower class.
  • "slice-of-life" figures in their ordinary activities
  • Stereotypes.
  • Everyday heroes (those that work the nuts and bolts of the economy).
  • Victims (eg. of racism)



Socio-Political Criticism

  • Ruling against abortion like Abortion, 1965.
  • The lack of welfare like Welfare, 1967.
  • Discrimination like Race Riot, 1967.
  • Organized crime like Gangland Victim, 1967.
  • America’s intervention in Vietnam like War, 1967


  • Comical Caricatures
  • Satirical pieces on the society.
  • Some examples- Tourists, 1970. Supermarket Shopper, 1970. Housewife, 1970. Sunbather, 1971. Lady with Shopping Bags, 1972.

The Downtrodden

  • People who fall behind in a rapidly evolving society.
  • The mundane and banal side of America.
  • Working class- those who work with their hands.


Showing reality of life using art

  • Confusion between reality and fiction.
  • Creating non-verbal communication between viewer and sculpture.


  • His lifelike figures seem incapable of escaping their situations.


  • the courage they show in enduring this fate expresses the dignity and nobility that Hanson found in the common American.


Artist Intention/Philosophy




His philosophy

  • Art is life and life is realistic.
  • Farming environment shaped his moral character- respected those earning a living doing manual labour.

"I'm mostly interested in the human form as subject matter and means of expression for my sculpture. What can generate more interest, fascination, beauty, ugliness, joy, shock or contempt than a human being."

- Duane Hanson


His Intention

  • To express his critical view of life/reality through art
  • To create public awareness.
  • To show the mundane everyday lives of Americans by capturing hidden sentiment such as emptiness.
  • to represent a cross-section of American society by focusing on the singularities of individuals

His Intention

  • to evoke emotional responses from the audience by communicating the internal attitudes and experiences of his subjects

* audience forced to face challenging issues without the psychic distancing inherent to television and newspaper reports

* invade reality in an urgent and physical way: as three-dimensional forms, usually life-size, sharing viewers' space and incorporating real objects




  • He met Alonzo Hauser and John Rood (sculptors) in Minnesota (see next slide).
  • He was impressed with Rood’s figural works.
  • He went to Munich to teach at schools affiliated with the American army for a period of four years.
  • He met George Gryo, a sculptor who worked with polyester resin and fiberglass
  • He returned to US in 1961 and taught at Oglethorpe College, and began experimenting with polyester resin. (No one at that time was using the medium).
samples by hauser and rood
Samples by Hauser and Rood

Female Figure, 1939

by John Rood

Wood , 43.2 x 30.5 cm

"Buckminster" Fuller, 1953 by Alonzo Hauser

Bronze, 14"




  • He moved to Miami in 1965 and began a new teaching career with Miami Dade College. This is where he became interested in George Segal and Jasper Johns.
  • These artists viewed the banality and triviality of everyday life as iconographic material.
  • He was later impressed by the two-dimensional works of the Photorealists.
influence from george segal
Influence from George Segal

Street Crossing, 1992Bronze with white patina,

Depression Bread Line, 1999cast bronze 2/7, 108" x 148" x 36"






  • He began to cast from live models in 1967.
  • He had to exaggerate the light and shade, particularly around the eyes to achieve a realistic effect.
  • Sculptures have blank look like robots, introspective, emotional indifference, depression
  • He usually chose poses that are in a state of repose or static in between activities


Process of his sculpture

  • Tried to determine pose (usually typical of character) by taking photos of live models until satisfied with figure’s position.
  • Formed molds of each part of the subject’s body.
  • Dried molds were cut off from the model.
  • Molds filled with flesh coloured polyester resin reinforced with fibreglass.


Process of his sculpture

  • Working from feet up, body parts re-assembled to create figure that looks natural.
  • Painted cast sculptures with acrylic first, then oil paint.
  • Added materials- nail polish applied on fingernails, wigs for hair, aging clothes with dirt, bleach or paint.
how summary
How (Summary)


  • polyester resin and fibreglass
  • Acrylic
  • Oil paint
  • Readymades (eg. Nail polish, wig)

What are readymades? Go and research on it.

how summary1
How (Summary)


  • Take photos of model
  • Form and fill molds
  • Reassemble different parts of body
  • Paint the sculpture
  • Accessorise with readymades
  • Buchsteiner, T and Letze, O. (Ed). (2007)
  • Duane Hanson: Sculptures of the American
  • Dream. Germany: Hatje Cantz
  • http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/hanson_duane.html
  • http://www.designboom.com/eng/funclub/duanehanson.html

Video links

  • Hyper-Realist Sculpture (John De Andrea and Duane Hanson)