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Birger Sandzen: The Inspiration of Impressionism

From Impressionism to Open Impressionism

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Birger Sandzen was a landscape painter born in 1871, while Erin Hanson is a contemporary impressionist. However, there are strong similarities in their adventurous use of color. You can see that Hanson draws inspiration from the same elements of nature as the classic impressionists did, her tantalizing style following in the footsteps of the many painters who laid the path for impressionism. 

Aspen Colors by Birger Sandzen   Oaks in Emerald by Erin Hanson
Aspen Colors by Birger Sandzen
Oaks in Emerald by Erin Hanson

Because Sandzen lived through the rise and fall of Impressionism in the early 1900's, his works run the full gamut of styles, utilizing both pale and intense color combinations to depict his landscapes. Hanson treats her pieces with vibrant coloration, mixing her own paint colors from a limited palette to build specific combinations. This gives her unique works life and depth that is not seen in many modern landscapes. This is why she chose to create her paintings in the style of contemporary impressionism, as an homage to painters like Sandzen who paved the way in art. 

Late Moon Rising (Wild Horse Creek) by Birger Sandzen   Madrona Marsh by Erin Hanson
Late Moon Rising (Wild Horse Creek) by Birger Sandzen
Madrona Marsh by Erin Hanson

Birger Sandzen once said: “All color in nature is stronger than anything one can possibly have on the palette. For instance, the shine of the moonbeam or the vividness of the newly opened flower. There can be no danger of exaggerating nature’s color.” Both artists use dynamic and varied colors to stay true to the beauty of their natural surroundings. 

Another stylistic aspect both Hanson and Sandzen share is their use of light in painting. Both utilize the play of light and shadow as an additional opportunity to create depth in their paintings. This not only provides texture to the painting but creates a piece that is true to their subject.  

In Black Canyon by Birger Sandzen    North of Arches by Erin Hanson
In Black Canyon by Birger Sandzen
North of Arches by Erin Hanson

Open Impressionism takes inspiration from the original class of impressionists of Sandzen’s time. To see more paintings celebrating the vivid colors offered by nature, visit Erin Hanson’s portfolio.  She is currently creating a series that are a celebration of the color orange and the vivid imagery offered by nature’s intense colors.


Erin Hanson ArtistERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a young artist, she worked at a mural studio creating 40-foot-tall paintings on canvas, while selling art commissions on the side. After getting a degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to paint one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history. Erin Hanson's style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is now taught in art schools worldwide. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism.

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