Thor Hansen, 1903-1976
Thorkild Conrad Hansen was a commercial designer, artist and architect who provided art and architectural embellishments for a number of British American Oil, (now Gulf) buildings in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Hansen was born in Denmark and emigrated from his hometown of Gevno-Lyderslev to Canada around 1927, at around 24 years old. According to Canadian design historian and curator Rachel Gotlieb, it was the memorable graphics of Canadian Pacific tourism posters that initially inspired him to immigrate here. He found work as an agricultural labourer in Saskatchewan, a job he held for for two years before landing a job doing clerical work at the British American Oil Company's Regina office.
At the same time, Hansen opened a shop that sold needlepoint and textiles to supplement his income. He produced quilts, rugs, wood panels and needlepoint as well as metalwork, carved linoleum panels, posters and souvenir objects. He shared his patterns and ideas freely, inspiring others to remix and use his designs. Most of Hansens production textiles were hand-screened fabric designed for Kitchener, Ont. upholstery manufacturer A.B. Caya Ltd., although the original textile swatches are very scarce today.
In 1938, Hansen transferred to the company's Toronto offices, and a decade later, Hansen was hired to create the decor for their new Toronto headquarters. The modernist building was completed in 1951 and Hansen was promoted to the position of Head National Art Director, a move that would set the design tone at British American Oil’s other offices around the country. Hansen later designed the artistic themes for British-American's Montreal and Vancouver branch office buildings.
Hansen remained in the Head Designer position for 17 years until retirement in 1968. He died in 1976.
The Huronia Museum in Midland, Ont. holds the largest collection of Hansen artwork in the country.
Memberships and Awards
Canadian Handicrafts Guild, (vice-president & director: Ontario branch)
Arts and Letters Club, Toronto, ON
Certificate of Achievement, American Public Relations Association (1954)
The Huronia Museum in Midland, ON
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC