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Harold Hahn - Profile of this this prolific Scratch builder/Artist


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#1
daves

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The artist Harold Hahn

 

In this topic i will explore the work of Harold Hahn and the impact he had on the hobby of model ship building.  His ideas molded a generation of model builders and those inspired by his work carry his work forward into the new generation.
All the images you will see are from the Cleveland Museum of art as well from the estate of Harold Hahn. They are shown here with the permission of the museum and the estate please do not copy them as you may get the NRG in trouble if they leave this forum. 

 

Harold never stopped working he was a prolific artist every wall in his house hung paintings and sketches, model ships are on display in his house as well as the homes of his children and piles and piles of water colors, drawings, prints, sketches and etchings. Many times i sat and went through his work as he told their story of where and why he created the piece. My father was a portrait artist and photographer later to become a lithographer i followed in his foot steps and pursued a career as a commercial artist. With my back round in art meeting Harold Hahn a bond was formed as kindered spirits as the young artist and the master. Harold was a well educated and refined man his intellect would shine and you could feel his passion of art.

 

The question of art versus craft. The division between the two is not easy to define without writing a dissertation. Art can be the expression of an idea through craft. Craft on the other hand is often the creation of objects through a learned skill. Evidence of this is found in the history of guilds and trades in the renaissance through the journeyman process found even now in trades like carpentry. The museum does not define these things specifically, but collects objects which are examples of both historically.  In other words an art museum defines art as a natural talent where as a craft is the result of a learned skill.  An artist can pick up a brush or pen and ink or for that matter whatever medium chosen and without prior training will create a work of art. This is not to say an artist can't go through school or training and improve on the raw natural talent.  What makes an item a craft is the result of a craftsman going through the process from apprentice to master craftsman or a journeyman learning the craft through a well defined set of rules and instructions.
What is going on when an artist takes a craft and raises it to a level of fine art? As defined above the artist redefines the craft through self expression.  In the case of  Harold Hahn he was a well established and award winning artist long before he built his first model ship.  Self expression comes into play when Harold Hahn took the craft of model ship building which is a learned skill and adds an element of sculpture and expression.  We can accomplish the craft of model ship building through learning and training but no matter how hard some of us try we can never accomplish the level of sculpture achieved by the natural talent of Hahn, this is the dividing line between art and craft.

 

1942.hahn.jpg

 

Twenty-one (Self-Portrait), 1942. Harold Maxwell Hahn (American, 1920-) Etching; The
Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of The Print Club of Cleveland 1942.311


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#2
daves

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As an artists medium Harold first learned Linoleum cutting then engraving on end grain blocks of Boxwood. Following he learned the different approaches to working on polished copper plates: drypoint, engraving, line etching, soft ground etching, and other aquatint techniques. All of the methods for producing pictures represented direct application of the artists creative efforts and special skills. At the time i met Harold i was working in a print shop specializing in limited edition art prints and learning how to do etchings. The etchings done by Harold should not be confused with commercially printed reproductions of an artists work. The mechanically produced offset lithographs are "copies" of the original artists work, however they are reproductions of the actual etching and lack the detail of the original prints made direct from the copper plates.

The process of creating and printing a line etching begins with a polished copper plate. This plate is heated and a ball of hard ground wax is touched to the hot plate to deposit enough wax on the surface so it can be rolled out into a smooth coating. Next the plate is passed over a candle flame until the warm wax is impregnated with the smoke to produce a uniformly blackened surface. The design is then traced onto the plate, bearing in mind that when the image is printed, the image will be reversed. The picture is cut on the grounded plate with a sharp point that cuts into the hard wax to expose the copper.
The contrast between the blackened wax and the bright copper color produces a well defined negative image. After drawing all the lines that will be the heaviest in the picture, the plate is submerged in a diluted solution of hydrochloric acid. The time the plate is left to etch in the acid is determined by the skill and experience of the artist. After the first etching the next pronounced lines are scribed in the wax and the plate is once again etched. This process is repeated from the heaviest lines to the finest lines. Some drawings will require as many as six acid etchings ranging from two minutes to two hours. When the final etching is done, the wax is cleaned from the copper plate and a test print is made. In most cases the cycles of etching may have to be done three of more times until the finished result is achieved.
Looking at the bottom of the prints you will see numbers for example 5/20 the top number is the number of the print and the bottom number is the amount of prints made. Lower the numbers the higher the value of the print.  To assure the value of a print the artist will destroy the original copper plate so no more prints can be made.

 

1942.312 (1).jpg

 

Crucible 1942
etching and aquatint
gift of the print club of cleveland 1942
Cleveland museum of  Art collection

 

1947.134.jpg

 

Queen anne's Lace
    watercolor
 gift of Harold Hahn 1947
cleveland Art museum collection                                             

 

hahn1943.370_w.jpg

 

Autumn in mill street 1941                                                         
linoleum cut                                                                               
gift of the print club cleveland  1943                                            
cleveland Art museum collection

 

Although structures appear in many of his works Harold did dabble in the abstract, however in the back round it looks like steps and some sort of structure.

 

1948.87.jpg

 

Impromptu
aquatint
gift of the Print club of cleveland 1948
Cleveland Museum of Art collection


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#3
daves

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Of all the visits to Harold i never seen any examples of sculpture,perhaps the mind of an engineer did not grasp abstract form, this all changed when he directed his attention to model ship building. In this genre he was able to combine all his artistic talent of painting, design and the discovery of sculpture into one endeavor call it artist turned engineer or engineer turned artist.
his first work into model ship building.

 

39.jpg

 

from the estate collection of Harold Hahn 


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#4
daves

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One of the major works of Harold Hahn was the colonial shipyard diorama which we will now take a closer look at

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Edited by daves, 22 February 2016 - 05:10 PM.

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#5
daves

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Before moving on to the building of the diorama Harold continued his work with etchings. He created a series or etchings and printed 100 of each print before destroying the original plates.  He never advertised the sale of the etchings and those who knew Harold knew they were available. Back in the day you could have purchased an original Hahn print for about $30.00 today if you can find one expect to pay around 3 to 5 hundred.  These are 2 out of the 5 i own.

 

etching1.jpg

 

etching2.jpg


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#6
Erik W

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Dave,

 

Thank you for posting this information about Harold Hahn, and these photos of his work.  It's a great tribute to the man and the artist.  A couple of months ago I bought his book Ships of the American Revolution and their Models.  It's an excellent work.  The reader can really get a sense of who Harold is through his laid back, and at times humorous, writing style.  So, please keep the anecdotes and photos coming!

 

Thanks again,

Erik


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#7
daves

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What made Harold Hahn stand out was the little people. Up till this time the work Harold was doing was never seen in model ship building. When his work first appeared on the ship modeling scene in the diorama of the colonial shipyard, modelers marveled at the work. This was not  without controversial views. When the little people began to populate the decks of his ship models some modelers objected saying it was not right and they should not be there. The reason was at the time model ship building was evolving and the "admiralty model" was the supreme example modelers were trying to emulate. There just was no figures aboard these models and it was thought of as defacing these beautiful examples of the craft of model ship building. Back in the early days the American colonies were thought of as the British colonies thus all ship built in North America were built like British ships, designed after British ships and built by British shipwrights. Time proved this to be so wrong the Dutch had established ship building long before the British ever got here, The French built the first ships used in the fur trade and a majority of ship carpenters were Irish. There were very few British ship builders in North America. The British crown ban ship carpenters from the colonies, the last thing England wanted was the American colonies building better war ship.  Anyhow, model ship building revolved around English ships and the Admiralty model as the focal point which still hangs on to this day. Harold Hahn's artistic approach and self expression of the craft went against the grain. Lucky for us he didn't care at all an artist will do what an artist wants regardless of public opinion.

Harold Hahn was an artist with an engineers way of thinking. Look at the examples of the figure carving and see if you can spot the method, the way he worked. In all his ship drawings and building methods there is a system. This is what made it possible for anyone to successfully build a plank on frame model.

 

 

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#8
Mirabell61

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Thanks so much for sharing this Daves

 

Nils


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My build logs for scratch built ships

Current builds

"SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse" four stacker passenger liner of 1897, 1:144 (scratchbuild)

http://modelshipworl...ne/#entry319621

Completed builds
"HMS Pegasus" , 16 gun sloop, Swan-Class 1776-1777 scale 1:64 from Amati plan  (scratchbuild)
http://modelshipworl...ge-1#entry79523

"Pamir" 4-mast barque, P-liner, 1:96

http://modelshipworl...ed/#entry159607

"Gorch Fock 2" German Navy cadet training 3-mast barque, 1:95 (scratchbuild)

http://modelshipworl...pleted-to-d/page-1#entry168883

"Heinrich Kayser" heritage Merchant Steamship, 1:96 (scratchbuild)

http://modelshipworl...to-date/#entry16246

"Bohuslän" , heritage ,live Swedish museum passenger steamer (Billings kit), 1:50

http://modelshipworl...er/#entry182678

"Lorbas", river tug, steam driven for RC, (scratchbuild)

http://modelshipworl...ed/#entry280917

 


#9
Martin W

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Wow this is great to read.  I have Mr Hahn's books, and have admired the dioramas & figure carvings as much as his plans (I have the Rattlesnake plans, that are exemplars of the craft of draughting).  Like most of us who have read his books and followed his plans, however, I had no idea that he also did such beautiful prints.  In fact I didn't even know he was an engineer.  Could you perhaps give us a bit of his life story?  Where did he study?  Was he a professional engineer, and of what sort?

 

A few of those early B&W prints from the 40s sort of remind me of Doel Reed's work.

 

A great thread, and a wonderful contribution to MSW.

 

Cheers,

 

Martin


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Current Build:  HMS FLY 1776

 

Previous Builds:  Rattlesnake 1781

                        Prince de Neufchatel


#10
daves

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Wow  Like most of us who have read his books and followed his plans, however, I had no idea that he also did such beautiful prints.  In fact I didn't even know he was an engineer.  Could you perhaps give us a bit of his life story?  Where did he study?  Was he a professional engineer, and of what sort?

 

 

A great thread, and a wonderful contribution to MSW.

 

Cheers,

 

Martin

 

hi martin 

glad you are enjoying the topic we have only scratch the surface 

 

here is a link that might interest you

 

http://dlumberyard.com/haroldhahn.html


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#11
Martin W

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Nice link.  Thanks, I look forward to reading through it all.  And scratch that surface!  More, More!


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Current Build:  HMS FLY 1776

 

Previous Builds:  Rattlesnake 1781

                        Prince de Neufchatel


#12
daves

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Once the back round was painted the water was set in and holes cut for the ships. 

 

21.jpg

 

each ship was built as a complete model before being set into the diorama

 

24.jpg   20.jpg

 

 

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  • 25.jpg

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#13
Mahuna

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Thanks for sharing this Dave.  What a wonderful artist.


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#14
daves

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Various figures and components were built as separate modules then set into the diorama.

 

File0013.jpg

 

11.jpg

 

10.jpg

 

File0002.jpg

 

File0006.jpg

 

File0008.jpg

 

in this next photo the pin gives you an idea for the size of the carvings and the incredable fine detail achieved. In the early days Harold did engraving in the end grain of boxwood. The ships in the diorama are built of Maple and all the figures and fine detail were done in boxwood.

 

File0012.jpg


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#15
daves

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A few of those early B&W prints from the 40s sort of remind me of Doel Reed's work.

 

A great thread, and a wonderful contribution to MSW.

 

Cheers,

 

Martin

 

the more i look at Doel Reed's work your right Hahn's work does have the Reed style in it.  This was way before my time and i really never asked Harold who influenced him or who's work he studied. When i met Harold he was deep into model ships and left painting and drawing behind except for the etching he did of ships. He was totally obsessed, possessed, in a spell carving little people. What we are seeing here is only part of the massive amount of work he did. Harold must of worked non stop all day all night, to watch him was mesmerizing.


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#16
Martin W

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Hi Daves -- You've got to be right that Mr Hahn worked non-stop.  The little bit of carving I've done has taken loads of time.  Another wood-working artist I've always been interested in is Nicoli Fechin, and I've been told that he always carried a piece of wood around with him to sketch out ideas and to carve the decorations that would go into larger pieces -- he even took them to the dinner table!.

 

  But what always astonishes me about Mr Hahn's work, on both the ships and the figures, is the amount of skill his work shows at every level.  And I love that top photo of the 2 hulls side by side that make the Admiralty mode of modelling realistic and meaningful in the context of shipyard construction.

 

Cheers,

 

Martin


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Current Build:  HMS FLY 1776

 

Previous Builds:  Rattlesnake 1781

                        Prince de Neufchatel


#17
Mirabell61

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Thanks, thanks, thanks Daves,

 

a delight to see Harold Hahn`s work in your illustration..., those carved figures have the real "frozen in action", they would come to life if one flips the fingures..., can imagine the knocking and sawing sounds and the smell of wooden chips all over the shipyard

 

Nils


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My build logs for scratch built ships

Current builds

"SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse" four stacker passenger liner of 1897, 1:144 (scratchbuild)

http://modelshipworl...ne/#entry319621

Completed builds
"HMS Pegasus" , 16 gun sloop, Swan-Class 1776-1777 scale 1:64 from Amati plan  (scratchbuild)
http://modelshipworl...ge-1#entry79523

"Pamir" 4-mast barque, P-liner, 1:96

http://modelshipworl...ed/#entry159607

"Gorch Fock 2" German Navy cadet training 3-mast barque, 1:95 (scratchbuild)

http://modelshipworl...pleted-to-d/page-1#entry168883

"Heinrich Kayser" heritage Merchant Steamship, 1:96 (scratchbuild)

http://modelshipworl...to-date/#entry16246

"Bohuslän" , heritage ,live Swedish museum passenger steamer (Billings kit), 1:50

http://modelshipworl...er/#entry182678

"Lorbas", river tug, steam driven for RC, (scratchbuild)

http://modelshipworl...ed/#entry280917

 


#18
daves

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There is no doubt about it Harold was a story teller, every painting and every etching had a story behind it. He just didn't build a few colonial period model ship he told their story. After all the pieces and parts were created the diorama comes together.

 

In the following posts lets explore this little world

 

 

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#19
daves

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a delight to see Harold Hahn`s work in your illustration..., those carved figures have the real "frozen in action", they would come to life if one flips the fingures..., can imagine the knocking and sawing sounds and the smell of wooden chips all over the shipyard

 

Nils

 

 

It wasn't just about the model ship it was a story about a time and place and all the details. As you said "frozen in action"

 

a kid and a dog running down the road while repair work on the deck is taking place in the back round.

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  • 34.jpg
  • File0030.jpg

Edited by daves, 26 February 2016 - 03:17 PM.

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#20
daves

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Hi Daves -- You've got to be right that Mr Hahn worked non-stop.  The little bit of carving I've done has taken loads of time.  

 

  But what always astonishes me about Mr Hahn's work, on both the ships and the figures, is the amount of skill his work shows at every level.  And I love that top photo of the 2 hulls side by side that make the Admiralty mode of modelling realistic and meaningful in the context of shipyard construction.

 

Cheers,

 

Martin

 

Harold did take time with me to teach me the basics in carving. I did accomplish the very basic work but it took me forever to do just one piece and at that rate i would never get anything done. Now if i practices and practices i think i might of been able to produce something Harold might approve of. I admit i just didn't have the drive and passion to commit myself to it OR the natural talent. the masters always make it look easy and little people just fell out of his hands. 

This entire hobby requires practice and a certain amount of dedication. This is kind of why we do not see kids getting involved it a tough hobby to master.


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