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Stephen Hopkins Hensel (December 1, 1921 - 1979) was an American artist and the adopted son of Channing Hare.
Stephen Hopkins Hensel was born in New York City and attended Yale University.
Hopkins Hensel was a master at painting still life and he was a positive showman when it came to drawing and painting elegant objects of decor a crystal compote or satiny pewter pitchers. He could remove himself to imaginative realms and employing mythology as a source of inspiration achieves rich depiction. Hensel's "Phoenix" was a stunning symbol in cool, clean lines relieved by touches of muted red.
Channing Hare was a member of the Everglades Club and the Bath & Tennis Club. His 1929 marriage to Josephine Whitney Brooks (Mrs. John R.) Livermore was classic Palm Beach — the couple led separate lives but remained married until her death in 1965. Mrs. Hare resided in New York and Newport. Mr. Hare in Palm Beach, Ogunquit and Majorca, living with his then longtime partner, artist Mountford Coolidge. Later, as a ménage à trois, including Hare’s protégé/companion, Stephen “Stevie” Hopkins Hensel, who took Hare’s name in 1970 when “Uncle Bunny,” as he called Channing, legally adopted him. The Hare-Coolidge-Hensel trinity shuttled between an eight-acre Via Tuscany estate in Winter Park, a Worth Avenue apartment, El Vedado villa, Ogunquit cottage, a Nantucket sea captain’s house, and Son Julia, a 95+ room palace on Majorca located near Sonny and Marylou Whitney’s casa grande.
And while Channing Hare’s life and work made headlines alongside IKE, JFK, and Fidel, it often overshadowed Hensel’s work, his much younger partner. Stevie, or Hopkins Hensel, as he was then called professionally, actually possessed the more multifaceted aesthetic as well as the liaison’s Social Register lineage. Stevie Hare, as contemporaneous accounts referenced him during the last years of his too-short life, and Channing Hare, mates for more than three decades, along with Mary Gerstenberg Hulitar, the subject of Hensel’s 1965 portrait at The Four Arts, as well as her husband, fashion and style designer, Philip Hulitar, made for a considerable dynamic during the Jet Set era.
Stephen Hopkins Hensel was the son of Clarence Hopkins Hensel, a Wall Street investment banker, and Ethel Maud Anyon, the only daughter of James T. Anyon, an English-born chartered accountant who was among America’s first Gilded Age CPAs and founder of the American Association of Accountants. On the board of numerous corporations, including vice-president of the C. H. Hensel investment banking firm on Exchange Place, Anyon also amassed a real estate fortune. Today, he is regarded as the “dean of American accountants.”
Stevie’s great great-grandfather was Stephen Hopkins, for whom he was named, signer of the Declaration of Independence, ten-time governor of Rhode Island, and Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. According to previously published bios, Hensel was born in 1921, attended the Kent School, and reportedly left Yale after his sophomore year. Stevie took up painting in New York. Sometime during the late 1930s, he crossed paths with Channing Hare, who featured a portrait of “Stevie” in a December 1940 show at Kleeman Galleries on 57th Street.
Palm Beach’s most sought-after trio — Stevie, Channing, and Mountford — lived together until Coolidge’s death in 1954. While Hare and Coolidge’s careers were already well-established, Stevie’s work first arrived on the Palm Beach scene in December 1945 at The Society of the Four Arts. The 24-year-old Hensel was awarded the William I. Donner Award for the best oil painting for his canvas titled Performers, “… executed in his unique manner that combines excellent workmanship, low-key color, a dash of whimsicality and satire, and a vast imagination.”
Channing Hare, Mountford Coolidge and Hopkins Hensel
Hopkins Hensel & Channing Hare on Worth Avenue, c. early-mid ’50s, where they lived, entertained, and showed their work for three decades. Hare referred to Stevie as “my heir,” Channing’s Worth Avenue apartment at 222 Worth was atop Martha’s, Hare’ tenant and the street’s fashion empress. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]
Channing Hare & Hopkins Hensel at Worth Avenue Gallery, 347 Worth Avenue. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]
Mary Duggett Benson, center, flanked by two of her star artists, Hopkins Hensel and Channing Hare. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]
February 1964. Hopkins Hensel & Peggy Reventlow. [Ellen Glendinning Ordway Collection]
February 1964. Palm Beach Galleries. Sculptor Peggy Reventlow, formerly Margaret Astor Drayton, and Hopkins Hensel were featured in a two-person show. Pictured above, Hensel’s Self-Portrait. A great-great-grand of John Jacob Astor and born in London, Reventlow had her first exhibition at Hammer Galleries, followed by shows at Tiffany & Co. and Palm Beach Galleries. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]
Stephen Hopkins Hensel Hare (1921-1979), Portrait of Mary Hulitar, 1965. Oil on canvas. The Society of the Four Arts Collection. A longtime Palm Beach resident, Mary Hulitar’s portrait is displayed on the King Library’s second floor. The artist, although better known today for his personal relationships than the merits of his paintings, created an eclectic mix of figurative and abstract forms, making for multi-dimensional compositions. Hensel’s paintings expressed Palm Beach’s unique variety of Surrealism, as much a part of the town’s anachronistic architectural landscape as the life and works of the Midcentury artists and collectors who elevated often undervalued resort art into must-have collectibles. [Photo Augustus Mayhew]
After his Palm Beach success, Hensel’s work was shown at Boston’s Margaret Brown Gallery where his work sold-out. Boston’s Museum of Fine Art acquired one of his paintings. Then, to New York’s Grand Central Art Gallery and the Whitney Museum’s Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting.
“Detailing exact in treatment, mildly surreal in atmosphere,” wrote The New Yorker in 1947, describing Stevie’s work exhibited at his sold-out show at Grand Central Art Galleries. In 1948 Hensel’s work was selected for the Norton Gallery & School of Art’s Annual Contemporary America Exhibition. It was not until the 1956 season that he achieved his first one-man show at Palm Beach.
In 1970, Hare legally adopted Stevie. Although Hensel was from a prominent New York family and an heir to two New York fortunes, he took his adopted father’s name, making for yet another one of those only-in-Wonderland stories. Then on, he was called Stevie Hare.
The last, currently accessible, published feature on Stevie Hare was in 1974. Channing died in February 1976; Stevie, three years later, in 1979, at the age of 58. “It has been an exciting life, never a dull moment. You see, it all amounts to the greatest pleasure I can possibly find anywhere.” — Stevie Hare. Palm Beach, March 1972.
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