Modern Renaissance Man

Written by on April 3, 2012 in Art - No comments
16x20 Oil Panel

By Leigh Ann Simpson

The life of Barry Hanshaw, MD, has been a remarkable adventure filled with accomplishment, sacrifice, love, international quests for knowledge, beauty and imagination. A true renaissance man, Hanshaw has excelled in many facets of both art and science. In addition to Hanshaw’s prestigious, 60-year career as a physician and researcher of pediatric infectious disease, he is also an extremely talented artist who possesses the ability to transport viewers to the majestic natural scenes that are portrayed in his works with oil paints and pastels.

Growing up in New York during the 1930s and 40s, Hanshaw displayed an obvious artistic talent at a very young age. As a teen, Hanshaw quickly developed a fan base among the locals who admired his drawings of political figures of the day such as Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower. It was during this time that he also developed an interest in the human body. “I developed an interest in the human form and started doing figurative drawings of scantily clad young women,” Hanshaw recalls. Hanshaw’s passion for art was strong; however he considered the discipline to be too risky to pursue a career in. He had always been fascinated by science, but his decision to pursue medicine as a career was solidified in his freshman biology course at Syracuse University. Hanshaw went on to medical school at Upstate Medical University where he met his wife, Chris. They were married and started their family while Hanshaw was in his residency at the University of Rochester. Being faced with the financial responsibility of having a wife and small children at home, Hanshaw put his art on the back burner and became focused on finding success as a physician in order to provide for his family.

Even though he had to place one of his passions on hold, he was equally as enthusiastic about his medical career. As a teaching physician and researcher at Harvard University he worked with some of pediatrics’ most notorious physicians such as Thomas H. Weller, MD, who won the Noble Prize for isolating poliovirus, which led to the creation of the polio vaccine. His career opportunities at Harvard were outstanding but the demands of the job kept him away from his family. After spending two years at Harvard he became a professor and scientist of microbiology and pediatrics at the University of Rochester, where he worked for 15 years. He eventually became the chair of the department of pediatrics and ultimately dean of the School of Medicine.

Hanshaw’s research in pediatrics took him and his family around the world. Accompanied by his wife and five children, Hanshaw frequently traveled through Europe to speak at countless medical schools and meetings. He acquired an impressive collection of art in Europe and the beautiful landscapes that he encountered while on these trips served as a tremendous source of artistic inspiration. In addition to his European travels, he and his wife spent time in Japan after World War II and fell in love with the Japanese culture. “We bought a little Japanese house with a wonderful view of Mount Fuji, visited the famous Japanese shrines and temples in the nearby mountains, shopped in Tokyo and had an extended honeymoon for two years,” Hanshaw recalls. “We admired the simplicity and beauty of Japanese art, gardens and architecture.”

While serving as dean at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Hanshaw’s wife began to encourage his interests in art again. He began taking formal art classes at the Worchester Art Museum and expanded his technique to incorporate oil painting in addition to pastels. In 2010 he retired and began his career as a professional artist. Hanshaw and his wife are settled in a cottage on Lake Morey in Fairlee, Vermont where he spends most of his time painting or with this family. Now that he is able to focus all of his energy on his art, Hanshaw’s remarkable journey has become full circle.

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