Hans Hofmann

American, 1880 - 1966

SOLD Enhancement, 1956, oil on board, 11 x 18 1/2 inches

SOLD Untitled, 1949, gouache and oil on paper, 14 x 17 inches

Untitled, 1962, gouache and oil on paper laid on canvas, 23 3/4 x 18 inches

The Heinzelman, 1946, oil on plywood, 20 x 16 inches


One of the most vital artists and influential teachers of his time, Hans Hofmann is distinguished for bringing about a synthesis in nonobjective mode of the spatial tenets of Cubism and the coloristic gestural paint handling of Expressionism.  Approaching modernism as a deeply felt commitment transcending the historical moment, Hofmann transmitted to American students concepts of dynamic and plastic composition at a time when the New York art world was ripe for exploring the modernist esthetic.

Hans Hofmann was born in Bavaria in 1880.  Although he began his art studies in Munich where a late neo-impressionism was in favor, he was in Paris by 1904, immersed in the radical reformulations of Fauvism and Cubism.  Impressed by both Kandinsky and Delaunay, Hofmann was nourished in his belief that "the whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color."

In 1915 when he opened the Hans Hoffman School of Fine Arts in Munich, Hofmann stressed not the imitation of the appearances of nature but "the artistic experience evoked by objective reality and the artist's command of the spiritual means of the fine arts..."  After teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles, Hofmann settled in New York when he was forced to close his Munich school in face of the disastrous political situation; by the mid 1930's he had opened his school in New York, with summer sessions in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Hofmann became a US citizen in 1941.

The recognizable imagery in Hofmann's landscapes and still lifes of the 1930s gave way in the 1940s to abstraction based on the rhythms of nature.  This was also the period he explored automatic drawing.  Hoffman developed a spatter and drip technique that actually came before Pollock's drip pieces.

Hofmann explored the irrational concepts of surrealism along with conscious feeling of perception.  This tension is evoked in Hoffman's signature works. This involves the dynamic interplay between between recognizable image and abstract shape, between spontaneity and control, and between foreboding irrationality and joyous affirmation.