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George Baxter : A Profile of Hans Hofmann — Abstract Artist

A Profile of Hans Hofmann — Abstract Artist

By George Baxter

Hans Hofmann was a strong exponent of abstract art whose paintings depicted a relationship between powerful and vibrant colours on a clearly defined underlying structure. Hans Hofmann — representative of the Abstract Expressionism movement — was born in Weissenberg in Bavaria on March 21st 1880.

In 1898 Hofmann was introduced to Impressionism in Munich at Moritz Heymann's art school where he studied. His early works clearly reveal this influence, one example of which is the 1902 portrait of his future wife Maria Wolfegg. Hofmann's early exhibitions were with the 'New Succession' in Berlin in 1908 and 1909.

From 1904 to 1930 he found himself shifting between Germany and Paris where he had become acquainted with the Fauves and Matisse. His first solo exhibition was an insight into his exploration of colour was held in Berlin in 1910. Hofmann was influenced by Robert Delaunay's study of colour by and the pioneering innovative art of Wassily Kandinsky.

Hofmann was also well-known as teacher and art writer. In 1915 he opened the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts at Munich. The School was attended by American artists, Worth Ryder, Glen Wessels, Louise Nevelson, Carl Holty, Vaclav Vytlacil, Alfred Jensen and others, thanks to the worldwide recognition the school attained.

In 1930 Hofmann moved to the United States to teach at Berkeley's University of California. He had his first exhibition of drawings in 1931 in San Francisco. In 1933 the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts opened in New York and he began to paint again after a period of drawing. In the following year he opened a summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts where Lee Krasner studied with Hofmann. Over the next ten years he found himself living in New York and Provincetown and he became an American citizen in 1941.

In the decade following 1940 Hofmann's art has been completely abstract, his landmark painting; 'Spring' was completed in 1941. It was created by pouring and dribbling paint directly over the canvas. Critics considered the work to be influenced by the 'Drip' technique of the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock. His second drip painting 'The Wind' was completed in 1941.

Arranged by Peggy Guggenheim, Hofmann's first exhibition in New York opened in 1944. The same year he opened another exhibition in Chicago, 'Hans Hofmann, Paintings 1941–1944'. In 1947 he had a succession of exhibitions in New York, Dallas, and Pittsburgh. In the same year The Kootz Gallery (New York) began organizing a solo show of Hofmann that continued almost every year until his death.

Hofmann designed mosaic murals for the lobby of New York's William Kaufmann Building in 1956. In 1963 he held the 'Hans Hofmann and his Students' exhibition in US and Canada also agreed to donate 45 paintings to the University of California. Hofmann was awarded many honorary degrees and doctorates by various universities in Europe and the US.

Hofmann died in 1966 in New York at the age of 86. In the following years exhibitions and retrospectives continued to be held in US and Europe. History remembers Hofmann as an important exponent of Modernism, not only as an artist but also a writer. With his firm belief in the relevance of abstract art, and the vibrancy of colours in representing life itself, Hans Hofmann influenced countless artists and intellectuals. His legacy continues. •

Copyright © 2008 George Baxter

George BaxterGeorge Baxter is a retired art teacher who takes great interest in Art History as a semi professional artist and also creates Abstract Art on a variety of Interior Design projects.More »

6/2/08