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Hans Hofmann (American, 1880-1966)


Also known as:  Hoffman, Hans; Hofmann, Johann; Hofmann, Hans Georg Albert; Hofmann, Johann Georg Albert

Birth Place: Weissenberg (Dresden district, Saxony, Germany)

Hans Hofmann was born Johann Georg Albert Hofmann in Weissenberg, Bavaria in 1880. Although his family had hopes that he would develop a career in science, he pursued his passion and enrolled in Moritz Heymann’s art school in Munich when he turned eighteen years-old. With the help of a patron, he was able move to Paris in 1904, where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére and the Académie Colarossi. Hofmann lived in Paris until 1914, immersing himself in the various avant-garde movements, being exposed to Cubist and Fauvist artists such as Picasso, Braque, and Delauney. He was largely influenced by their practice of exploring pure color for its own sake. As the only New York School painter directly involved in the European modernist movement in the early twentieth century, he was a powerful influence on young American artists and helped paved the development of Abstract Expressionism. Throughout the course of his career he experimented with various styles, including the technique of dripping and pouring paint, which later became highly associated with Jackson Pollock. He strongly believed that the basis of abstraction existed purely in nature, straying away from imitation of nature’s appearance and focusing instead on revealing the artistic experience through the power of color. He saw the surface of the canvas as being alive, active, and responsive, introducing his famous “push and pull” theory, in which the limits of linear perspective are challenged by creating new dynamics of space, where forms and colors seem to recede and advance simultaneously. Hofmann started his own art school in Munich in 1915, and in 1934 he founded the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in New York. He developed a large reputation as a teacher, arguably more-so than as an artist, with his pupils including Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, and Larry Rivers. In order to devote the rest of his life to his own painting, he closed down both schools in 1958. It was not until he was 64 years-old that Peggy Guggenheim organized his first exhibition at the Art of This Century Gallery in New York. Hofmann passed away in New York City in 1966, but after teaching hundreds of students in his lifetime, Hofmann and his creative influence will forever thrive.

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