Hans Hofmann
German American artist



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Hans Hofmann
German American artist
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Date of Birth

March 21, 1880

Place of Birth

Weißenberg, Germany

Date of Death

February 17, 1966

Place of Death

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

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rzarlif's picture


Hans Hofmann was a bonafide smartypants with a love for teaching.


A sharp mathematician, he invented an electromagnetic comptometer, a modern calculator machine which can actually be faster than calculators today and he taught art for decades - Frank Stella was his student, as was Robert de Niro Sr. Flexing his brain muscle, Hofmann wrote some fancy-shmancy quantum art theory things, too.



Ok, so he's smart and accomplished and generally has his ish together...but when it came to painting - boom! He went nuts with that paint and he's certifiable when it comes to colors. The paint is wacked on to the canvas in thick brightly contrasting hues. As the man himself observed of the dichotomy between his crazy canvases and serious ideas: "Being an artist and being a teacher are two conflicting things. When I paint, I improvise. I deny theory and method and rely only on empathy and feeling. In teaching, it is just the opposite. I must account for every line, shape and color. One is forced to explain the inexplicable."



Born in Otto van Bismarck's new Germany, in Bavaria, Hofmann avoided fighting in World War I because of a lung condition, which was lucky given how the war went for Germany. Still, all his early work was destroyed in the war, so he was not without loss. With the rise of the Third Reich, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels established something called the Reichs Kammerce (Reich Chambers) to decide what was acceptable art. Before this escalated into another ill-conceived war, Hofmann began lecturing at UC Berkeley, then moved to New York, and then finally wised up and moved permanently to California. He gave Berkeley 45 of his works in exchange for an art department to chair. A fair trade if you ask me.



Good quotes from Hofmann:



  • "Being inexhaustible, life and nature are a constant stimulus for a creative mind."

  • "In nature, light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light."

  • "The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color. Our entire being is nourished by it. This mystic quality of color should likewise find expression in a work of art."









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Here is what Wikipedia says about Hans Hofmann

Hans Hofmann (March 21, 1880 – February 17, 1966) was a German-born American painter, renowned as both an artist and teacher. His career spanned two generations and two continents, and is considered to have both preceded and influenced Abstract Expressionism. Born and educated near Munich, he was active in the early twentieth-century European avant-garde and brought a deep understanding and synthesis of Symbolism, Neo-impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism when he emigrated to the United States in 1932. Hofmann's painting is characterized by its rigorous concern with pictorial structure and unity, spatial illusionism, and use of bold color for expressive means. The influential critic Clement Greenberg considered Hofmann's first New York solo show at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century in 1944 (along with Jackson Pollock’s in late 1943) as a breakthrough in painterly versus geometric abstraction that heralded abstract expressionism. In the decade that followed, Hofmann's recognition grew through numerous exhibitions, notably at the Kootz Gallery, culminating in major retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1957) and Museum of Modern Art (1963), which traveled to venues throughout the United States, South America, and Europe. His works are in the permanent collections of major museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, National Gallery of Art, and Art Institute of Chicago.

Hofmann is also regarded as one of the most influential art teachers of the 20th century. He established an art school in Munich in 1915 that built on the ideas and work of Cézanne, the Cubists and Kandinsky; some art historians suggest it was the first modern school of art anywhere. After relocating to the United States, he reopened the school in both New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts until he retired from teaching in 1958 to paint full-time. His teaching had a significant influence on post-war American avant-garde artists—including Helen Frankenthaler, Nell Blaine, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Louise Nevelson, and Larry Rivers, among many—as well as on the theories of Greenberg, in his emphasis on the medium, picture plane, and unity of the work. Some of Hofmann's other key tenets include his push/pull spatial theories, his insistence that abstract art has its origin in nature, and his belief in the spiritual value of art. Hofmann died of a heart attack in New York City on February 17, 1966.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Hans Hofmann.