Hofmann, Hans

Hofmann, Hans Biography

German-born American painter and one of the most influential teachers of modern art in the United States. Hans Hofmann was a leading figure of the abstract expressionism movement. He painted with great freedom of gesture, yet his compositions were tightly organized, with an eye to relationships and contrasts between colors, shapes, and textures. Hofmann was born Johann Georg Albert Hofmann in Weissenberg, Germany. After establishing a career in science and engineering, in 1898 he enrolled in Moritz Heymann's art school in Munich. From 1904 to 1914 he lived in Paris, France where he absorbed many of the theories of modern art that would find expression in his oil paintings and teachings. From the oil paintings of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque he learned about the geometry of cubism, while Robert Delaunay and Henri Matisse inspired his palette of intense colors. In 1915 he founded his first art school, the Hofmann Schule fur Moderne Kunst, in Munich. In 1930 and 1931, at the invitation of a former student, he taught summer school at the University of California at Berkeley. He moved to New York City the following year and opened the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in the fall of 1933. Until 1958, when he closed them to pursue painting full-time, Hofmann's schools trained many of the most accomplished abstract artists of the era, his pupils included artists Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Larry Rivers.

Even in early, representational oil paintings, such as Table with Teakettle, Green Vase, Red Flowers (1936, University Art Museum, Berkeley), Hans Hofmann combined intense colors with strong geometric organization. He spread colors across the canvas with both brush and palette knife, working quickly and spontaneously, and leaving his gestures prominent in areas where he applied the oil paint thickly. By the mid-1940s Hofmann's art work had become increasingly abstract and had begun to show the influence of European surrealists.

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