Karl Hofer and Hans Purrmann belonged to the same generation, having been born in Karlsruhe in 1878 and in Speyer in 1880 respectively, while Christian Rohlfs – born in Niendorf near Leezen in 1849 – was already a generation older. Nonetheless, as we shall see below, there were a great many parallels in their lives and in their artistic developments.
Hofer, Purrmann and Rohlfs all enjoyed a full academic training. They learnt their “craft” the traditional way, attended a diversity of painting classes and were students of the leading artist-teachers at the renowned academies of their time.
In 1897 Karl Hofer enrolled at the Karlsruhe Academy, where he became a master pupil of Hans Thoma in 1901. Only a year later, in 1902, he transferred to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, where he was a master pupil of Leopold von Kalckreuth. Hans Purrmann attended the Arts and Crafts College, likewise in Karlsruhe, from 1897 until 1899, and later, until 1905, the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he studied, first under Gabriel von Hackl and then under Franz von Stuck, together with Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Rudolf Levy. Christian Rohlfs enrolled at the Grand Ducal Art College in 1870, where he studied successively under the history and figure painter Paul Thumann, the genre painter Ferdinand Schauss and the Belgian nude painter Alexandre Struys. He later became one of Max Thedy's students until finally completing his training and becoming a fully fledged artist.
The works of all three artists manifest the influence of the French Impressionists, not least through the typically Impressionist style of their early years. Sojourns in Paris, visits to exhibitions and also direct contact with the painters of the French avant-garde clearly left their mark on the work of all three artists