HANS HOFMANN was born in Weissenburg in Bavaria, Germany in 1880. He studied art in Munich and Paris, where he lived from 1904 to 1914. The outbreak of World War I obliged him to stay in Germany after his return, and he opened his first art school in Munich in 1915. In 1930, Hofmann traveled to the United States, and from 1930 to 1932 he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles.
In 1932, Hofmann moved to New York. He taught a six-week drawing class at the Art Students League, then taught private art classes and spent a summer teaching at the Thurn School of Art in Gloucester, MA before opening the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in 1934. Beginning in 1935, he held summer classes as part of the Hofmann School of Fine Arts in Provincetown, Cape Cod. Likely prompted by the mounting turmoil in Europe, Hofmann filed an application for U.S. citizenship in 1938, and became a citizen in 1941. In 1944—which proved to be a pivotal year for the artist—he was included in four group exhibitions and two solo shows, including First Exhibition: Hans Hofmann, organized by Peggy Guggenheim. In 1945, one of Hofmann’s paintings was exhibited in the Whitney Annual for the first time, and he would be included in thirteen additional annuals before his death.
At the close of World War II, Hofmann began to explore themes similar to those that preoccupied his contemporaries Kandinsky, Miró, and Picasso, though he interpreted them in his own distinct style and manner. The works featured in this exhibition capture this seminal chapter in Hofmann’s artistic development, and highlight his relentless pursuit of experimentation. This period of robust activity marks the beginning of his gradual transition from a more representational style of art-making into full-fledged abstraction, as he grappled with the fertile issues of both Cubism and Surrealism.
Over seventy years later, Hofmann’s work of the later ‘40s continues to look as fresh as when it was first seen by the art world at the time. As André Emmerich—who represented the artist’s estate for over thirty years—wrote in 1989, “Hofmann’s spontaneity of line, the dynamism of his compositions, and his vivid palette show the mastery achieved during a full career spent in the pursuit of art: in 1945 Hofmann celebrated his 65th birthday. At the same time, the paintings of this period clearly announce and begin to define the grand thrust his art was to follow during the last two decades of his life.”