Hans Hofmann

[hof-muhn; Ger., Pol. hawf-mahn]

Hans Hofmann (March 21 1880February 17 1966) was a German-born American abstract expressionist painter. He was born in Weißenburg, Bavaria on March 21 1880 the son of Theodor and Franziska Hofmann. In 1932 he immigrated to the United States, where he resided until the end of his life.


According to the Hofmann biography at the Tate Gallery website , Hofmann's work is distinguished by "a rigorous concern with pictorial structure, spatial illusion, and colour relationships."

The Guggenheim Collection's information on Hofmann states that his "completely abstract works date from the 1940s" . Hofmann believed that abstract art was a way to get at what was really important. He famously stated that "the ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."

Teaching and writing

Hofmann was renowned not only as an artist but as a teacher of art, both in his native Germany and later in the U.S. In Munich he founded an art school, where Louise Nevelson, Wolfgang Paalen, Worth Rider and Alfred Jensen, were among his students. He closed this school in 1932, the year he immigrated to the U.S. In America, he initially taught at the University of California, Berkeley in 1930 and in 1933 at the Art Students League of New York. Leaving the League in the mid 1930s Hofmann opened his own schools in New York and later in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Many famous or notable artists, especially some who could generally be classified as abstract expressionists, studied with Hofmann in New York and Provincetown. These distinguished alumni included: Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Gerome Kamrowski, Joseph Plaskett, William Ronald, Joan Mitchell, Michael Goldberg, Ray Eames, Larry Rivers, Jane Frank, Nell Blaine, Robert de Niro, Sr., Jane Freilicher, Allan Kaprow, Red Grooms, Wolf Kahn, Marisol Escobar, Nicholas Krushenick, Burgoyne Diller, Mercedes Matter, James Gahagan, Louisa Matthíasdóttir, Judith Godwin, and Donald Jarvis. In 1958, Hofmann closed his schools in order to devote himself exclusively to his own creative work.

Also prominent as a writer on modern art, Hofmann authored an influential book (sometimes referred to and anthologized as an "essay"), Search for the Real, in which he discussed his push/pull spatial theories, his reverence for nature as a source for art, and his philosophy of art in general. Hofmann was an enormously important interpreter of modernism and its relevance to advanced painting.


Hans Hofmann's works are in the permanent collections of many major museums in the United States and throughout the world, including the UC Berkeley Art Museum, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Seattle Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (Munich), the Museu d'Art Contemporani, (Barcelona), and the Tate Gallery (London). In addition to these collections, he also designed a colorful mural located outside the entrance of the High School of Graphic Communication Arts located in the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan in New York City.

Hofmann Estate

When Hans Hofmann died on February 17 1966, his widow, Renate Hofman managed his Estate.

After Renate's death in 1992, the New York Daily News published an article titled, "From Caviar to Cat Food," which detailed the "sad and tortuous story" of Hofmann's widow. The article contended that Renate's court appointed guardians "milk[ed] the Estate for more than a decade" and allowed the mentally unstable Renate live "with her cats and liquor in a garbage-strewn oceanfront home.

Under threat of prosecution, the original executor of the Hofmann Estate, Robert Warshaw, was successful in having the neglectful guardians pay $8.7 million dollars to the Estate for "extraordinary conscious pain and suffering.

Under the will of Renate Hofmann, The Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust was formally created with Robert Warshaw at its head. The mission of the Trust is "to promote the study and understanding of Hans Hofmann's extraordinary life and works" and to accomplish these goals "through exhibitions, publications and educational activities and programs focusing on Hans Hofmann as well as forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Hofmann's paintings.. The U.S. copyright representative for the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust is the Artists Rights Society.

See also



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