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Hans Hofmann

German-American Painter and Theoretician

Hans Hofmann Photo

Born: March 21, 1880 - Weissenberg, Bavaria

Died: February 17, 1966 - New York City, NY

"Color is a plastic means of creating intervals... color harmonics produced by special relationships, or tensions. We differentiate now between formal tensions and color tensions, just as we differentiate in music between counterpoint and harmony."

Hans Hofmann Signature

Summary of Hans Hofmann

A pioneering artist and teacher, Hans Hofmann emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1930. He brought with him a deep knowledge of French art, gleaned from years spent in Paris before World War I, and this proved crucial in spreading European modernist styles and ideas in the United States. He taught Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Larry Rivers, and he formed a close relationship with Jackson Pollock. Hofmann's own style represented a fusion of various modes, and his later work made a powerful contribution to Abstract Expressionism.

Key Ideas

Hofmann's years in Paris brought him into direct contact with artists such as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, and Robert Delaunay, and his own style would come to be a fusion of various modes. At various times his work blended Cubist structure with Fauvist color, Expressionist energy, and touches of Surrealism.
Hofmann believed fervently that a modern artist must remain faithful to the flatness of the canvas support. To suggest depth and movement in the picture - to create what he called "push and pull" in the image - artists should create contrasts of color, form, and texture.
Nature was the origin of art, Hofmann believed, and no matter how abstract his pictures seemed to become, he always sought to maintain in them a link to the world of objects. Even when his canvases seemed to be only collections of forms and colors, Hofmann argued that they still contained the suggestion of movement - and movement was the pulse of nature.
Although renowned for his ideas, Hofmann once said that "painters must speak through paint, not through words." And his own foremost medium of expression was color: "The whole world, as we experience it visually," he said, "comes to us through the mystic realm of color."
Hans Hofmann Photo

Born Johan Georg Albert in Weissenberg, Bavaria in 1880, Hofmann was a precocious child, showing early inclinations towards mathematics, music, science, literature, and art. When he was six years old, his family moved to Munich where his father had secured a job in the government bureaucracy. In time his father would use his position to help find a position for his son working for the Director of Public Works of the State of Bavaria, and it was here that Hofmann began his working life and where he patented several scientific inventions, including a radar device for ships, whilst still in his teenage years.

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