Pompei 1959

Hans Hofmann – master of abstraction

Pompei 1959
Pompei 1959

Hans Hofmann (born March 21, 1880 – died February 17, 1966) is an American painter of German descent who created colorful works in the 20th century. Hans Hoffmann’s work is a bold combination of surreal shapes and vibrant colors. The author’s paintings attract attention with their mysteriousness, I want to understand their meaning, but this is not always possible. The master’s biography tells about his rich life in the art world.

Spring, 1944-1945. Hans Hoffmann
Spring, 1944-1945

Biography of Hans Hofmann

Hans Hofmann was born on March 21, 1880 in Weissenburg (Germany). In 1886 he and his parents moved to Munich. As a fully developed child, the boy was well versed in mathematics, natural sciences, but after graduating from school he decided to connect his life with creativity.

Hans Hofmann took painting lessons since 1898. Six years later, he left his homeland and moved to France. After settling in Paris, he lived there until the outbreak of the First World War, continuing to study art at the Grande Chaumière Academy. The famous fauvist and experimenter Henri Matisse also honed his skills here. In 1914, Hans Hoffmann returned to his homeland, but did not go to the front: he was declared unfit for service due to health problems.

Dominance of Red, 1949
Dominance of Red, 1949

Painter visited the United States, and two years later he settled in America.

In 1933 he founded an art school and took up teaching. One of the students, Lenore Krasner, introduced him to her husband, the renowned abstractionist Jackson Pollock, who later helped Hoffman organize his first personal exhibition.

Two years later, the artist exhibits his works at the Mortimer Brandt Gallery. A critic who wrote a review for the New Yorker magazine noted that, in the opinion of many, creativity is similar to “kalyako-malyako painting”. He is more inclined to describe what he saw as abstract expressionism. Hans Hoffmann did not quite agree with this definition, believing that other works written in this style look more “tragic”.

Improvement , 1956
Improvement , 1956

The painter was strong both in theory and practice. Over the years, he generously shared his knowledge with students. However, in 1958 he decided to devote himself exclusively to creativity, refusing to teach.

In the 1960s, Hans Hoffmann’s life was full of sad events. Many of his friends have died. In 1963, the artist lost his first wife. In 1965, he tied the knot with a woman who was 50 years his junior. On February 17, 1966, Hans Hoffmann left this world after a severe heart attack.

Hans Hoffmann. Painting Gate, 1959-1960
Gate, 1959-1960

The most famous paintings by Hans Hoffmann

The author’s work is mysterious and elusive, art connoisseurs are interested in unraveling the meaning of his masterpieces. Hans Hoffmann’s paintings attract the eye with a riot of colors and figures of unusual shapes:

  1. “Landscape” (1935). In this work, unlike most other works, it is possible to see something concrete. Here you can see grass, flowers, and other plants on the slopes of the mountains.
  2. Spring (1944-1945). There are few references to the painting. One can only guess what the author wanted to express. There is a plus in this: everyone can understand the work in their own way. Perhaps the master wanted to show that nature blooms in spring, becomes especially bright. Or, at this time of year, an event occurred that affected the delicate strings of his soul. After all, it is noticeable that a lot of emotions have been invested in the work. These are only assumptions, it is unlikely that it will be possible to find out if they have anything in common with reality.
  3. The Gate (1959-1960). The painting is part of a series dedicated to architectural forms. The painter believed that even an abstractionist should be able to work with nature. If you look closely, you can see the roofs of the houses (top view) and even the gates declared in the name.