Where Promoting And Encouraging The Arts Is A Way Of Life
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Hans Hofmann: Pioneer of Abstract Expressionism
Hans Hofmann (German, 1880-1966) Taurus, 1946 oil on panel, 38 1/2 x 48 1/2 in.
Hans Hofmann was born in Weissenburg, Bavaria in 1880. At the age of six, Hofmann and his family moved to Munich, and he began to study painting at Moritz Heymann’s art school. He then studied for ten years in Paris, where he met influential contemporary painters such as Matisse and Picasso. During the First World War, Hofmann opened the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in Munich. As Nazi oppression grew during the early 1930s, Hofmann fled to New York City, where he opened the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in Manhattan in 1934, and in 1935 heintroduced the famed summer outpost of his school in Provincetown, MA. Hofmann’s impressive roster of students included many artists who would go on to achieve great recognition, such as Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Wolf Kahn, Lee Krasner, Carl Holty, Louise Nevelson, Robert De Niro Sr., and Frank Stella.
Along with his notability as an influential teacher, Hofmann soon came to be recognized as a leading figure in the American Abstract Expressionistmovement. In 1944, Hofmann’s first major exhibition in New York was organized by Peggy Guggenheim and held at the Art of This CenturyGallery, followed in 1947 by an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts organized by Betty Parsons. In 1957, the Whitney Museum of American Art hosted a major retrospective of Hofmann’s work which travelled to seven additional US Museums over the next year. During his lifetime, his work was exhibited and acquired by notable collectors and museums including the Addison Gallery of American Artin Andover, Massachusetts, Musée de Grenoble in France, Joseph H. Hirshhorn, and the Museum of Modern Art. Hofmann’s workis now represented in the permanent collections of major museums world-wide.
In 1946, the year that Hofmann created Taurus, the noted American art critic, Robert Coates, first coined the term “abstract expressionism”, referring to Hofmann’s work as such in his review of an exhibit at the Mortimer Brant Gallery in New York. Taurus is an excellent example of Hofmann’s works from that period, showing “push and pull”, a term Hofmann often used in his writings on art theory to describe the “play between color, shape, and placement on a surface to create competing forces that produce depth within a flat surface.”