Hans Hofmann

Great Artists

Abstract painting by Hans Hoffman

Hans Hofmann

Influential teacher and artist of Abstract Expressionism, Hofmann introduced an artistic theory of "push and pull," which he described as the interdependent relationships between form, color, and space.

[Art credit: Song of the Nightingale, 1964, by Hans Hofmann, Collection of Barbara and Eugene Schwartz, Photo courtesy of Josh Nefsky, www.hanshofmann.org/image-gallery]

Above Deep Waters, 1959, oil on canvas
[Above Deep Waters, 1959, by Hans Hofmann, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, www.hanshofmann.org/image-gallery]

Hofmann (1880–1966) played a pivotal role in the development of Abstract Expressionism, and was an inspiring art teacher for many artists in his native Germany and in the U.S., where his students included artist Wolf Kahn. In a 2000 interview with PBS, Kahn said, "It was the only place to be at the time when I wanted to go to art school (post World War II, 1946). All the advanced spirits among the young went to Hofmann."

Hofmann's paintings were exuberant and full of color, and Hofmann was considered a free spirit as a painter and a person. It wasn't until he was 64 years old that he secured his first solo exhibition in New York in 1944. Over the final 20 years of his life, Hofmann was a prolific artist, devoting himself to his bold, experimental, and colorful paintings. 

In an Artnews.com article about Hofmann (June 16, 2020), critic Andrew Russeth says that Hofmann was an "underrated giant of 20th-century art," more widely known for his teaching than his art. Russeth writes, "Hofmann’s wildly varied paintings point the way toward a large swath of the most exciting contemporary abstraction. 

"He was a gallant experimenter, refusing to settle on a single style for long. His career is a case study in spurning easy answers." And Russeth quotes Hofmann as saying, " 'What I would hate most is to repeat myself over and over again.' "




PBS interview with Wolf Kahn, 2000

Artnews.com on the importance of Hans Hofmann


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