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Hans Hofmann

"What I would hate most is to repeat myself over and over again - to develop a false style. I do not want to avoid immersing myself in trouble - to be in a mess - to struggle out of it. I want to invent, to discover, to imagine, to speculate, to improvise - to seize the hazardous in order to be inspired. I want to experience the manifestation of the absolute - the manifestation of the unexpected in an extreme and unique relation. I know that only by following my creative instincts in an act of creative destruction will I be able to find it."

- Hans Hofmann

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Hans Hofmann’s reputation is unique in that he is recognized as much for his influential teaching career as for his artwork. Hofmann was born in Bavaria in 1880, and he studied art extensively before opening his own school in Munich, Germany, in 1915. His painting from this period was inspired by Cubism and its structural concerns but also employed bold color palettes. His work and his gifts as a teacher led to an invitation to teach at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1930 and again in 1931, after which he was given a solo show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco.

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Opulence

1954

Oil on canvas

40 x 50 inches

101.6 x 127cm

The rise of Nazism prompted Hofmann to close his Munich school in 1932 and emigrate to New York City, where he started a new school. In 1935 he also opened a summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Frank Stella, and others enrolled at various points in one of Hofmann’s two schools and counted him as their mentor. In his own work Hofmann began delving deeply into the fundamental principles of painting—the optical effects of color, the illusion of space, and composition. His first New York solo show was held at Peggy Guggenheim’s influential Art of This Century Gallery in 1944.

In 1958 Hofmann chose to close both of his art schools to focus full time on painting until his death in 1966. Hofmann’s legacy has been repeatedly celebrated with major traveling retrospectives, including those organized the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.

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