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Hans Hofmann

Renowned artist and teacher Hans Hofmann was born in 1880 in Weißenburg, Bavaria, but grew up predominantly in Munich, Germany. By age eighteen, he began studying art at various art schools in Munich before receiving the patronage of art collector Philip Freudenberg, which brought him to Paris between 1904 and 1914. While there, he studied at the Académie Colarossi and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, and met a number of the leading painters working in Paris at the time, including, perhaps most importantly, Robert Delaunay, who influenced Hofmann’s interest in color.

During his time in Paris, he made frequent trips back to Germany, where he exhibited with the Secessionist group and had his first solo exhibition in Berlin at Galerie Paul Cassirer. It was on one of these visits to Germany that the First World War broke out, and he was unable to return to Paris—resultantly all the works remaining in his Paris studio were lost. He subsequently decided to open an art school in Munich that became immensely successful, and his reputation led to an invitation to teach at UC Berkeley in California in the summer of 1930. He taught another session the following year, the same year in which he exhibited for the first time in the United States at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Prompted both by his success in the United States and increasing political tensions in Germany, Hofmann opted to stay in America and by 1933 he opened a new art school in New York, which was followed in 1935 by a summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Many notable artists studied with Hofmann, including Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler and Louise Nevelson.

Hofmann’s first solo exhibition in New York was held at Art of This Century in 1944, which was lauded by critics including Clement Greenberg, who would orchestrate his first retrospective at Bennington College in Vermont in 1955. He chose to close his art schools in 1958 to focus on his own painting, and by 1960 he was chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. His late-in-life success culminated with a globally travelling retrospective initiated by the Museum of Modern, New York. He died in New York in 1966 at the age of 86. The influence of both Hofmann’s art and teaching has assured his place within the canon, and his work can be found in numerous major collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg; and the Tate Modern, London.