Hans Hofmann

Germany 1880 – United States of America 1966

Johann Georg Albert Hofmann was born on 21 March 1880 in Weissenburg, Bavaria. His family moved to Munich in 1886. At school Hofmann excelled in science, but confounded his parents by enrolling at Moritz Heymann’s Art School, Munich. He went on to attend classes at the Ecole de la Grande Chaumière in Paris between 1904 and 1906. He remained in Paris until 1914 and got to know many influential artists including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Jules Pascin and Robert Delaunay became his good friends. In 1909 Hofmann showed with the New Secession at Galerie Der Sturm, Berlin, and in 1910 held his first solo exhibition at the Paul Cassirer Gallery, Berlin. Kept out of active service by a lung condition, he opened an art school in Munich in 1915. The Schule für Moderne Kunst was an immediate success, attracting many foreign students, particularly Americans.

In 1930, at the invitation of one of his former students, the American Worth Ryder, Hofmann taught at the summer school of the University of California, Berkeley, and returned to teach a second summer session at Berkeley in 1931. His first exhibition in the United States, consisting of drawings, was held at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco that year. Responding to the changing political climate in Germany, Hofmann closed his school in Munich in 1932 and moved to the United States permanently. In 1934 the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts opened in New York and a summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts, was set up in 1935. Hofmann continued teaching at his school for an unbroken period of twenty-four years but also exhibited his own work.

He had his first solo exhibition in New York in1944, at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery, and from 1947 until his death held solo exhibitions almost every year at Kootz Gallery, New York. A retrospective of his work was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1957. The following year Hofmann closed his school and devoted himself to painting full-time. In 1960 he was one of four artists — with Philip Guston, Franz Kline and Theodore Roszak — chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, organised a retrospective exhibition in 1963 which toured the United States, South America and Europe. Hofmann died in New York on 17 February 1966.

See more works by this artist in the NGA collection

Hans Hofmann Pre-dawn 1960 © Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust. ARS/Copyright Agency Purchased 1976 Learn more

Hans Hofmann Untitled 1943 © Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust. ARS/Copyright Agency Purchased 1980 Learn more