Hans Hofmann


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(b Weissenburg, Bavaria, 21 Mar. 1880; d New York, 17 Feb. 1966).

German-born painter and teacher who became an American citizen in 1941. From 1904 to 1914 he lived in Paris, where he knew many of the leading figures of Fauvism, Cubism, and Orphism. In 1915 he founded his own art school in Munich and taught there successfully until 1932, when he emigrated to the USA (following visits in 1930 and 1931, during which he taught at the University of California, Berkeley). He founded the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in New York in 1934 (followed the next year by a summer school at Provincetown, Massachusetts) and became a teacher of great influence on the minority group of American artists who practised abstract painting during the 1930s. Hofmann continued teaching until 1958, when he closed his schools so that he could concentrate on his own painting. This was to counter opinions that he was merely an academic figure and a symbol of the avant-garde rather than a significant creative artist himself. In the course of his career he experimented with many styles, and was a pioneer of the technique of dribbling and pouring paint that was later particularly associated with Jackson Pollock. His later works, in contrast, feature rectangular blocks of fairly solid colour against a more broken background. As a painter and teacher he was an important influence on the development of Abstract Expressionism. The essence of his approach was that the picture surface had an intense life of its own.

Subjects: Art.

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