Hans Hofmann, born in Weissenberg, was a pioneer of abstract expressionism in the United States of America post-World-War II. He was not only a painter but also a teacher, one of the most influential ones of the 20th Century. Like his father he joined the State Ministry of Interior as an administrator along with this, he was also studying Arts under a German Artist. After joining art school in Munich he studied under Mortiz Heymann, Nikolai Michaeiloff, and many more.
After getting married to Maria known as Miz, they moved to Paris with the help of Phillip Freudenberg. Initially in his career, with pointillist techniques, he painted portraits of himself and his wife. During this time, he used to meet and study works of Henri Matisse, Robert Delaunay, Pablo Picasso, Braque, Derain, Gertrude Stein, and many more.
In 1908-1909, his paintings Akt and Damen Bildnis got exhibited in the 15th and 18th Berlin Secession. After World War I, being diagnosed with a respiratory condition, he was sent back to Munich where he started an Art school in 1915 which was later moved to New York in 1934. In his seventies, he left teaching and started painting full time, which led to the blossoming of his career.
Along with being an artist, he was also interested in teaching art. He started by teaching in Munich and became one of the most renowned tutors in Germany and America. People came from all over the world to learn painting from him, as he had a distinguished teaching style.
In 1915, he started his first art school, Schule für Bildende Kunst teaching students cubism, cezanne, and Kandinsky. He taught students hands-on painting techniques, live paintings, etc. Later, he started taking summer courses in Munich and New York, California, and Los Angeles. In 1934, he opened his own teaching school in New York, where he taught many prominent artists like Red Grooms, Lee Krasner, Wolf Kahn, Ray Eames, Larry Rivers, Nell Blaine, and many more.
Hans Hofmann and his 51 students together exhibited their work of 58 paintings in the Museum of Modern Art. In 1958, he closed his teaching schools and dedicated his career to art. During this time he penned down a few of his theories and techniques.
Hans Hofmann started his career by opting into arts as a part-time course under German artist Mortiz Heymann. He also joined Heinrich Wolff and Ernst Neumann’s school, where he learnt graphic arts and later joined again with Mortiz.
In the initial years of his career, he spent a lot of time studying the careers of Nikolai Michaeiloff, Anton Azbe, Alexei Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, and Willy Schwarz. He learned different techniques like cubism and Cezzane from these artists along with them and also adopted the color schemes used by Matisse and Van Gogh.
In the 1940s, he started abstract painting himself, with different mediums like oil, crayons, ink, oil and casein, Duco, gouache, and Indian ink. During this time he painted some of his famous artworks like “The Wind”, “Fantasia”, “Spring” and “Effervescence”.
Most of these paintings were experiments of different techniques brought together in order to create these art pieces. These art pieces were known for their sudden strokes, bold colors, and stark contrast. He named this painting technique as “action painting”, and was sold to various art gallery dealers like Betty Parsons, Samuel Kootz, and Peggy Guggenheim. In New York, he exhibited his first solo show, which gave him recognition established the painting style called abstract expressionism.
In the arts of Chicago, he exhibited his paintings based on abstract and surrealism that took place in America. In 1947, he started exhibiting his work on a yearly basis in Kootz Gallery in New York. During this period he focused more on abstract paintings mainly slab paintings.
He used different volumes of rectangles, triangles geometric shapes with bold color contrasts. The Gate, The Pompeii and Miz-Pax Vobiscum are examples of slab paintings.
All his paintings followed a common language, where he used bold colours, bold brush strokes, with a push and pull technique, he created a pictorial quality with spatial illusion, making the artwork expressive.
In 1966, he died of a cardiac arrest, at the age of 86 years. After his death, his second wife started a charitable trust. This trust is known as the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust. This trust primarily has two purposes, one is educational and the other is a charitable purpose. For the educational purpose, with the help of exhibitions, publications, educational programmes, and activities the trust encourages the artwork of Hans Hofmann.
The charitable purpose of the trust is to encourage and assist the physically challenged to achieve their goals apart from mainstream society. They are associated with a German organization to whom they provide grants to the students. In 2014, a catalogue was published that educated about Hans Hofmann’s life and his artwork. This trust also sponsors various exhibitions across the world.