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Artists Hans Hofmann
Hans Hofmann Photo

Hans Hofmann

German-American Painter and Theoretician

Movement: Abstract Expressionism

Born: March 21, 1880 - Weissenberg, Bavaria

Died: February 17, 1966 - New York City, NY

Hans Hofmann Timeline


"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."
Hans Hofmann
"Art is to me the glorification of the human spirit, and as such it is the cultural documentation of the time in which it is produced."
Hans Hofmann
"Painters must speak through paint, not through words."
Hans Hofmann
"The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color."
Hans Hofmann

"Color is a plastic means of creating intervals... color harmonics produced by special relationships, or tensions. We differentiate now between formal tensions and color tensions, just as we differentiate in music between counterpoint and harmony."

Hans Hofmann Signature


A pioneering artist and teacher, Hans Hofmann emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1930. He brought with him a deep knowledge of French art, gleaned from years spent in Paris before World War I, and this proved crucial in spreading European modernist styles and ideas in the United States. He taught Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Larry Rivers, and he formed a close relationship with Jackson Pollock. Hofmann's own style represented a fusion of various modes, and his later work made a powerful contribution to Abstract Expressionism.

Key Ideas

Hofmann's years in Paris brought him into direct contact with artists such as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, and Robert Delaunay, and his own style would come to be a fusion of various modes. At various times his work blended Cubist structure with Fauvist color, Expressionist energy, and touches of Surrealism.
Hofmann believed fervently that a modern artist must remain faithful to the flatness of the canvas support. To suggest depth and movement in the picture - to create what he called "push and pull" in the image - artists should create contrasts of color, form, and texture.
Nature was the origin of art, Hofmann believed, and no matter how abstract his pictures seemed to become, he always sought to maintain in them a link to the world of objects. Even when his canvases seemed to be only collections of forms and colors, Hofmann argued that they still contained the suggestion of movement - and movement was the pulse of nature.
Although renowned for his ideas, Hofmann once said that "painters must speak through paint, not through words." And his own foremost medium of expression was color: "The whole world, as we experience it visually," he said, "comes to us through the mystic realm of color."


Hans Hofmann Photo


Born Johan Georg Albert in Weissenberg, Bavaria in 1880, Hofmann was a precocious child, showing early inclinations towards mathematics, music, science, literature, and art. When he was six years old, his family moved to Munich where his father had secured a job in the government bureaucracy. In time his father would use his position to help find a position for his son working for the Director of Public Works of the State of Bavaria, and it was here that Hofmann began his working life and where he patented several scientific inventions, including a radar device for ships, whilst still in his teenage years.

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Hans Hofmann Biography Continues

Important Art by Hans Hofmann

The below artworks are the most important by Hans Hofmann - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

The Wind (c. 1944)
Artwork Images

The Wind (c. 1944)

Artwork description & Analysis: Pictures such as The Wind have been at the center of a long controversy over whether Hofmann inspired Jackson Pollock's use of the drip technique. Some have claimed that Pollock saw pictures like this when he visited Hofmann's studio in 1942, and that this inspired his first use of poured paint in 1943.It was first thought that this work was produced in 1942, but now, professionals believe, that The Wind was produced around 1944, and that it was Pollock and Hofmann's twin interest in the work of André Masson, among others, that led both men to experiment with dripped paint at the same time.

Oil, duco, gouache and India ink on poster board - Collection University of California, Berkeley Art Museum

Self-Portrait with Brushes (1942)
Artwork Images

Self-Portrait with Brushes (1942)

Artwork description & Analysis: Hofmann created many self-portrait drawings and paintings, usually depicting himself at work. Self-Portrait with Brushes is typical of his approach, yet it stands out in the way it combines styles to create an expressive character sketch. Using bold outlines to exaggerate his own features - creating a broad triangular nose and tousled hair - Hofmann projects a playful persona in a blue on yellow palette set within the interior space of his studio.

Casein on plywood - Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York

Ecstasy (1947)
Artwork Images

Ecstasy (1947)

Artwork description & Analysis: In 1947, Hofmann abandoned painting on board and began to use canvas. He also began to explore a wider variety of styles, and Ecstasy reflects his experiments, showing his continued loyalty to European masters such as Joan Miro and Hans Arp at a time when many of Hofmann's American colleagues were trying to overcome European influences.

Oil on canvas - University of California, Berkeley Art Museum

More Hans Hofmann Artwork and Analysis:

The Conjurer (1959) The Garden (1956) To Miz - Pax Vobiscum (1964) Robert Delaunay: Eiffel Tower with Trees (1910) Henri Matisse: The Conversation (1908-12) Jackson Pollock: Male and Female (1942)

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Hans Hofmann
Interactive chart with Hans Hofmann's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Georges BraqueGeorges Braque
Robert DelaunayRobert Delaunay

Personal Contacts

Johann Wolfgang von GoetheJohann Wolfgang von Goethe
Adolf von HildebrandAdolf von Hildebrand
Peggy GuggenheimPeggy Guggenheim



Influences on Artist
Hans Hofmann
Hans Hofmann
Years Worked: 1898 - 1966
Influenced by Artist


Lee KrasnerLee Krasner
Frank StellaFrank Stella
Helen FrankenthalerHelen Frankenthaler
Louise NevelsonLouise Nevelson
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock

Personal Contacts

Clement GreenbergClement Greenberg
Harold RosenbergHarold Rosenberg
Alfred H. Barr, Jr.Alfred H. Barr, Jr.


Gestural AbstractionGestural Abstraction
Color Field PaintingColor Field Painting

Useful Resources on Hans Hofmann

Special Features






artist features

The Hans Hofmann School

Art School run by Hofmann in the 1930-50s.

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Hans Hofmann Recomended resource

By Cynthia Goodman

Color Creates Light: Studies with Hans Hofmann

By Tina Dickey

Hans Hofmann: Revised and Expanded

By Sam Hunter, James Yohe, Frank Stella, Tina Dickey

More Interesting Books about Hans Hofmann
The Hans Hofmann Estate Recomended resource

Features In-Depth Biographical Information, a List of Exhibitions, and an Image Gallery of Works

Hans Hofmann: Paintings, Biography, and Info | Abstract Expressionism

Provides a Brief Biography, Images of Paintings, and Additional Resources

Hans Hofmann: Art Like Life is Real

Exhibition Catalogue for Art Like Life is Real at Ameringer-McEnery-Yohe


By Clement Greenberg
An Essay on Hans Hofmann

A Challenge to Received Wisdom: Hans Hofmann's Ongoing Legacy

By Mario Naves
The New York Observer
November 21, 2005

An Abstractionist Dancing With Color Recomended resource

By Grace Glueck
The New York Times
May 21, 1999

Hans Hofmann: New Perspectives

By Michael Kimmelman
The New York Times
June 22, 1990


Archives of American Art: Hans Hofmann papers

A Collection of Correspondences, Writings, Photographs, and Other Documents

in pop culture

Hans Hofmann: Artist/Teacher, Teacher/Artist is a one-hour film about his life and legacy

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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