Hans Hofmann

German, 1880 - 1966
The only artist of the New York School to participate directly in European modernism, Hans Hofmann became known as the major exponent of Abstract Expressionism. His paintings are known for their manic, exuberant energy. Among 20th-century masters, he was the first to consolidate and codify the lessons of modernism into a teaching system. Hofmann was also a widely-influential art instructor with schools in New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts. He was described by New York Times critic Clement Greenberg as "the most important teacher of our time". Approximately six-thousand students studied modernist art with Hofmann, among the well-known names are Helen Frankenthaler, Wolf Kahn, Larry Rivers and Nell Blaine. Hofmann was born in Weissenberg, Germany, and showed a precocious interest in music and science, having early training in mechanics while working for the Director of Public Works of Bavaria between 1896 and 1898. He began to study art in 1898 in Munich where he was introduced to Impressionism. From 1904 to 1914, he studied in Paris and was exposed to many of the avant-garde artists and movements of that time including Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism. He was much taken with the exploration of pure color for its own sake, especially as investigated by Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and Delaunay. In Munich at the outbreak of World War I, he founded an art school and was highly successful until 1932 when he emigrated to America, having spent the summers in 1930 and 1931 teaching at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1932, he began teaching at the Arts Students League in New York and the following year opened his own schools in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts. During the 1930s and 1940s, American Scene painting was prevalent, but he resisted that style, staying with the modernism to which he had been exposed in Europe. Hence he was later credited as a courageous pioneer in America of European modern art. He closed both of his schools in 1958 so he could devote himself full time to his own painting. He died in New York City in 1966.
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