Hans Hofmann (American (born Germany),1880-1966)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Wells Fargo Bank
Hans Hofmann’s paintings bridged the gap between European Modernism at the beginning of the century and Abstract Expressionism a generation later. Hired by the University of California at Berkeley in 1930 to teach a series of courses, his curriculum was the most progressive in the state. The artist’s combination of Cubist structure and bright Fauvist color, combined with his “push-pull” theories of color and composition, proved revolutionary. In California, his views were a decided departure from the way artists were accustomed to thinking and seeing. Born in Weissenberg, in the Bavarian state of Germany, and educated in Munich, Hofmann began his art training in 1898. He moved to Paris in 1904, taking classes at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the Académie Colarossi. He experienced firsthand the avant-garde art of his day, including the work of Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Matisse. In this painting, the influence of Matisse and other Fauves is particularly strong, not only in the intensity of color, but in the subject matter—sailboats. Hofmann stayed in Paris until 1914, when World War I forced his return to Germany. He then opened an internationally acclaimed art school in Munich. He came to Berkeley through the invitation of Worth Ryder, a former student. In 1932, he moved to New York, teaching at the Art Students League and then at his own school. He also taught summer sessions in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In 1958, he retired from teaching to devote full time to painting. His late paintings of overlapping squares confirmed his reputation as an internationally important modernist.