Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Life Devoted to Color

“I want always to live in color.”
Hans Hofmann

The German born American artist Hans Hofmann was 64 when he had his solo exhibition in New York. A year later his painting Idolatress (see above) was included in the Whitney Annual, the predecessor of the prodigious Whitney Biennale, about which the Newsweek journalist Hilda Loveman first coined the term Abstract Expressionist for the defining American art movement that saw New York wrest the title of the world’s art capital from Paris in the middle of the 20th Century.

Some 12 years earlier Hofmann had immigrated to the United States after previously teaching two summer semesters at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1915 Hofmann opened his Schule für Bildende Kunst (School of Fine Art) in Germany and by the mid-1920s he had gained the reputation as a forward-thinking teacher of modern art.

He eased his way into the New York art scene first by teaching at the progressive, independent art school the Art Students League and the Thorn School of Art. Two years later he opened his own school the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in New York that offered a summer school at the ‘Hawthorne Barn’ in Provincetown, Massachusetts. An endeavor Hofmann would continue for the next 20 plus years.

Concurrently with his educational duties Hofmann worked on his own painting along with the development and publication of his theories about art in general and abstract art in particular. The best known of which is his push/pull theory in which the suggestion of depth and movement in a painting is achieved by the artist creating contrasts in color, form and texture.

Hofmann’s rigorous application of his theories to his own work saw him gain both critical and public acclaim for his work which at the age of 80 saw 13 of paintings featured in the American pavilion at the 1960 Venice Biennale.

And whilst renowned for his theories Hofmann maintained that “painters must speak through paint, not through words. The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color." To which he added “In nature, light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light.

The latest exhibition of his work Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hofmann is currently on show at Connecticut’s Bruce Museum until the 6th of September. 

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