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b. 1880, Weißenburg, Bavaria; d. 1966, New York
Hans Hofmann was born on March 21, 1880, in Weißenburg, Bavaria. He was raised in Munich, where in 1898 he began to study at various art schools. The patronage of Philip Freudenberg, a Berlin art collector, enabled Hofmann to live in Paris from 1904 to 1914. There he attended the Académie Colarossi and the Académie de la grande chaumière; he met Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and other Cubists and was a friend of Robert Delaunay, who stimulated his interest in color. In 1909, Hofmann exhibited with the Sezession (Secession, 1898–1932) in Berlin, and in 1910 was given his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Paul Cassirer, Berlin. During this period, he painted in a Cubist style.
At the outbreak of World War I, Hofmann was in Munich; disqualified from military service due to a lung condition, he remained in the city and in 1915 opened an art school, which became highly successful. The artist taught at the University of California, Berkeley, during the summer of 1930. He returned to teach in California in 1931, and his first U.S. exhibition took place that summer at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco. In 1932, he closed his Munich school and settled in the United States, later becoming a citizen in 1941. In 1933, he opened his first school in New York, which in 1934 was succeeded by the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts; in 1935, he established a summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
After an extended period devoted to drawing, Hofmann returned to painting in 1935, combining Cubist structure, vivid color, and emphatic gesture, and his completely abstract works date from the 1940s. His first solo exhibition in New York took place at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery-museum Art of This Century in 1944, and in the post–World War II period, Hofmann was an important influence on younger artists experimenting with abstraction. In 1958, he closed his schools to devote himself full-time to painting. Major traveling retrospectives have been organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1957, 1990), and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1976). Hofmann died on February 17, 1966, in New York.