Art of the Americas


Apparition, 1947
Hans Hofmann (United States, born Germany, 1880–1966)
Oil on reinforced plywood
48 x 58 inches
Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1950-6-1

Well-known as both a teacher and a painter, Hans Hofmann was grounded in theory, and often quoted the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, and the art historian and theorist Heinrich Wölfflin. Between 1915 and 1939, Hofmann developed and taught his own approach to painting. He studied the ways in which two-dimensional forms could create an effect of three dimensions. To produce the effect he described as "push and pull," he applied particular colors in carefully calibrated relationships to cause some areas to advance while others dramatically recede.

Hofmann has sometimes been seen as the preeminent colorist among the abstract expressionists. He was inspired by Paul Cézanne's expressive brushwork and preference for planes of color as opposed to line. The gestural swirls of colors and biomorphic shapes in Apparition evoke some of the movement and brilliance of the early paintings of his contemporary, Wassily Kandinksy. However, Hofmann's work displays a unique tension between contrasting colors and planes. Here he used opulent hues and dynamic brushstrokes to create a "push and pull" of colors. Undefined images float over the picture plane against the green and yellow colors of the background, freed from the confines of representation.

Text by Kavie Barnes, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008

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