No Products in the Cart


The Vanguard: Hans Hofman

on July 10, 2023

As an enthusiast of Abstract Expressionism, I'm intrigued by the profound impact painter and teacher Hans Hofmann had on the movement. Hofmann was born in Germany in 1880 and emigrated to the US in 1932. He was initially active in European avant-guard but ended up as a central figure in Abstract Expressionism movements, ultimately helping to reshape the landscape of American modern art.

abstract expressionism artist hans hofmann

'Summer Summit' by Hans Hofmann, 1962.

As a painter, he didn't seem to fully embrace the free expression of Abstract Expressionism. His paintings always seem to have a controlled feel about them, as though he carefully planned and designed his paintings beforehand. While his intellectual concerns with composition, I do like some of his later works (see above).

It's Hofmann's legacy as an art teacher that I'm most intrigued by. In 1934, he opened his own art school in New York where he taught until he died in 1966. There, he taught many of the original Abstract Expressionists, including Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell. Famously, Krasner once explained that Hofmann's compliments for his female students were often misogynistically underhanded: "This is so good you wouldn't know it was done by a woman."

artist hans hofmann teaching

Hans Hofmann teaching at his art school in New York.

He is said to have been a close friend of Jackson Pollock, whom Krasner introduced him to in 1942. The three of them were close neighbours in the 1940s and spent a good deal of time together. Also interestingly, Hofmann was one of 28 artists who became known as the "Irascibles" who accused the Metropolitan Museum of Art of being "hostile to advanced art." (I'll write about the Irascibles in a future blog post, so stay tuned.)

artist hans hofmann

'Combinable Wall I and II' by Hans Hofmann, 1961.

Much has been written about Hofmann's undeniable influence on Abstract Expressionism. It's his legacy as a teacher, I think, that makes him such an important figure. Whether his art fits within the category of Abstract Expressionism or not is, therefore, rather inconsequential, in my opinion. 


Pete Stein
Founder, Galerie Stein

Galerie Stein will be presenting several contemporary Abstract Expressionist artists both virtually at and in our gallery in Montreal in 2024.
Contact: Pete Stein at