Hans Hofmann, Spring, 1944-45
11.25 x 14.125 in.
Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) was an Abstract Expressionist painter. Born in Germany, Hofmann first devoted himself to science and engineering; among his developments were an electromagnetic computer, a device for maritime radar, and a portable freezer. However, Hofmann was compelled to develop his creativity and began his art education after the death of his father. He moved to the United States in 1932 and achieved great success as an artist and teacher. His students included Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler. Even among his earlier work Hofmann's style demonstrates the great energy and intensity that would come to characterize his best known pieces. The Gate is one such piece, and it presents a very strong contrast with Spring. The Gate (1960) is a static work of great poise and restraint. Its energy comes from the tension that stillness creates; all the movement is unseen and under the surface. Spring is quite the opposite. It is all movement and action. Indeed it prefigures Jackson Pollock's famous action painting in some ways. This painting's title gives a clear focus to the piece, putting the viewer in mind of the flash of colors from bright and the rapid buzzing of insects. The liveliness here is quite astounding, and, although it is a rather small painting, Hofmann filled the canvas with such rich texture and vibrancy that it seems to contain an entire ecosystem. The painting grips us with its rapid movement and the complex crossing of colors, as the white streaks fly over the green ground, and all the other colors flit around in between. Despite the extent of abstraction, it is not difficult to discern the energy and presence of a spring day with this beautifully chaotic painting.