Fragrance, Hans Hofmann

Hans Hofmann (American, 1880–1966) Fragrance, 1956 Oil on canvas Purchase, 1968, with conservation treatment supported by Mark Olival in honor of his nephew, Mala'e Lowell Olival-Heffelfinger, 1998 (3529.1) A theoretician, teacher, and painter, Hans Hofmann was one of the leading exponents of American abstract art, especially Abstract Expressionism. Having built his reputation in Europe, Hofmann travelled to the United States to teach at the University of California, Berkeley, during the summers of 1930 and 1931. Soon after, he relocated to New York City where he taught at the Art Students League before opening his own art school in 1933. Nature was the starting point for Hofmann's creative ideas. His paintings are interpretations of sensations and objects experienced in nature, three-dimensional reality transformed into two-dimensional patterns of highly keyed colors. Hofmann painted Fragrance in 1956, a time when he was working out a method of applying rectangular dabs of paint in heavy impasto. Bright blues, reds, oranges, and yellows seem drawn, as if by a magnet, to the center of the canvas, each interacting to create an explosive surface vitality. This vitality is reinforced by the illusion of advancing and receding planes, brought about by the properties of colors and the shape, size, and placement of the brushstrokes.