get playful with color, hofmann style

Hans Hofmann at pbs. org

“We revere Hofmann, as Pollock did and Rauschenberg does, for proving that the straightforward manipulation of pigment can create exalted art.”-Frank Stella
“It is not the form that dictates the color,
but the color that brings out the form.” -Hans Hofmann


Hans Hofmann was influenced by two styles of painting, the Cubists’ style and that of a group of painters known as the Fauves, or “wild beasts.” From the Cubists, Hofmann developed an understanding of the shifting planes of objects in space. From the Fauves, he learned to abandon the traditional practices regarding color in painting. In the past, color was part of the realistic, visual representation of form. Whereas other artists had used color as the description of an object, the Fauves let color become the subject of their paintings. Color shapes, rather than line, were the unifying elements in a painting.

Another German émigré, artist/teacher Josef Albers,* greatly influenced Hofmann. Albers was fascinated by the way that color can trick our eyes into seeing things that aren’t really there. Throughout his teaching career, he immersed his students in the principles of design and the investigation of color and its behavior. He taught that interpretation of any color depends on its environment. Knowing how colors interact allows the artist to create vibrations and subtle movements in space. An area with a particular color can come forward or recede, (push and pull), depending on the colors that surround it.

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