Hans Hofmann - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Estate of the Artist (acquired in 1966)
    Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust (acquired from the above in 1996)
    André Emmerich Gallery, New York (acquired in 1998)
    Arij Gasiunasen Fine Art, Palm Beach (acquired in 1998)
    Knickerbocker Fine Arts, New York (acquired in 1998)
    Private Collection, Long Island
    Michelman Fine Art, New York (acquired in 2008)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

  • Exhibited

    Cincinnati Art Museum; Denver Art Museum; Seattle Art Museum; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Art, Abstract and Surrealist Art in the United States, February 8 - July 1944, no. 26 (erroneously titled The Wicker Chair and the Picture)
    The Arts Club of Chicago, Hans Hofmann, November 3 - 25, 1944, no. 25
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Des Moines Art Center; San Francisco Museum of Art; Los Angeles, Art Galleries of the University of California; Seattle Art Museum; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Utica, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute; Baltimore Museum of Art, The Hans Hofmann Retrospective Exhibition, April 24, 1957 - June 17, 1958, no. 9, p. 18
    Naples Museum of Art, Hans Hofmann: A Retrospective, November 1, 2003 - March 21, 2004, no. 10, n.p. (recto and verso illustrated)

  • Literature

    Alfred Frankenstein, "The Art of Calculated Form and the Art of Unreason," San Francisco Chronicle, September 10, 1944 (erroneously titled The Wicker Chair and the Picture)
    Hans Hofmann: Provincetown Paintings and Drawings, exh. cat., The Fort Worth Museum of Art, Fort Worth, 1985, p. 40 (illustrated in Hofmann's Provincetown house)
    Apollo 167, exh. advertisement, Michelman Fine Art, New York, April 2008, back cover (illustrated, erroneously titled Wicker Chair)
    Suzi Villiger, ed., Hans Hofmann Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Volume II: 1901-1951, London, 2014, no. P383, p. 230 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 1942, Wicker Chair No. II is an expressive tour-de-force that hails from Hans Hofmann’s illustrious body of work, executed upon the artist’s return to painting as his primary focus. In the preceding decades, Hofmann dedicated much of his time and energy to teaching art, initially in Germany and then in New York, where he opened the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in 1933. In Europe, Hofmann frequented the Café du Dôme, where artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse and Sonia Delaunay gathered to discuss their work. Later in New York, Hofmann taught and participated in lectures alongside fellow Abstract Expressionist artists such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, the latter of which he first met in 1942, the year in which the present lot was painted.

    Hofmann’s mature practice and personal exploration into abstraction were heavily influenced by his encounters with de Kooning and Pollock, and informed by European masters like Matisse and Picasso. In Wicker Chair No. II, exuberant Fauve colors coalesce with fractured planes and angles, inspired by the artist’s early exposure to Cubism. In all of his works, Hofmann stressed the importance of working from life as a starting point, regardless of what level of abstraction the final composition might take. Here, the viewer is just able to discern a table-top still life in the upper right quadrant, and a yellow wicker chair in the lower center, for which the painting is titled. Moreover, what initially appears as a blue abstraction in the upper portion of the composition is in fact a painting by Joan Miró, Image, 1937, which was in the artist’s personal collection. Hofmann achieved this level of abstraction through overlaying lines and angles, and ultimately developed his own artistic theory which he termed “push and pull”, to describe the co-existence of flatness and depth on canvas, as evidenced in the present lot.

    Apart from form, color is an equally dominating force in Wicker Chair No II. Patchworks of vibrant reds and yellows are interspersed with bursts of blues and greens, creating a composition that is at once boldly abstract, yet simultaneously retains allusion to the still life on which it was modeled. Despite working with these thick impastos of oil paint, Hofmann was able to maintain a sense of clarity in his palette, keeping each color intact and distinct from one another. This purity of color was achieved through the artist’s unique method of applying paint, often disposing of a paint brush in favor of palette knives, cloth, and sometimes his own hands. In discussing Hofmann’s remarkable use of paint, Elaine de Kooning wrote in 1950, “There is perhaps no other living artist who can give a dab of paint the special, haphazard intensity of expression that he can; and the splotches, streaks and dots, apparently so wildly splashed on, are always under perfect control.” (Elaine de Kooning, “Hans Hofmann paints a picture”, Artnews, February 1950, online) This duality between expression and control that de Kooning so aptly describes is impeccably illustrated in Wicker Chair No. II. Though indisputably inspired by Matisse’s interiors, Cezanne’s still lifes, and Picasso and Braque’s radical displacement of form, Hofmann ultimately developed his own style of abstraction which he would continue to explore throughout the remainder of his career.

Property from the Triton Collection Foundation


Wicker Chair No. II

signed "hans hofmann" lower right; further titled, inscribed and dated "MH Catalog. 564-1942 Wicker Chair 55 x 40" on the reverse
oil on panel
55 1/4 x 40 1/8 in. (140.3 x 101.9 cm.)
Painted in 1942.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $495,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2018