Hans Hofmann - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 13, 2014 | Phillips
  • Video

    HANS HOFMANN 'Orchestral Dominance in Green', 1954

    "When I start to paint, I want to forget all I know about painting..." Worldwide Co-Head Of Contemporary Art David Georgiades on Hans Hofmann's 'Orchestral Dominance in Green', 1954 from our 13 November Evening Sale.

  • Provenance

    Kootz Gallery, New York, 1961
    Collection Henry A. and Jeanette R. Markus, Chicago, 1961 - 1987
    Sotheby’s, New York, Contemporary Art, Part I, May 4, 1987, lot 9
    André Emmerich Gallery, 1987 - 1989
    Private Collection, 1989 - 2002
    Ameringer Howard Yohe Fine Art, New York, 2002
    Riva Yares Gallery, Scottsdale, 2002
    Private Collection, 2002

  • Exhibited

    New York, Kootz Gallery, Tenth Anniversary Festival: Hofmann, New Paintings, November 15 - December 11, 1954
    Provincetown, H.C. Gallery, Hans Hofmann, July 26 - August 8, 1955
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, One Hundred and fifty-First Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture, January 22 - February 26, 1956
    New Brunswick, Rutgers University, Hans Hofmann, curated by Allan Kaprow, April 5 - May, 1956
    Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum in conjunction with Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts, Large Scale Painting II, October 30 - November 30, 1956
    London, The Tate Gallery, Hans Hofmann, Late Paintings, March 2 - May 1, 1988
    New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Hans Hofmann: Selected Works, January 7 - February 13, 1993
    New York, New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, The Brushstroke and Its Guises, March 7 - April 16, 1994
    New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Hans Hofmann's America: Landscapes, Still Lifes and Abstractions, December 7, 1995 - January 20, 1996
    Berlin, Galerie Haas & Fuchs, Hans Hofmann: Das Spätwerk, October 1 - November 1, 1997
    Scottsdale, Riva Yares Gallery, Hans Hofmann: Major Paintings, 1935-1964, March 13 - April 12, 1999, then traveled to Santa Fe, Riva Yares Gallery (July 9 - August 9, 1999)
    Boca Raton, Ameringer Howard Fine Art, Hans Hofmann: A Retrospective Exhibition, November 11 - December 4, 1999
    New York, Ameringer Howard Fine Art, Hans Hofmann, The Summer Studio, April 27 - June 10, 2000
    Provincetown, Art Association & Museum, Hans Hofman, Four Decades in Provincetown, July 28 - October 1, 2000
    San Francisco, John Berggruen Gallery, Hans Hofmann: Paintings, February 1 - March 3, 2001
    Naples, Naples Museum of Art, Hans Hofmann: A Retrospective, November 1, 2003 - March 21, 2004

  • Literature

    Tenth Anniversary Festival: Hofmann, New Paintings, exh. cat., Kootz Gallery, New York, 1954, no. 14, back cover (illustrated)
    A. Newbill, "Fortnight in Review: Hans Hofmann," Arts Digest 29, no. 5, December 1, 1954, p. 28
    P. Tyler, "Reviews and Previews: Hans Hofmann," ARTnews 53, no. 8, December, 1954, p. 51
    C. Greenberg, Hofmann, Paris: Editions Georges Fall, 1961, p. 13 (illustrated), p. 37
    M. Seuphor, Abstract Painting: Fifty Years of Accomplishment, from Kandinsky to the Present, translated by Haakon Chevalier, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1962, pl. 460, p. 259 (illustrated)
    H. Hofmann, S. Hunter, Hans Hofmann, Second Edition, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1963, pl. 49 (illustrated), pp. 19, 28
    J. Murray, "Hans Hofmann's Use of Nature as Aesthetic Norm," Arts Magazine 55, no. 6, February 1981, p. 108
    C. Goodman, Hans Hofmann, Modern Masters Series 10, New York: Abbeville Press, 1986, pp. 37, 115
    "Ad for the Estate of Hans Hofmann, André Emmerich Gallery, New York," ARTnews 87, no. 7, September 1988, p. 11 (illustrated)
    D. Anfam, "Rehearsed Spontaneity: Hofmann at the Tate," Art International, Summer 1988, p. 98, p. 100 (illustrated)
    J. Burr, "The Rise of Abstract Expressionism," Apollo, no. 127, April 1988, fig. no. 2, p. 294 (illustrated)
    P. Overy, "When Paint Stays Paint. Bomberg and Hofmann: Conflicts in Style," Studio International 201, no. 1020, July 1988, p. 19 (illustrated)
    Hans Hofmann: The Late Paintings, exh. cat, Tate, London, 1988, pl. 2, p. 27 (illustrated)
    D. Anfam, Abstract Expressionism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1990, p. 172
    C. Goodman, Hans Hofmann, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1990, p. 136
    S. Polcari, Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 329
    Hans Hofmann: Das Spätwerk, Galerie Haas & Fuchs, Berlin, 1997, p. 9, front & back cover (illustrated)
    Hans Hofmann: Major Paintings, exh. cat., Riva Yares Gallery, Santa Fe, 1999, p. 19 (illustrated)
    Hans Hofmann, exh. cat., Ameringer Howard, New York, 2000, p. 29 (illustrated)
    Hans Hofman, Four Decades in Provincetown, exh. cat., Art Association & Museum, Provincetown, 2000, p. 29 (illustrated)
    D. Forman, "Coming Home: Hans Hofmann Provincetown Exhibited Shows the Artist in a Place He Loved," Cape Cod Times, July 27, 2000, p. B2
    D. Forman, "Dancing Colors," Cape Cod Times, August 5, 2000, p. B1
    G. Glueck, "Art in Review: Hans Hofmann,"New York Times, May 26, 2000, p. E36
    J. Yohe, ed., Hans Hofmann, New York: Rizzoli, 2002, pp. 22, 32, 275, p. 161 (illustrated)
    Hans Hofmann: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Naples Museum of Art, Naples, 2004, no. 35 (illustrated)
    D. Miller, Picturing America: Selections from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, Tokyo: Howaito Intanashonaru, 2005, p. 168
    T. Dickey. Color Creates Light: Studies with Hans Hofmann, Salt Spring Island, Canada: Trillistar Books, 2011, p. 318
    S. Villiger, ed., Hans Hofmann, Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Volume III, Catalogue Entries 1952 - 1965, 2014, no. P974, p. 83 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Painters must speak through paint, not through words." Hans Hofmann, 1959

    Vibrantly resonant and boldly avant-garde, Hans Hofmann’s Orchestral Dominance in Green from 1954 engages a profound dialogue between color, form and medium, synthesizing Cubist and Expressionist theories in an exquisite symphony of painterly experimentation. Reinterpreting his technique, style and guiding theory with each blank canvas, Hofmann’s artistic practice transcended the physical limits of his picture plane in a spiritual interplay of the perceived world and its pictorial representation. Dating from the zenith of the artist’s prolific career, Orchestral Dominance in Green is a masterful composition - the energetic and enthralling embodiment of Hofmann’s enduring artistic legacy.

    Initially a student of science, Hofmann’s artistic education truly began in his early twenties, when he relocated to the artist’s quarters of his native Munich and initiated his study of the fine arts alongside Wassily Kandinsky and the important Slovenian teacher, Anton Ažbe. Concerned in these early days with the formalist elements of form and color, Hofmann devoted himself to these foundational artistic and geometric theories – a sustaining interest that informed and evolved with the artist’s practice. Later studying in Paris with the students of Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse, Hofmann expanded upon his earlier training, weaving into his aesthetic theory elements of his scientific education, and developing the “push and pull” theory of composition for which he is known. As he explained to his own students in the early 1920s, static elements within the painterly composition could be animated through “…a balanced state of expansion and contraction…a positive produces a negative-a high, a low, a right, a left – a push a pull and vice versa.” (P. Morrin, “The Education of Hans Hofmann,” in Hans Hofmann: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, 2014, p. 33)

    Indeed, Hofmann’s early teachings and influences owe much to the master Cézanne, whom the artist quoted in his own writings: “In nature you see everything that is in perspective in relation to the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone in such a way that each side-each surface of the object-moves in depth in relation to a central point.” (M. Polednik, “In Search of Equipoise: Hofmann’s Artistic Negotiations, 1940-1958, in Hans Hofmann: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, 2014, p. 34) Hofmann’s concern with the two-dimensional plane and its ability to evoke light and movement explicitly reflects the ideology of this early Cubist master. Commenting on the two-dimensional form and its careful execution, Hofmann himself noted, “…the act of creation agitates the picture plane, but if the two-dimensionality is lost, the picture reveals holes and the result is not pictorial, but a naturalistic imitation of nature.” (P. Morrin, “The Education of Hans Hofmann,” in Hans Hofmann: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, 2014, p. 33)

    Though Hofmann immersed himself in and developed his own theories of abstraction during these early years, he produced few paintings, instead becoming a teacher and moving to the United States, where he became one of the most respected leaders of the New York Abstractionists. It was not until the early 1940s that Hofmann’s artistic genius truly awakened, driving him to enact the theories he had for decades espoused. From his early interactions with the German Expressionists, Post-Impressionists and Cubists, the artist drew upon his technical skill and ideologies, inaugurating a period of robust growth and artistic development. Elaborating upon the “push and pull” dialogue established in Munich, Hofmann’s experimentation with the color, form and compositional balance developed and reinterpreted by various modern masters propagated this artistically transformative period, leading to and culminating in his masterworks – namely, Orchestral Dominance in Green.

    Describing his desire to view each canvas afresh, Hofmann noted, “When I start to paint – I want to forget all I know about painting….What I would hate most is to repeat myself over and over again-to develop a false style.” (Polednik p. 34) Embodying an energetic and almost gestural treatment of the picture plane, Orchestral Dominance in Green is a careful yet passionately rendered expression of color and form, contrasting Hofmann’s reliance upon the shifting geometric forms of Cubism with the vigorous, impastoed brushstrokes of the Fauves, resulting in a rhythmic interplay of geometric tension and chromatic harmony. Noting the importance of Orchestral Dominance in Green both in the context of Hofmann’s oeuvre and the history of Abstract Expressionism, Polednik asserts, “Hofmann’s continual deployment of Cubism as a set of tools for pictorial reinvention is nowhere more apparent than in Orchestral Dominance in Green – a work that shows both the artist’s allegiance to the most canonical elements of the movement as well as decisively signaling his redeployment of its practice.” (IBID, p. 38)

    Exhibiting an almost architectural use of form, Orchestral Dominance in Green transcends the physical representation of reality, grounded by four thick, golden blocks of color, reminiscent of Pablo Picasso’s early Cubist tabletops, such as Still Life, 1912, in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid. Upon this geometric “table top,” Hofmann further stabilizes this perceived reality with his foundational spherical and rectangular forms, rendered sparingly, allowing the absence of color to intimate the desired projection. Speaking to this spatial tension, the artist elucidated, in his essay “Plastic Creation,” “Space is imbued with movement; space vibrates and resounds and with it vibrates form to the rhythm of life.” (in Hans Hofmann, ed. Sam Hunter, 1963, p. 38) In Orchestral Dominance in Green, the vibrating harmony of tertiary color radiates from the canvas – a simultaneously fervent yet thoughtful treatment of spirited, colorful movement.

    Hofmann’s other Orchestral Dominance works – one in yellow and one in red – provide useful points of comparison to the present work. These works, all produced in 1954 and of the same scale, illustrate the broad range of Hofmann’s artistic experimentation, as well his ability to reinterpret the foundational forms of the Cubists and Abstract Expressionists. Orchestral Dominance in Yellow, in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, intimates Hofmann’s gestural, earnest approach to the brushstroke, and its ability to transform his composition - a form as essential to the dynamism of the picture as its “dominant” golden ground. Tracing the creation of Orchestral Dominance in Red, Orchestral Dominance in Yellow, and, finally, Orchestral Dominance in Green, Hofmann’s treatment of his compositions suggests a growing embrace of his Cubist mentors. While Hofmann explored in these canvases color’s power to harmonize seemingly disparate elements, Orchestral Dominance in Green, more than that in red or yellow, marks a seminal passage in Hofmann’s career, marrying undulating linearity with geometric form and bold declarations of color in an orchestral crescendo of artistic experimentation.

    Orchestral Dominance in Green generates a sensory rhythm unrivalled by Hofmann’s contemporaries. Balancing chromatic volumes and abstract form with negative space in a lyrical liveliness of surface, Hofmann challenges, in this masterpiece, the adherence to and training of the modern artist in any one school of thought. It is perhaps this depth of theoretical dialogue and artistic practice that attracted the New York School artists such as Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler to his teachings, and resulted in the endurance of Hofmann’s legacy as one of the most important artists of the 20th Century. In the words of the noted critic, Clement Greenberg, “[Hofmann] could be said to take the easel tradition into regions of chromatic experience it never before penetrated. In these regions he preserves the easel picture's identity by showing how oppositions of pure color can by themselves, and without help of references to nature, establish a pictorial order as firm as any that depends on conspicuousness of contour and value contrast.” (Paris: Editions Georges Fall, 1961)

    The compositional tension between blocks of vibrant color and their non-objective representation present in Hofmann’s works from his creative zenith in the mid-1950s can be summated in the artist’s declaration that “…form exists only through color and color only exists through form.” (Polednik p. 39) The energy and light brought forth from the canvas – most essentially in Orchestral Dominance in Green – perfectly illustrates Hofmann’s mastery of the transposition of reality to the spiritual, captured in abstract two-dimensional form. Thickly layered brushstrokes dynamically applied to the canvas enhance, rather than detract from, the artist’s utilization of Kandinsky-like sphere and line – the confluence of Hofmann’s both pedagogic and emotive approach to painting.

    Indeed, Hofmann’s titular homage to the symphonic blend of art historical theory and experimental practice in Orchestral Dominance in Green represents a profound realization of the artist’s most personal vision. Writing in his later teachings that, “In nature light creates the color; in the picture, color creates light,” Hofmann expounded upon the theories of his artistic predecessors, noting the burden of the artist to utilize color in a careful and balanced manner – the artist as visual mediator of the spiritual painterly experience. (K. Wilkin, “Hans Hofmann: Tradition and Invention,” in Hans Hofmann: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, 2014, p. 47) In no other work of the artist’s multifaceted career does the rhythm of form, color, and compositional tension intimate such lively and enlightened presence as in Orchestral Dominance in Green, where Hofmann’s role as mediator elevated the canvas to pure visual rhapsody.



Orchestral Dominance in Green

oil on canvas
48 3/8 x 60 1/8 in. (123.8 x 152.7 cm)
Signed, titled and dated “orchestral dominance in green 1954 Hans Hofmann” on the reverse; further signed and dated "Hans Hofmann 54" lower right.

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $2,405,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
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Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm