Dr. and Mrs. Winston H. Price, Baltimore
Christie's, New York, May 13, 1998, Lot 269
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Hans Hofmann's Twilight in the Swamp, painted in 1958, is an exceptional example by an artist whose career and legacy culminate in the critically acclaimed body of paintings produced in the final decade of his life. In 1958, Hofmann left the world of teaching after an influential 25 year career. As an artist, he produced an extraordinary output of work with a visual language whose power and appeal is based on the distillation of a diverse range of experiences. The present work beautifully realizes Hofmann's aesthetic proposition as he directs a symphony of euphoric colors. Shades of blue, green, red, yellow and orange hues aggressively emerge from the layers of painterly impasto, creating a pulsing sensation of movement and energy. Hofmann regularly evoked nature during this extraordinary period and possessed an astute understanding of the inherent dichotomy between the pictorial experience and those of the natural world.
Twilight in the Swamp is a resolute aesthetic testament to Hofmann's stature within the canon of New York Abstract Expressionism. In his last years, Hofmann shifted between geometric forms in more regimented conformation and, as in the present work, free-form areas of saturated color. This approach owed much to Henri Matisse's chromatic schemes; however, unlike Matisse, there is a vehemence of paint application and a distinct preoccupation with rhythmic fluctuations and movement. As Clement Greenberg notes in his 1961 essay, "[Hofmann's] paint surfaces breathe as no others do, opening up to animate the air around them". (reproduced in Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Hans Hofmann, 1990, p. 129) Twilight in the Swamp brims with the unique shimmering light that sparkles across a body of water in that very brief and romantic moment of the day just before the sun sets.
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