Vigorously exuding a breathless symphony of masterful form and powerful hues, View from the Balcony is a poignant ode to Hans Hofmann’s widely celebrated aesthetic at the apex of his creative energies. Painted in 1964, two years before his death, the present work is a dazzling construction of richly saturated swaths of pigment that encapsulate an equally forceful culmination and reflection on Hofmann’s life’s work. View from the Balcony bears an impressive exhibition history, notably its placement on the cover of Hofmann’s solo exhibition at André Emmerich Gallery in New York as well as its inclusion in the artist’s celebrated retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. that same year. These attest to the importance of the present work within Hofmann's oeuvre, as it perfectly captures the artist as both a pioneering colorist and preeminent abstractionist.
The rich surface and flawless formal precision in View from the Balcony’s composition lends itself to the energetic innovation of Hofmann’s painterly process, which became especially charged with exuberance in the last decade of his life. Although Hofmann was from an older generation than his Post-War artistic peers, he effectively bridged the School of Paris with the New York Abstract Expressionists by way of artistic innovation and enlightenment. The artist looks to Matisse's kaleidoscopic balcony scenes such as Open Window, Collioure where the view of dancing sailboats shimmers just beyond the vibrantly colored and heavily impastoed interior which brings energy and life to the picture plane pulling the viewing to another place and time. Hofmann’s groundbreaking push-pull thesis is evidenced by the formal structure in View from the Balcony, whereby the composition is made of geometric blocks of richly saturated color, intricately organized within an exacting formal structure. Against the underlayer of burnt orange and cherry red, the carefully layered strata of rich ochre and sugared yellow, simultaneously float towards the viewer and recede inward in the present work, with a rhythmic ethereal quality. As conveyed by the artist himself: "The movement of a carrier on a flat surface is possibly only through the act of shifting left and right or up and down. To create the phenomenon of push and pull on a flat surface one has to understand that by nature the picture plane reacts automatically in the opposite direction to the stimulus received; thus action continues as long as it received stimulus in the creative process" (the artist cited in William Chapin Seitz, Ed., Hans Hofmann with Selected Writings by the Artist, New York 1963, p. 32).
Across the surface of View from the Balcony are thin flicks of dazzling blues, luscious pinks, deep reds and warm yellow oil paint, captured within Hofmann’s characteristically tactile and impasto horizontal painting technique—a spatial plane approach he taught for nearly forty years. Although Hofmann had retired from teaching in 1958, the influence of his renowned formal instruction is readily visible by the sheer geometry and collapsing of color and form in View from the Balcony. The Hofmann School of Fine Art in New York was considered the most advanced art school in the nation by 1937, and “Hans Hofmann’s name was legend among the artists hoping to tap the vein that began with Manet and led through Kandinsky, Miró, Matisse and Picasso” (Mary Gabriel, Ninth Street Women, Boston 2018, p. 32). The lustrous, expansive surface of View from the Balcony thus not only heralds the celebration of abstracted color and form, it is the underlying tenet of aesthetic liberation.
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