James Yohe, Ed., Hans Hofmann, New York 2002, p.142, illustrated in color
A bold, dramatic composition of vivid color, energetic line, and rich texture, Resurrection VII from 1948 brilliantly demonstrates Hans Hofmann’s unique mastery of paint. Swathes of hot and cool tones intersect and converge with frenetic, characterful lines to form an arrangement that is at once carefully deliberate in intent, and spontaneously improvised in execution, offering more a suggestion than a depiction of a phoenix rising from the flames. Painted the same year as the artist’s first major retrospective in New York following a decade of experimentation and growth, this work represents a key moment in Hofmann’s career as he skillfully transitions toward abstraction. The symphony of converging and diverging forms in combination with a bold color palette epitomizes the style of the works Hofmann created during this period.
Hofmann’s colorful practice and exploration into abstraction were heavily influenced by his encounters with European masters of Fauvism and Cubism, like Matisse and Picasso, while he was living in Paris at the beginning of the century. It was only after his move to New York in 1931, however, that Hofmann began to fully develop his own distinct style. Hofmann recognized his new inspiration, writing in a letter in the early 1940s, “My work comes along in rather an experimental period in which I find myself on the way to highest freedom.” (The artist quoted in Cynthia Goodman, Hans Hofmann, Munich 1990, p. 49) Critics, too, felt this new vitality in his artwork, and in 1946, Robert Coates first coined the term "abstract expressionism" to describe an exhibition of Hofmann’s work at the Mortimer Brandt Gallery.
During this time, Hofmann gradually discarded the black outlines and Provincetown landscapes from his earlier work and moved towards total abstraction. His compositions became increasingly bold and spontaneous, using bright swaths of color. However, Hofmann never fully abandoned his original influences from his formative years in Paris, and he was able to successfully synthesize the old and the new to create works that fused history with modernity. In Resurrection VII, Hofmann echoes several of his contemporaries: deftly combining Miró-like whimsical forms with the softer, rounded forms of Arp and angular shapes reminiscent of Kandinsky, to create a palpable vertical dynamism throughout the composition. Widely recognized for their innovation, these paintings from the late 1940s mark not only a pivotal moment in Hofmann’s oeuvre, but also in the direction of Western art at large.
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