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Hans Hofmann papers, circa 1904-2011

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Catherine S. Gaines and Megan McShea
Scope and Contents
The papers of painter, teacher, and writer Hans Hofmann measure 29.92 linear feet and 5.00 GB and date from circa 1904 to 2011, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1945 to 2000. The majority of the papers were created after 1932 and document Hofmann's life and professional career after settling in the United States. Among his papers are personal and professional correspondence; records of his schools in Munich, New York City, and Provincetown, Mass.; writings and notes; photographs; address and appointment books; artifacts; artwork; biographical information; interview transcripts; sales and estate records; and a small number of personal papers of his second wife, Renate Schmitz Hofmann. Hofmann's personal papers are augmented by a large selection of printed matter, including exhibition catalogs, articles, news clippings, and monographs about Hofmann and modern art, as well as documentary projects including Tina Dickey's compilation of oral histories and records of Hofmann's students, and research materials, sound and video recordings, digital materials, and motion picture film created and gathered by Madeline Amgott during the production of two video documentaries about Hans Hofmann released in 1999 and 2002. Hofmann's Library was acquired with his papers; inscribed/annotated volumes have been retained with the collection.
Correspondence, 1914-1966 (Series 1), consists mainly of incoming letters about professional matters and personal business. A large portion of the letters are from museum directors and curators regarding the exhibition, loan, sale or donation of Hofmann's work; publishers, editors, and others preparing catalogs or biographical works; and galleries that showed Hofmann's paintings or represented him. Also among the correspondents are students and former students, art historians, art critics, fans, and friends. Family correspondents are a sister-in-law, nieces, and a nephew in Germany. Additional correspondence concerning administrative matters, and requests for catalogs, transcripts and recommendations are among the Records of the School of Fine Arts (Series 2). Financial Records (Series 4) contain a small amount of correspondence regarding banking, taxes, and Social Security. Estate Records (Series 9) include correspondence relating to taxes, the sale of Hofmann's Provincetown house, and various legal documents. Correspondence among the Papers of Renate Schmitz Hofmann (Series 10) include condolence letters, and a small number of personal letters and business correspondence regarding Hofmann's estate.
School of Fine Arts Records, 1915-1965 (Series 2), include a very small number of items relating to the Hans Hofmann Schule fur Bildende Kunst that operated in Munich from 1915 until 1933. These are printed prospectuses, a financial record, 1925; and "Italian Schools of Painting: The Renaissance in Italy," a printed chart, probably used as a teaching aid. Other items relating to the Munich school are photographs (Series 6) of Hans Hofmann with students in the 1920s, including some taken during the summer course in Capri, circa 1925. Travel photographs, 1920s, may have been taken while teaching summer courses in Europe, and an unidentified photograph, undated, of an exhibition installation in Germany may be school-related.
The Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts was established in New York in 1933, and his summer school in Provincetown, Mass., opened in 1934; both operated continually until Hofmann closed them in 1958 in order to paint full-time. Records of these schools are more substantial, but still quite incomplete. They consist of administrative files containing accreditation records, correspondence, model bookings, inquiries from prospective students, and printed matter about the schools. Financial records are comprised of expense statements and an analysis of income from the 1956 summer session. Student records consist of student ledgers, registration and payment records, and requests for transcripts and recommendations. Miscellaneous items are student artwork and notes. Records postdating the schools' closing are inquiries from prospective students and requests from former students for transcripts or recommendations. Additional letters from former students about matters other than transcripts and recommendations are filed with Correspondence (Series 1).
Writings, circa 1904-1965 (Series 3), are published and unpublished manuscripts by Hans Hofmann and other authors. Hoffman wrote extensively about his philosophy of painting, about himself as a teacher and an artist, and about modern art. Included are manuscripts, drafts, and revisions of Hofmann's book, Das Malerbuch: Form und Farbe in Gestaltung, circa 1904-[1952?], Search for the Real in the Visual Arts and Other Essays, published in 1948, and The Painter and His Problems-A Manual Dedicated to Painting, 1963. Articles and Essays include the constituent essays of Search for the Real in the Visual Arts and Other Essays and others on theoretical aspects of painting, Alfred Maurer, and Charles W. Hawthorne. Talks and Lectures consist of notes, outlines, and some complete texts of Hofmann's speeches. Miscellaneous Writings are shorter, informative pieces, mostly unpublished. Representative titles include: "I Am Often Asked to Explain My Work," 1946, and "About the Relation of Students and Teachers," undated. Poems by Hofmann include some written to Miz Hofmann. Notes and Lists include notes on specific works of art and lists of paintings for exhibitions, framing, and shipping.
Financial Records, 1927-1966 (Series 4), consist mainly of banking records and tax returns with supporting documentation. There are also statements of assets and liabilities, and a few subject files concerning financial matters such as "House Expenses," "Social Security," and "University of California-Financial Standing With." Additional tax records are among the documents of the Estate of Hans Hofmann (Series 9), and expenses are recorded in his 1932 appointment book (Series 5).
Miscellaneous Records, 1906-1966 (Series 5) include Addresses and Appointment Books. Artifacts are a leather wallet and 6 photogravure blocks. Artwork consists of 4 sketches and block prints of 3 red shapes, one the numeral 5. Included with Biographical Information are birth and marriage certificates, immigration and naturalization papers, wills, Hofmann and Wolfegg family documents, biographical notes and chronologies, and a bibliography of writings on and by Hofmann. Interview Transcripts are of 3 interviews with Hofmann conducted for various purposes. Sales Records include lists of paintings sold through galleries and privately, and a list of prices computed by canvas size.
Photographs, circa 1925-1966 (Series 6) are of People, Events, Places, Works of Art, and Miscellaneous Subjects; also, Oversize Photographs. People include views of Hofmann alone and with Miz, students, and others; Miz Hofmann; Renate Schmitz Hofmann; and the Hofmann family. Also, there are pictures of identified and unidentified individuals and groups. Events recorded are "Forum 49" at Gallery 200, exhibition installations, openings, and ceremonies for honorary degrees awarded Hofmann. Photographs of places include Miz Hofmann's Munich apartment; interior and exterior views of Hofmann's Provincetown house; exterior views of the Provincetown school; Hofmann's New York studio; and unidentified houses and landscapes. Travel pictures are of Italy, Mexico, California [?], and unidentified locations. Photographs of works of art by Hofmann are mainly 35-mm color slides of works completed from 1935 to 1965. There are also photographs of works by other artists and Hofmann students. Teaching materials are photographs of Old Masters paintings, drawings, and Classical sculpture, some marked to indicate line, form, or proportion. Miscellaneous subjects are a dog, cat, and doll; also, a cover design for Search for the Real in the Visual Arts. The oversize photographs include portraits of Hans Hofmann and Miz, and works of art by Hofmann students.
Printed Matter, 1930-1978 (Series 7), contains articles, essays and a letter to the editor by Hans Hofmann; the remaining material by other authors is categorized by type. Exhibition Catalogs and Related Items (mainly announcements and invitations), 1931-1978, undated, are from group and solo shows that featured the work of Hans Hofmann; also, catalogs and announcements of other artists' exhibitions collected by Hofmann. Newspaper clippings and articles from periodicals include reviews, feature articles, articles with brief references to Hofmann or reproductions of his work, and obituaries. Others are on art-related topics and miscellaneous subjects. Miscellaneous printed matter includes a variety of items such as brochures about art courses (not the Hofmann school), reproductions of works by Hofmann and other artists, book prospectuses, and statements. Art Museum: A Center for Cultural Study, a prospectus showing models and drawings of the proposed University Art Museum, Berkeley, notes the location of its Maria and Hans Hofmann Wing. A Scrapbook, 1944-1962, contains clippings, exhibition reviews, and some catalogs, checklists, and invitations. Nineteen books that mention or are about Hofmann are a part of this series.
Hans Hofmann's Library (Series 8) of art books and general literature was acquired with his papers. Inscribed and annotated volumes have been retained. Books about or mentioning Hofmann are among Printed Matter (Series 7). All other books and periodicals (376 items) were transferred to the Library of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum.
Estate of Hans Hofmann, 1945-1974 (Series 9), consists of records of Hofmann's attorney and co-executor, Robert Warshaw, and includes correspondence and legal documents concerning taxes, the Provincetown house, and miscellaneous business matters.
Papers of Renate Schmitz Hofmann, 1962-1967 (Series 10), include notes, correspondence, condolence letters and records regarding Hans Hofmann's funeral, and information about the theft of Hofmann paintings from his Provincetown house in 1966.
Hans Hofmann Documentary Projects, 1944-2011 (Series 11) includes research materials compiled by Tina Dickey concerning Hofmann's students, correspondence as well as primary source and supplementary research materials produced and gathered by Madeline Amgott for two video documentaries on Hofmann released in 1999 and 2002. Original and edited audiovisual recordings are included in the series, as well as primary source material gathered from a variety of sources. Some material is in digital format.
Renate Schmitz Hofmann, widow of the artist, donated to the Archives of American Art 313 35-mm color slides of work by Hans Hofmann in 1974. The remainder of the collection was a gift of the Estate of Hans Hofmann in 1997. Tina Dickey donated her research material in 2000 and 2001 under the auspices of the Renate, Hans, and Maria Hofmann Trust. In 2006, additional manuscripts, notes, and illustrations for Hofmann's Das Malerbuch: Form und Farbe in der Gestaltung were received from the Trust. In 2015, the Trust donated additional correspondence, research and video production materials related to two documentaries on Hans Hofmann by Madeline Amgott. 13.0 linear ft. books, exhibition catalogs, and periodicals (376 items) from Hofmann's library, received with the collection, were transferred to the Smithsonian's American Art Museum-National Portrait Gallery Library.
Separated Materials
Monographs and periodicals (376 items) from Hofmann's Library not directly related to the artist were transferred to the Library of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum in 2001. The Library retained relevant volumes, dispersed others to appropriate libraries within the Smithsonian Institution, and made final decisions regarding disposition of any remaining items.
Related Material
The holdings of the Archives of American Art include papers and oral history interviews of many former students and friends of Hofmann; among these collections are correspondence, photographs, reminiscences, writings, and printed items relating to Hofmann and his school. The Lillian Kiesler Papers, 1920s-1990s include records of the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts. Researchers are advised to conduct a name search in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS).
Other Hans Hofmann Papers, 1929-1976 (1.65 linear ft.) are owned by The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (Collection number: BANC MSS 80/27 c). An inventory is available on The Bancroft Library's website at http//
Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Catherine S. Gaines in 2001 and microfilmed onto reels 5801-5811 in 2003. Additional accessions were processed and merged into the collection in 2006 and 2015. The glass plate negative was re-housed in 2015 with a grant provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund. In 2015, the collection was prepared for digitization by Megan McShea and Judy Ng and scanned with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2016 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund. Born-digital materials were processed by Kirsi Ritosalmi-Kisner in 2019 with funding provided by Smithsonian Collection Care and Preservation Fund.