• Post-War and Contemporary Art  auction at Christies

    Sale 2557

    Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

    8 May 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 13

    Hans Hofmann (1880-1966)

    Kaleidos

    Price Realised  

    Hans Hofmann (1880-1966)
    Kaleidos
    signed and dated 'hans hofmann '58' (lower right); signed again, titled and dated again 'Kaleidos 1958 hans hofmann' (on the reverse)
    oil on board
    72 x 31 7/8 in. (182.9 x 81 cm.)
    Painted in 1958.


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    This work will be included in the forthcoming Hans Hofmann Catalogue Raisonné, sponsored by the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust.


    With its rich, personal history and exceptional provenance, Hans Hofmann's Kaleidos is an extraordinary painting by one of the most influential figures in the Abstract Expressionist movement. Painted as a gift for his first wife Miz, Kaledios, along with a companion work Rhapsody, is characterized by an elongated, vertical composition and was intended to be displayed in the couple's New York apartment. Kaledios was exhibited as Hofmann's contribution to the 1960 Venice Biennale and included in the 1963 exhibition of Hofmann's work originating at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, that toured internationally for over two years.
    In naming the beautifully colored painting Kaleidos, Hofmann not only referenced the kaleidoscope, but also invented a new word to use when bestowing his painting. Derived from the Greek words kalos meaning beautiful, and eidos meaning form, this new form of nomenclature becomes the perfect name for Hofmann's unique combination of richly colored impasto contained within this painting. A stunning example of Hofmann's geometric mature work, Kaleidos presents a luminous pallete of heavily layered impasto that showcases a gestural execution with juxtapositions of horizontal and vertical rectangles. Against a spectrum of golden yellows and warm ochers, Hofmann introduces vivid bursts of fresh green, violet, cerulean and blue-tinged white. This "push-pull" of contrasting color and contiguous form lies at the very heart of his work and sums up the conflict between abstraction and figuration with which many artists of his generation struggled. Hofmann relieved this situation by allowing the tensions between the two traditions to play off against each other and in the process discovered a new visual language that challenged the traditions of the past.

    While creating a new formal discourse with his abstract work, Hofmann's exuberant use of color bears the legacy of the Fauvist penchant for vibrant, irrational, and at times, acidic hues. Drawing inspiration from the vibrantly colored landscapes of Maurice Vlaminck, Hofmann creates a captivating work that engages the viewer. As in the pulsating color in the orange tree trunks and swaths of green leaves of Vlaminck's Paysages aux Arbres Rouges captures the viewer, so does the vibrancy of the similar colors found in Kaleidos. While drawing color inspiration from the Fauvists, Kaleidos incorporates many modern ideals of abstraction and the flattening of the picture plane. Hofmann, who was highly attuned to representing space in his works, creates an intriguing sense of space. Hofmann said, "Space is alive; space is dynamic" (H. Hofmann, Hans Hofmann, New York, 1960, p. 14). Hofmann does not create space in a conventional way. Instead, he produces depth using brushstrokes and layers or planes of different colors. Hofmann stated, "Depth, in a pictorial sense, is not created by the arrangement of the objects one after another toward a vanishing point, in the sense of Renaissance perspective, but on the contrary by the creation of forces in the sense of push and pull" (H. Hofmann, quoted in S. Hunter, Hans Hofmann, New York, 1963, p. 14) Thus, while the painting points up the canvas's flatness, the colors and brushstrokes make it an active arena, a living pictorial space. Furthermore, Hofmann amplified the movement in the painting by leaving evidence of his gestures within the brushstrokes. We can clearly see the motion of Hofmann's strokes within Kaleidos, his presence lingering on the canvas, adding to the painting's overall vitality.

    Hofmann began his career surrounded and influenced by famous artists - after arriving in Paris in 1904, he frequented the legendary Café du Dôme in the company of artists such as Pablo Picasso, George Braque, George Rouault, and Fernand Leger. Conversely, he would spend his later years teaching and greatly inspiriting impressive artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Alfred Jensen, Wolf Kahn, Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson and Frank Stella. Hofmann is in fact the only New York School artist to have also directly participated in the artistic movements that occurred in Europe in the first two decades of 20th Century. A prolific teacher who inspired some of the most important Post-War American artists, Hofmann closed his art schools in New York and Provincetown in 1958 and concentrated on his own paintings resulting in some of the most important works of his mature career, including Kaleidos.

    Provenance

    Kootz Gallery, New York
    Leonard and Virgina Field, 1963
    Bequest from the above to the present owner


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from The Museum of Modern Art, sold to benefit the Acquisitions Fund


    Literature

    C. Greenberg, Hofmann, Paris, 1961, n.p. (illustrated).
    H. Hofmann and S. Hunter, Hans Hofmann, New York, 1963, no. 84 (illustrated in color).
    H. Rosenberg, "The Art Galleries: Hans Hofmann and the Stability of the New," New Yorker, vol. 39, no. 57, 2 November 1963, pp. 100-110.
    W. Bannard, Hans Hofmann: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1976, pp. 19 and 79 (illustrated).
    P. Sims, Whitney Museum of American Art: Works from the Permanent Collection, New York, 1985, pp. 119-120 (illustrated in color).
    C. Goodman, Hans Hofmann, New York, pp. 76-77, no. 61 (illustrated in color).
    J. Yohe, ed., Hans Hofmann, New York, 2002, n.p. (illustrated in color).


    Exhibited

    XXX Venice Biennale, United States Pavilion, "Four American Artists: Guston, Hofmann, Kline, Roszak, June-October 1960, p. 314, no. 18.
    Nuremberg, Fränkische Galerie am Marientor; Cologne, Kölnischer Kunstverein; Berlin, Kongreßhalle and Munich, Städtische Galerie Lenbachpalais, Hans Hofmann, April 1962-January 1963, no. 57 (illustrated).
    Bielefeld, Städtisches Kunsthaus; New York, Museum of Modern Art; Brandeis University, Rose Art Museum of Waltham; New Orleans, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art; Buffalo, Albright Knox Art Gallery; Berkeley, University of California, University Art Gallery; Washington, D.C., Washington Gallery of Modern Art; Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires; Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Turin, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna; Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein; Kunstverein in Hamburg and Bielefeld, Städtisches Kunsthaus, Hans Hofmann, September 1963-Octoebr 1965, no. 10; p. 26 (illustrated, New York); n.p. (illustrated in color).
    New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Collects, July-September 1968, p. 12, no. 78.
    Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Ten Years: The Friends of the Corcoran, 20th Century American Artists, October-November 1971, p. 40, no. 39 (illustrated in color).
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Miami, Center for the Fine Arts and Norfolk, Chrysler Museum, Hans Hofmann, June 1990-April 1991.