Hofer first discovered India in the fall of 1909 while on a voyage to the Malabar Coast with the son of his patron, Dr. Theodor Reinhart. Here, the artist found the paradise he had been dreaming of for many years, with the country’s lush vegetation, serene atmosphere and exotic climate providing rich inspiration for his paintings. Heavily influenced by the example of Paul Gauguin’s Polynesian expeditions, Hofer attempted to assimilate to local life, learning Malayalem, the local Dravidian dialect, and even taking on an Indian mistress as he sought to create his own "Noa-Noa" in the idyllic Indian countryside. Hofer spent long passages of his Memoirs detailing these journeys, recalling with clarity his impressions of the landscape, the culture, language and the Indian people. However, it is in paintings such as Badendes Hindumädchen that Hofer truly captures the vibrant life and paradisiacal atmosphere that he discovered there, evocatively translating his experiences into colourful, expressionistic compositions.
Drawn from the artist’s memories of India almost two years after his return to Europe, Badendes Hindumädchen focuses on the supple, lithe body of a local Indian woman as she bathes in the shallow waters of a lake or river, her form framed by the lush foliage of a rich green tree growing directly out of the water. The young woman stands tall, completely nude from the waist up, her long dark hair cascading down her back as she reaches up to her shoulder to wash herself. Her gently titled head, closed eyes and tranquil expression evoke the dreamy, romantic atmosphere of life in the Indian countryside, and align the scene with similar examples of bathing women in Hofer’s oeuvre. Executed in flowing, pigment-laden brushstrokes, the composition is filled with an array of bright colour combinations, from olive green to turquoise, sandy-hued creams to rich canary yellows. In this way, Hofer eloquently conveys an impression of the heat of the sun as it touches his model’s body, the abundant vegetation as it surrounds her, and the serene way of life he found in India.
Formerly in the collection of the Städtische Museum für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe Halle, Badendes Hindumädchen was seized by the National Socialist Party in 1937 as part of their campaign against so-called “degenerate art.” Hofer had taken a very public stance against the party throughout the 1930s, writing an open letter to Josef Goebbels in 1933 in which he defended artistic freedom, an act which caused him to swiftly lose his teaching position in Berlin. Over the course of the following decade, Hofer was the victim of several attacks in the press, and was sporadically forbidden to paint by the authorities. The present composition was one of over three hundred works by Hofer that were confiscated by the Nazis during the 1937 cull of modern and contemporary art from state institutions across Germany, with several paintings by the artist going on to be included in the infamous Munich Degenerate Art Show later that year.