Gloria in Excelsis shows Hans Hofmann's mastery of composition and color. A complicated, dynamic balance is achieved between size and shape, color and value. Paint is laid thickly with brush and knife. Slabs hover singly on a colored ground, or collide, balancing and reinforcing each other. The colors are brilliant, highly saturated hues, making the balance even more difficult to achieve, but the ordered structure holds them in place. However, Hofmann's painting is not premeditated; Hofmann believed that painting should be executed with a freedom that allowed the process to determine the outcome. Gloria in Excelsis attempts and attains the formidable goal of an organic balance of parts, one that retains the marks of an artist, a method of some risk and great visual reward.
"In many of Hofmann's canvases executed after 1952, the areas [of impasto] are hardened into oblong planes placed among complexes of free calligraphy and ambiguous, loosely brushed areas--thus creating a mixture of elements associated with geometric abstraction, Fauvism and Expressionism. Hofmann succeeded in reconciling these conflicting components by imparting a sense of volume to both, the open areas rendered as plastically as the delineated forms...These pictures are geometric abstractions in the manner of Mondrian, but they are not purist, for Hofmann's planes are paint-loaded, and the vivid, dissonant colors (reminiscent of Matisse) strain to burst the stable rectangular containers. In this series, Hofmann achieved a life-long ambition: a grand synthesis of Cubist structure and Fauvist color, in an original, non-objective style." (I. Sandler, The Triumph of American Painting, New York 1970, p. 144)
Hans Hofmann has long been recognized as one of the originators of the Abstract Expressionist style of painting. A prolific and innovative painter who worked in a wide variety of styles, Hofmann was one of the most important teachers of the principles of abstract painting in America. Born in 1880, he was nearly seventy-eight years old when, in 1958, he finally gave up teaching to devote all of his energies to his own work.