This work will be included in the forthcoming Hans Hofmann catalogue raisonné being supported by the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust.
"By means of our inner perception we grasp the opposing forces and the coherence of things."
"Life does not exist without movement and movement does not exist without life." -Hans Hofmann
Opulence is from a seminal body of work executed by Hans Hofmann in the first half of the 1950s. "The paintings of the early and middle 1950s in which the painted surfaces were built up in assertive texture and relief are surely among Hofmann's most original and powerful works" (S. Hunter, Hans Hofmann, New York, 1963 p. 29). Hofmann lived in Paris from 1904-1914 during the heady years of Modernism and its influence can be seen in Opulence's riotous Fauve palette and rigorous Cubist structure. Unlike his American students who learned about the avant-garde mostly through reproductions, Hofmann knew Picasso personally and sketched alongside Matisse, both formative experiences that would inform his entire oeuvre.
Opulence's subject is a still-life, anchored by a bottle's silhouette around which swirl scattered abstracted objects. The blue shape in the upper left suggests a window, which combines with the upturned angle of the table creating a shallow space within which the painterly drama occurs. This work is from a masterful series of abstracted still-lifes, including Orchestral Dominance in Green and Orchestral Dominance in Red whose titles point to the importance of formal concerns over representation.
As an influential artist and teacher, Hofmann's career is inextricably bound to Abstract Expressionism. The importance he placed on depicting movement and on drawing on one's 'inner perceptions' was part of the 1940s zeitgeist that put a premium on tapping the subconscious to create dynamic and expressive painting. Perhaps most importantly, it was his willingness to experiment with new modes of painting that inspired others, including Jackson Pollock, to find their own aesthetic paths.
Despite Hofmann's importance to abstraction, he never completely abandoned subject matter--interiors and landscapes were often his inspiration, much as Willem de Kooning drew on the female form in his concurrent Woman series. Hofmann's real subject is the interplay of color, light and space with the goal of distilling the spiritual essence of the thing depicted. Opulence is a painterly tour-de-force, full of thick impasto, passionate color and explosive brushwork that rivals the best work of 1950s Abstract Expressionism.