Hans Hofmann was born in 1880 in Weissenberg, Germany. He received early training in mechanics while working for the Director of Public Works of Bavaria from 1896 to 1898. While employed in Bavaria, Hofmann invented the electromagnetic comptometer, the precursor of the adding machine.
Hofmann began studying art in Munich in 1898. In 1904, he traveled to Paris, where he remained for 10 years, studying Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism. In Paris, he attended evening classes at the Colarossi Academy and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. At the outbreak of WWI, Hofmann founded an art school in Munich, which was highly successful until 1932, when he emigrated to the United States.
He began teaching at the Art Students League in New York and soon after, opened his own art schools in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts. Though American scene painting was prevalent in the 1930s, Hofmann resisted it, staying true to the modernism that he was exposed to in Europe.
In 1944, Hofmann had his first solo exhibition in the United States at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery. In 1948, the Addison Gallery of American Art organized a large retrospective of Hofmann’s work. Although he was never a member, Hofmann encouraged membership and had great influence with the American Abstract Artists. In 1958, he closed both of his art schools to devote his time fully to his art. Hofmann died in New York City in 1966.