Born in Weissenberg, Bavaria, the artist studied art briefly in Munich before moving to Paris in 1904. There, Hofmann attended the Acad,mie Colarossi and became acquainted with the leading artists of the period: Picasso, Braque and Matisse. The artist returned to Germany in 1915 and established his own academy in Munich. His aesthetic, painterly approach and perceptive, theoretical instruction were highly regarded within European avant-garde circles and he attracted a wide following. In 1931, Hofmann moved to the United States, teaching first at the University of California at Berkeley and subsequently opening his own school in New York.
Throughout his career, Hofmann experimented with various techniques and media, producing a broad range of stylistically diverse works. His potent influence is evident in the work of his students, an impressive roster that included such luminaries as Motherwell, Frankenthaler, Nevelson and Krasner. He is frequently credited with introducing American artists to European Modernism. In 1958, Hofmann closed his school to focus his energies entirely on his own painting. It was then that the power of his abstractions became apparent in a distinctive gestural style, texturally rich and vividly colored.
Throughout his long career, Hofmann's prominent role as a theorist and teacher overshadowed his own painting. It was not until after his first one-man show in 1944 that the artist began to receive recognition and his substantial contribution to Abstract Expressionism was fully acknowledged.