Despite a distinguished roster of one-person exhibitions both in his lifetime and since his death, the German-born American painter Hans Hofmann (1880–1966) has yet to find a definitive place in American art. He is certainly acknowledged as an influential teacher who brought a firsthand knowledge of twentieth-century modernist vocabularies to artists in this country, especially those of the Abstract Expressionist generation. The exhibition "Hans Hofmann in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," however, recognizes Hofmann the artist, who having both stimulated and been renewed by the American art scene, found a highly recognizable personal style during the last two decades of his life.
This exhibition focuses specifically on the ten paintings known as The Renate Series, which were painted in a burst of creative energy by Hofmann in 1965. Inspired by the artist's second wife, Renate Schmitz, these works, in the words of the late Henry Geldzaher, first curator of Twentieth-Century Art here at the Museum, "may be seen as the final summation of the themes, thoughts, and stylistic invention with which Hofmann was so successfully concerned in the last years of his life."
The acquisitions of these paintings by the Museum has taken place over the last two decades. The first painting to enter the collection was Rhapsody, which graced the cover of the catalogue for the 1975 exhibition on the Metropolitan Museum's collecting, "Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975." It was donated to the Museum by the artist's widow, Renate Hofmann, who subsequently gave to the Museum five more paintings from the series: Lonely Journey in 1989, Profound Longing in 1990, Heraldic Call and Summer 1965 in 1991, and Lust and Delight in 1992.
Her 1992 bequest to the Museum brought the final four works into the collection in 1996: Deep Within the Ravine, Legends of Distant Past Days, Little Cherry, and Renate's Nantucket. These paintings are seen in this exhibition with three other works by Hofmann in the collection: The Window (1950), donated to the Museum by Mr. and Mrs. Roy R. Neuberger in 1951; Composition No. V (1952), gift of Dr. and Mrs. Louis R. Wasserman in 1979; and Veluti in Speculum (1962), which was purchased by the Museum in 1963. Together with a group of drawings from the Hofmann estate and another promised gift of Mrs. Carol Meyer, these works provide a microcosmic view of the work and career of Hans Hofmann.