Hans Hofmann was born on March 21, 1880, in Weissenburg, Bavaria. He was raised in Munich, where in 1898 he began to study at various art schools. The patronage of Philip Freudenberg, a Berlin art collector, enabled Hofmann to live in Paris from 1904 to 1914. In Paris he attended the Académie Colarossi and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He also met Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and other Cubists and was a friend of Robert Delaunay, who stimulated his interest in color. In 1909 Hofmann exhibited with the Neue Sezession in Berlin, and in 1910 was given his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Paul Cassirer there. During this period he painted in a Cubist style.

At the outbreak of World War I, Hofmann was in Munich. Disqualified from military service due to a lung condition, he remained there and in 1915 opened an art school, which became highly successful. The artist taught at the University of California at Berkeley during the summer of 1930. He returned to teach in California in 1931, and his first exhibition in the United States took place that summer at California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. In 1932 he closed his school in Munich and settled in the United States. His first school in New York opened in 1933 and was succeeded in 1934 by the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, also in New York; in 1935 he established a summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

After an extended period devoted to drawing, Hofmann returned to painting in 1935, combining Cubist structure, vivid colors, and emphatic gestures. He became a U.S. citizen in 1941. By the 1940s his work had become completely abstract. Hofmann’s first solo exhibition in New York took place at Peggy Guggenheim’s museum-gallery Art of This Century in 1944. In 1958 he closed his schools to devote himself to painting full-time. Hofmann died on February 17, 1966, in New York.