Hofmann paints Spring, a small, abstract “drip” painting of oil on panel. This and several other works from the early 1940s such as Untitled, The Wind, Fantasia, and Agitation indicate Hofmann’s early stylistic experimentation with a technique that Pollock would make famous by the end of the decade.
On 16 February, Hofmann gives an address on the relationship between color and form to the American Abstract Artists group at their annual symposium, held at the Riverside Museum in New York.
In March, the first exhibition to include Hofmann’s paintings opens in New Orleans at the Isaac Delgado Museum.
On 21 August, Hofmann receives his US citizenship papers.
Krasner introduces Hofmann to Jackson Pollock. Krasner describes their encounter in Pollock’s studio: when Hofmann looks around at the younger artist’s works, he notes that there are no still lifes or models, and asks, “Do you work from nature?” Pollock responds, “I am nature.”
In June, Hofmann writes about the impact of military hostilities in Cape Cod, saying: “The blackout problem is a real problem when one deals with a house which is mostly windows. The war is much nearer here than it is in New York. The other night a convoy was [attacked] only twenty minutes from [H]ighland Light, and in the morning they brought the [survivors], and the wounded men. No one was allowed to be on the piers, and still one big tanker is in the harbour for safety. How [silly] all this seems when one sees [nature's] beauty and abundance. The Lord must not be pleased with humanity––it was surely his most stupid creation.”
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Art Students League holds a large group exhibition, 7–28 February, and includes an oil painting by Hofmann.
In the spring, just a few months after opening her Art of This Century gallery in New York at 30 West 57th Street, American art collector Peggy Guggenheim views Hofmann’s paintings in his studio on 44 East 8th Street. Soon after her visit, which had been orchestrated by Krasner, Guggenheim begins organizing what would be Hofmann’s first solo exhibition in New York the following year.
In July, gasoline rationing due to World War II restricts Hofmann’s ability to paint landscapes other than those near his home. Without the use of his car to travel, he aggravates his hernia from lugging heavy supplies, and describes the gas restrictions as a “terrible handicap” to his work.
Hofmann is included in four group shows, and his work is featured in two solo shows, making 1944 a pivotal year for the artist. Art historian (and later, art dealer) Sidney Janis selects Hofmann’s painting Wicker Chair No. II for inclusion in the “Abstract” section of the group exhibition, Abstract and Surrealist Art in the United States, held from 8 February through 24 September.
At Art of This Century, Peggy Guggenheim holds First Exhibition: Hans Hofmann, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York from 7 March through 8 April. The show is reviewed well in the New York Times, ARTnews and Arts Digest. The cover of the March issue of Arts & Architecture—designed by former Hofmann student Ray Eames—features a Hofmann drawing.
On 3 November, the solo exhibition, Hans Hofmann, opens at The Arts Club of Chicago.
In New York, on 29 November, Mortimer Brandt Gallery holds Abstract and Surrealist Art in America: Fifty Paintings by Outstanding Artists. Betty Parsons, longtime employee of Mortimer Brandt, organizes this smaller version of the Janis show and includes Hofmann’s painting Idolatress No. I.
A solo exhibition for Hofmann opens on 2 April at Howard Putzel’s 67 Gallery in New York. Greenberg reviews the show, writing, “Hofmann has become a force to be reckoned with in the practice as well as in the interpretation of modern art.”
Hofmann is included in another exhibition at 67 Gallery later in the spring, a group show titled A Problem for Critics.
The lease for the Hawthorne barn is terminated. Fritz Bultman offers his studio to Hofmann and his students for the summer session of the Provincetown school. Hofmann moves his personal studio to the Days Lumberyard.
On 7 August, Putzel dies in the days between the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Disturbed by the advent of nuclear warfare and shaken by the death of his dealer and friend, Hofmann paints Cataclysm (Homage to Howard Putzel) and dedicates it to Putzel.
In the fall, the artist purchases a house at 76 Commercial Street, which was previously owned by seascape painter Frederick Waugh. The home will become the permanent Provincetown residence for Hofmann and Miz, and the school will run out of the large studio Waugh had built in the back. In New York, Hofmann moves his studio to 53 East 9th Street.
From 27 November through 10 January of the following year, Hofmann’s painting Idolatress is exhibited in the Whitney Annual for the first time, and he is included in 13 additional annuals before his death. Reviews of the exhibition and Hofmann’s work are positive, and in reference to the trends of the paintings included, Hilda Loveman uses the term “abstract expressionist” for the first time.
From 18 through 30 March, Mortimer Brandt Gallery holds a solo exhibition for Hofmann. Robert Coates, skeptical of the “spatter-and-daub” style of painting, uses the term “abstract expressionism” in his review of Hofmann’s work.
Later in the year, Betty Parsons strikes an agreement with Mortimer Brandt to run his contemporary department under the name Betty Parsons Gallery. She now handles the sale of Hofmann’s work.
Parsons organizes a solo exhibition to open on 26 January at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, as well as a show of Hofmann’s most recent work at her own gallery in the spring. She also brokers the sale of Black Demon with the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts, which is the first museum to acquire the artist’s work.
By the fall, Hofmann leaves Parsons abruptly to join Kootz Gallery’s roster of artists. Hofmann feels bad about this, but defends his action in a letter to her by explaining his motivation and writes that it is “not business or hunger for fame. My work must be stronger promoted to avoid its later destruction.” Parsons, upset by Hofmann’s departure, refers to Sam Kootz as “a crocodile.”
Kootz Gallery opens its first show of Hofmann’s work on 23 November, and will organize a solo exhibition every subsequent year through 1966, except for 1948 and 1956.
The Addison Gallery of American Art holds a large retrospective exhibition from 2 January through 23 February. In conjunction with the show, a collection of the artist’s essays is published as Search for the Real, and Other Essays.
Hofmann’s writings and theories on art are often cited and republished from this text, particularly the phrase “push and pull.” It is unclear when exactly Hofmann began using this term. His teachings and earlier writings are devoted to the concept behind it, but the first mention of “push and pull” in the Hofmann literature is in Search for the Real, and Other Essays.
This theory stems from the idea that pictorial space cannot rely solely on a single-point perspective based upon lines and points. “Push and pull” is the play between color, shape, and placement on a surface to create competing forces that produce depth within a flat surface.
Years later, when discussing his theories of art, Hofmann says, “I invented what I call ‘push and pull,’ ‘force and counterforce.’ I have been very modest about it, but they are really great discoveries.” The execution of this idea can be seen not only in his aptly titled series Push and Pull but in many earlier examples as well, including Gestation, Submerged, and Black Splash.
Kootz helps to arrange Hofmann’s first European solo exhibition at Galerie Maeght in Paris. Hofmann travels with Miz to France for the opening on 7 January, which is his first time returning to Europe since immigrating to the United States. The French are not known for their affection towards American art at this time, but the reception of Hofmann’s work is generally positive. While in Paris, Hofmann meets with other artists, including Picasso.
During the summer in Provincetown, Hofmann helps Fritz Bultman and Weldon Kees curate an exhibition and organize lectures comprising Forum 49 at Gallery 200. Hofmann is one of the speakers to address the topic “What is an Artist?” and packs crowds at the gallery.
His work is included in the corresponding exhibition. Hofmann gives the newly completed painting Of Unequal but Equivalent Balance to the Musée de Grenoble in France. This is the first museum in Europe to acquire a work by Hofmann.