In April, Hofmann participates in a three-day symposium at Studio 35 in Greenwich Village, which is an unscripted discussion among 25 artists, including William Baziotes, James Brooks, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and David Smith. The moderators are Alfred H. Barr Jr., Richard Lippold, and Motherwell.
As a result of the discussions at Studio 35, Gottlieb suggests writing a letter to the president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in protest against the upcoming exhibition American Painting Today. Signed by 18 artists, including Hofmann, the letter is published on the front page of the New York Times on 22 May. The letter charges that the selection jury for the exhibition is “notoriously hostile” towards modern art.
The following day, the New York Herald Tribune publishes an editorial referring to the group as “The Irascible Eighteen.” Nina Leen photographs 14 of the protesting artists in an iconic portrait of the group for an article appearing in the January 1951 issue of Life. Hofmann misses the photo session in New York because he is in Provincetown.
During the summer, student Sam Feinstein begins filming Hofmann for a documentary on the artist. Hofmann is filmed painting The Window, and offers narration about his philosophies guiding the creation of his art.
Sam Kootz organizes an exhibition at his gallery titled The Muralist and the Modern Architect to open on 3 October. Kootz pairs artists with architects, teaming Hofmann with José Luis Sert and Paul Lester Wiener. Hofmann is tasked to create murals for a proposed civic center and bell tower in the Peruvian city of Chimbote. The project was never actualized, but the studies are magnificent in their own right. They encapsulate many of Hofmann’s ongoing concerns with abstraction as a spiritual pursuit.
The Art Institute of Chicago selects Hofmann as one of the jurors for its 60th Annual American Exhibition. The jury, composed of Hofmann, Peter Blume, and Aline B. Louchheim, awards the top prize to de Kooning.
Sidney Janis Gallery in New York and Galerie de France in Paris jointly organize an exhibition titled American Vanguard Art for Paris. The New York show, which runs from 26 December through 5 January of the following year, is a small preview of the Paris show to follow.
Artists included with Hofmann are Josef Albers, Baziotes, Brooks, de Kooning, Robert Goodnough, Arshile Gorky, Gottlieb, Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Roberto Matta, Loren MacIver, Motherwell, Pollock, Morgan Russell, Reinhardt, Mark Tobey, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Jack Tworkov, and Esteban Vicente.
The American reviews of the exhibition are not overly positive, and cast predictions that the French will not receive it well either because of the unbalanced nature of the show. Indeed, one French critic pens a review for Art d’Aujourd’hui claiming that he has rarely experienced a bigger disappointment than this exhibition.
The popular American magazine Look publishes an article in its 28 July issue on Hofmann and Miz. The many photographs of the couple’s home in Provincetown offer a glimpse into the colorful world in which they live. The title of the article, “Living in a Painting,” is apt—the vibrancy of his home is reflected in the artist’s paintings. Hofmann is quoted saying, “I want always to live in color.”
Hofmann meets William H. Lane over the summer in Provincetown. Lane, successful in the plastics field, is interested in acquiring American art, and purchases five of Hofmann’s paintings. Towards the end of the year, Lane helps Miz with an inventory of Hofmann’s paintings in a storage facility in New York. Lane’s motivation to help with the inventory is unclear, but he works on-and-off over the next four years before abandoning the project completely.
In conjunction with the retrospective exhibition Paintings by Hans Hofmann at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Hofmann donates the painting Germania—Version No. 7 to the museum.
In May, Clement Greenberg curates a small Hofmann retrospective at Bennington College in Vermont. Kootz publishes Hofmann’s essay “The Color Problem in Pure Painting—Its Creative Origin” in the catalogue accompanying his November solo exhibition.
In his writing, Hofmann expands upon his thoughts that the relationships between colors are essential to the plasticity of a painting. This essay is then re-published inArts & Architecture in February of the next year, and is often referenced as one of Hofmann’s quintessential writings.
Allan Kaprow, a former student of Hofmann, curates the exhibition Hans Hofmann at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, during the spring. Hofmann is commissioned to create a mosaic for the lobby and elevator bank for 711 Third Avenue in New York. The office building was designed by William E. Lescaze; one of the architect’s goals was to “add the strength and the warmth of the arts to a building that was designed to provide the ultimate in comfort and facilities.” Hofmann integrates the mosaics throughout the structure of the lobby, completely immersing the visitor in the colorful geometries of his pictorial environment.
Winter term 1955–1956 (October through January) is the last session in New York at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts.
The Whitney Museum of American Art opens the large retrospective Hans Hofmann on 24 April; it then travels throughout the United States over the next year to seven additional museums. The show runs concurrently in New York with Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, which Hofmann calls “a happy accident … [because] we are old friends.”
Spanning the career and many styles of the artist, 55 paintings are included in the show. In his review of the exhibition, critic Harold Rosenberg asserts, “No American artist could mount a show of greater coherent variety than Hans Hofmann.”
To show his appreciation for organizing the exhibition, Hofmann gives the museum his painting Fantasia in Blue.
Hofmann teaches the final official summer session at his school in Provincetown.
No longer teaching classes in New York, Hofmann devotes himself to painting full-time and moves his studio into his former school. He and Miz move to an apartment in One Washington Square Village.
Although the school in Provincetown is formally closed, Hofmann allows more than three dozen students to join him for critiques over the summer.
Hofmann completes a mosaic on the exterior of the New York School of Printing, located at 439 West 49th Street. The building was designed by Hugh Kelly and B. Sumner Gruzen, and the mural stretches 64 feet long by 11½ feet high. Hofmann refers to his mosaic as the “bowtie on the building.”
In September, the Hans and Maria Hofmann Foundation is formed in order to support the art community. The foundation mostly provides funding for museums to purchase works of Hofmann’s former students.
Spanning the months of August through January of the following year, Joseph H. Hirshhorn, a wealthy entrepreneur, purchases seven of Hofmann’s paintings, which will later become part of the collection at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.
Hofmann moves his Provincetown studio from the Days Lumberyard into the former school behind his home on Commercial Street.
Three of Hofmann’s paintings are included in the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany, and are reviewed warmly.