Baltimore Museum of Art director Adelyn D. Breeskin, acting as curator for the American Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, selects Hofmann along with Guston, Kline, and Theodore Roszak to represent the United States. Thirteen of Hofmann’s paintings are featured in the pavilion.
An overall preoccupation with comparing American art to European art prevails in the reviews. One critic refers to Hofmann’s inclusion as an obvious choice, as he is “the acknowledged dean of Abstract Expressionism,” referencing the artist’s stature within the New York art movement, his age as the oldest of this group, as well as his reputation as a teacher.
Hofmann’s former student Worth Ryder dies. Hofmann donates the painting Summer Bliss to the University of California, Berkeley, in memory of his friend. This is the first of what will be many gifts to the University.
Greenberg publishes a monograph on the artist, titled simply Hofmann. Greenberg writes that although Hofmann is difficult to categorize and sometimes to grasp or appreciate, he is a superb artist; he finds that Hofmann’s excellence is in direct relation to his absorption of Cubism, citing that Hofmann “sweat Cubism out” during the time in which the artist primarily drew and rarely painted prior to 1934. The author observes, “No one has digested Cubism more thoroughly than Hofmann, and perhaps no one has better conveyed its gist to others.”
The Fränkische Galerie am Marientor in Nuremberg holds a retrospective for Hofmann, which then travels throughout Germany. This is the first solo exhibition for Hofmann in his native country, and he attends the opening on 8 April.
Shortly after the exhibition in Nuremberg, the city’s Akademie der Bildenden Künste grants the artist an honorary membership. In November, Dartmouth College awards Hofmann an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Hofmann is included in the large group exhibition ART: USA: NOW: The S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Collection of Contemporary American Paintings. This show travels to 43 venues over the course of the next five years throughout the United States, Japan, Europe, Mexico, and Canada.
Saddened by the death of friend and colleague Franz Kline, Hofmann is inspired to paint Memoria in Aeternum; with his inscription on the verso, he dedicates the painting to several artists important to him who have recently passed away: Kline, Gorky, Pollock, and Tomlin. It is given to The Museum of Modern Art the following year.
Hofmann is the recipient of the Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Art Institute Medal and Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago, awarded to him for the painting The Golden Wall, which was included in the 66th Annual American Exhibition.
Miz undergoes surgery to correct a recurrent problem with gallstones. She dies of a heart attack the following day on 19 April. Hofmann has a very difficult time making sense of the loss of his partner of nearly 60 years.
He continues to paint quite profusely through the year, completing approximately 60 paintings. He writes to a friend, “This is not easy and would be impossible without my work because I am now completely alone [...] Fortunately however my work absorbs me completely and devours all my time so I am not to [sic] bad off. But I miss Miz terrible [sic].”
Long interested in partnering with a museum to act as guardian of many of his best works, Hofmann formalizes an agreement with the University of California at Berkeley. Given his extensive history with the institution and many of its faculty members, the arrangement seems logical. The agreement is negotiated by the legendary Judge Samuel Rosenman of Roosevelt New Deal fame on behalf of Hofmann and by Clark Kerr on behalf of the University.
Hofmann will donate 45 paintings and $250,000 to help fund the building of the museum with a wing named for himself and his recently deceased wife. The first ten paintings are given this year; 27 more are given before the artist dies—one is the double-sided painting Japanese Girl, which is subsequently split into two works—and the final eight are selected after his death.
The large retrospective that Hofmann and Miz had finalized just prior to her death opens at The Museum of Modern Art on 11 September. The exhibition of 56 artworks travels in modified format for more than two years to 12 venues located throughout the United States, South America, and Europe.
Hofmann’s friends and neighbors, Robert and Helga Hoenigsberg, worry about the artist being by himself and frequently invite him over for dinner. During one of their evenings together, the couple, who also emigrated from Germany, introduce him to another German: a young woman named Renate Schmitz.
The two begin spending a great deal of time together, but given their 50-year age difference, Hofmann prefers to travel with her under the guise of an uncle/niece relationship. In response to his request to bring Renate with him to the Festival of the Arts at the White House in June, Hofmann is told, “it will not be possible […] to include your niece, Rene [sic] Schmitz on the guest list.”
Hofmann is honored with multiple awards: in January, he acts as a Juror for the Guggenheim International Award; in February, he is elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters; and in April, at the suggestion of Glenn Wessels, he is given an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts at the University of California, Berkeley.
In the fall, Hofmann marries Renate. In October, he receives the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
At the age of 85, he still is very active in his studio and completes approximately 45 paintings. Ten paintings are inscribed and designated by Hofmann as the Renate Series. The origin of this series is uncertain; some accounts suggest that Hofmann is inspired by his love for Renate to paint these works. She is, however, known to have a controlling influence over her husband, so it is just as likely that she asks Hofmann to create a series in her name and selects the works herself for inscription.
Hofmann’s annual solo exhibition at Kootz opens on 1 February. Just shy of his 86th birthday, the artist dies of a heart attack on 17 February. There is no record of any work completed in this year.