Biography of Karl Hofer (1878-1955)

Painter and German lithographer, born in Karlsruhe in 1878 and died in Berlin in 1955; closely associated with the expressionist movement.

During his childhood he grew up in an orphanage who left to join the Academy of fine arts in his hometown. To pay for his training, he simultanesus his studies with work in a bookstore. At the Academy he studied with Hans Thoma, whose landscapes, together with the works of Arnold Böcklin, were early influences.

Completed his studies, he began a series of voyages that led him first to Rome, where he remained from 1905 to 1908; He settled there in the Studio of the sculptor Hermann Haller. His creations of this period is influenced by his study of Hans von Marées, which resulted in works composed of great figures of nudes that, with a studied composition, are integrated into hazy landscapes in which shows subtle chromatic nuances.

Between 1908 and 1913 he simultanesus his stay in Paris with two trips to the India (in 1909 and 1911). If these travel came the inspiration for its characteristic figures, the study of the work of Cézanne gave solidity to compositional concept.

With the outbreak of the first world war, he was arrested and interned in a concentration camp, experience that marked him and knew how to reflect in his work.

After the war, he moved to Switzerland from where it departed in 1919 to Berlin; There he taught at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (Institute of pictorial Arts) from 1920 to 1923, he was appointed member of the Academy of Prussia. Their works belonging to this period, reflect their experiences of the contest, which translates into populated canvases by masks, skeletons and fantastic beings treated with an austere palette.

With the ascension to power in 1933 the nazi party in Germany, it was included in the list of "degenerate" artists which was fired from his post at the Academy the following year. More of 300 of his works were removed from private collections and some of them were exposed in the exhibition "degenerate art" (Entarstete kunst) which was carried out in order to ridicule the avant-garde art, diametrically opposite to the official art. During the Allied bombing was destroyed his workshop as well as much of the work from this period.

After receiving the first prize of the Carnegie Institute (Pittsburgh) in 1938, and after the second world war, Hofer moved to Berlin, where in 1945 became the Manager of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (School of fine arts). He combined its activities in the direction of the school with his pictorial production that reflects their experiences in both contests. His work is picture of bitterness and pessimism that characterized this period of history.

Facing his most scathing work, scenes of Carnival, populated by ghostly beings and treated with an austere palette, it catches the eye in his production his series of figures. These do not participate of the characteristic expressionist intensity, but that they were treated with a respectful subjectivity with the figure, is sought in these effects of nostalgia and melancholy through the use of clear, and inserted designs in limited and ambiguous spaces that accentuate the sense of unreality.

Hofer was an artist who fled to be associated with the German expressionist movement, although it is true that it related to the new Association of artists (Neue Künstlervereinigung), group founded in 1909 by von Jawlensky and Kandinsky among others, and who came to work in the initial exposure, which held the group in December of that year in the Moderne Galerie Tannhauser, Munich. Despite this, their tendency towards a more classical figuration, does graphic and drawing his extensive work, which includes in addition to painting, work, itself from German expressionist tendency and is isolated from the German pictorial panorama between the wars.


His works belong to the Roman period warns a classical sensibility in the drawing, in addition to being influenced by the study of the work of Hans von Marées. Between 1803 and 1808, works as his girls on the beach or in the window girls, outline his subsequent thoughtful figures and intimate tone repertoire. An example of this is his work partner (1925. private collection, Fulda, Germany), part of this personal vision of expressionism, which rejected everything has this force and momentum. Front of passionate excess of his contemporaries, Hofer opposed his serene vision and staff, which owes more to the lyricism of Boklin that to Nordic expressionistic episodes that both influenced his contemporaries; Although they are more related to these, its Carnival scenes, which have their closest precedent in Ensor.

In terms of his work as a draughtsman and lithographer, Hofer adapted his style to the characteristics of these techniques, but also his work comes off of the practiced by his contemporaries of Die Brüke and Der Blaue Reiter and insists on the issue of the figures as his dancers and bathers, The University of Michigan Museum of Art (lithographs).


Karl Hofer. (catalogue, Staarliche Galerie Moritzburg; Halle, 1978).

WOHLERT, K.B. Ouvrekatalog Karl Hofer. (Berlin, 1992).

Carl Hofer. (Potsdam, 1948).

Gedächtnis-Ausstellung für Karl Hofer (Berlin; Staatliche Hochschule für bildende Künste, 1956).

HOFER, Karl. Aus Leben and Kunst. (Berlin, 1952).

HOFER, Karl. Das graphische Werk. (ed. Rathenau; New York 1969).