Fermented Soil

Media - 1966.84.1 - SAAM-1966.84.1_1 - 2415
Copied Hans Hofmann, Fermented Soil, 1965, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1966.84.1

Artwork Details

Title
Fermented Soil
Artist
Date
1965
Location
Not on view
Dimensions
4860 in. (121.8152.4 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
Classifications
Keywords
  • Abstract
Object Number
1966.84.1

Artwork Description

One of the most influential art teachers of the first half of the twentieth century, Hans Hofmann came late to the brilliant abstractions that brought him fame as one of the country's leading modernist painters. He had lived in Paris from 1904 to 1914, knew Picasso, studied alongside Matisse, and saw first-hand the great 1906 Cézanne retrospective. In 1932, Hofmann immigrated to the United States and opened art schools in New York and Provincetown. Students who flocked to his classes were surprised that the renowned modernist set up traditional still lifes and required students to draw from models. But, he said, they needed to understand that modernist concepts of volume and void and the movement of color in space (a concept he called "push and pull") reflect the way forms function in the natural world.

Modern Masters: Midcentury Abstraction from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2008

Gallery Label
Hans Hofmann built up the surface of Fermented Soil with layer upon layer of dense paint, up to nearly an inch thick in some places. The title evokes an image of fertile land rich with ideas and activity. Painted the year before he died, this work is a testament to Hofmann’s lifelong commitment to visual experimentation. German-born, Hofmann settled in New York in the late 1930s and became a highly influential teacher of painting. Students who flocked to his classes were surprised that the renowned modernist set up traditional still lifes and required students to draw from models. He wanted them to understand that modernist concepts – how volume and void interact and the movement of color in space (a concept he called “push and pull”) – reflect the way forms function in the natural world. Among the artists who worked with him were Helen Frankenthaler and Olga Albizu, whose work is also on view in this gallery.