Signed, dated 'August 11 - 1945' and inscribed 'hommage to howard putzel,' bottom right, oil and casein on board.
[HH no. 562-1945; Estate no. M-0264]
51 3/4 x 48 in. (131.4 x 121.9cm)
Sold for $322,000
Estimated at $150,000 - $250,000
51 3/4 x 48 in. (131.4 x 121.9cm)
Provenance: The Estate of the Artist.
André Emmerich Gallery, New York, New York (acquired directly from the above in 1986).
The Estate of Lee & Gilbert Bachman, Atlanta, Georgia & Boca Raton, Florida (acquired directly from the above in 1986).
"Hans Hofmann: Recent Paintings," Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York, March 18 - 30, 1946.
"Seeing the Unseeable," Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, January 3 - March 3, 1947.
"Hans Hofmann: Early Paintings," Kootz Gallery, New York, January 20 - 31, 1959.
"Hans Hofmann: A Retrospective Exhibition," a traveling exhibition: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., October 14, 1976 - January 2, 1977; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, February 4 - April 3, 1977, p. 51 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue).
"Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years," a traveling exhibition: Howard F. Johnson Museum of Art, March 1 - June 1, 1978; Seibu Museum, Karuizawa, Japan, June - July, 1978; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, September 1 - December 1, 1978, p. 80 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue).
"Flying Tigers: Painting and Sculpture in New York, 1939 - 1946," a traveling exhibition: Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, April 26 - May 27, 1985; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, Long Island, New York, June 9 - July 28, 1985.
"Hans Hofmann," a traveling exhibition: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 20 - September 16, 1990; Center for the Fine Arts, Miami, Florida, November 23, 1990 - January 20, 1991; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, February 17 - April 14, 1991, p. 127 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue no. 96).
Edward Allen Jewell, Solo Exhibition Review, New York Times, 1946, p. 54.
Mary Chalmers Rathbun & Bartlett H. Hayes, Jr., Layman's Guide to Modern Art: Painting for a Scientific Age, New York: Oxford University Press, 1949 (illustrated n.p.).
James Fitzsimmons, "Hans Hofmann," Everyday Art Quarterly (Walker Art Center), no. 28, 1953, pp. 23-26.
Michael Tapié, L'Aventure informelle, a special edition of Gutai, no. 8, 1957 (illustrated n.p.).
Dore Ashton, "Hans Hofmann" Cimaise 6, no. 3, January - March, 1959, p. 42 (illustrated n.p.).
Clement Greenberg, Hans Hofmann Exhibition Review, ARTnews, 1959, p. 28.
Sam Hunter, Hans Hofmann, New York: Henry N. Abrams, 1963, p. 25 (illustrated pl. 12).
Jürgen Claus, "Hans Hofmann dialektische Bilder/Hans Hofmann's Dialectical Pictures," Syn: Internationale Beiträge zur neuen Kunst 2, 1965, p. 34.
Harold Rosenberg, "Hans Hofmann," Vogue 145, no. 9, May 1965, p. 194.
Barbara Rose, Miro in America, Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1982, p. 23.
William Chaplin Seitz, Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983, no. 119 (illustrated n.p.).
Cynthia Goodman, Hans Hofmann, New York: Abbeville Press, 1986, pp. 45, 81.
Christopher Finch, Twentieth Century Watercolors, New York: Abbeville Press, 1988, pp. 256-257 (illustrated pl. 315).
April Kingsley, "Hans Hofmann at Mid-century" Provincetown Arts, 1990, p. 126.
Stephen Polcari, Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 328-329 (illustrated no. 265).
Anne Ryan: Collages, essay by Claudine Armand, Giverny: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, 2001, pp. 24, 62.
James Yohe, ed. Hans Hofmann, New York: Rizzoli, 2002, pp. 25-26, 28 (illustrated pp. 1, 109).
Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg's Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005, p. 200.
Katy Siegel, Abstract Expressionism, London: Phaidon, 2011, p. 20 (illustrated p. 21).
Suzi Villiger, Hans Hofmann Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Volume II: Catalogue Entries P1-P846 (1901-1951), Burlington: Lund Humphries, 2014, catalogue no. P516 (illustrated p. 313).
Lucinda Barnes, Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction, Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and University of California Press, forthcoming.
This painting has been requested for inclusion in the exhibition, Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction, which will take place at the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive from February 27 - July 21, 2019, curated by Lucinda Barnes.
It is also accompanied by a photocopy of the bill of sale from the André Emmerich Gallery, New York.
Composed of organic calligraphic forms, swirling colors, irregular pulsating shapes and explosive splashes of paint, Cataclysm was painted during a pivotal period of experimentation in Hans Hofmann's career, when he first began to explore abstraction. Until the mid-1940s, Hofmann's artwork focused on the same three subject matter- still lifes, interiors and landscapes. During this period, the artist began to abandon recognizable imagery and constructed compositions for open brushwork, free forms, drips and puddles. Indeed, critic Clement Greenberg points to Cataclysm as a groundbreaking composition in that it in fact pre-dates Jackson Pollock's later famous "drip," or more accurately "pour and spatter" method. Cataclysm, Greenberg wrote in 1961, was one of the "first I know of to state the dissatisfaction with the facile, 'handwritten' edges left by the brush, stick or knife which animates the most radical painting of the present. The open calligraphy and 'free' shapes that rule in Abstract Expressionism were foretold in many other pictures Hofmann did before 1948…"
Perhaps because of these new styles, Hofmann began to achieve recognition as an artist in his own right, after decades of devoting himself to teaching. An instrumental figure in this success was influential writer and dealer Howard Putzel, to whom the present painting is dedicated. Putzel, along with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner persuaded Peggy Guggenheim to grant Hofmann his first solo exhibition at her distinguished Art of this Century Gallery in 1944. Putzel was an early and passionate advocate for Hofmann and this new style of painting. In 1945, after opening Gallery 67, he organized the exhibition "A Problem for Critics," which included artists Pollock, Rothko and Hofmann in an attempt to explore and define what was later termed "Expressionism." Putzel also exhibited Hofmann's work in a one-man show in the spring of this same year. Tragically, Putzel died suddenly in August of 1945, in the days between the American bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The present painting, with its explosive splashes of pigment, was executed shortly thereafter. Cataclysm is both an homage to a dear friend and patron, and a poignant and heartfelt reaction to the disastrous political events that had just occurred.