Hofmann was born in Bavaria and trained in Munich and Paris. In 1930 he emigrated to America and eventually settled in New York. In 1934 he opened an art school there which he maintained until 1958. Hofmann was a highly respected teacher. The degree of contact he had with European artists was rare among contemporary Americans. Hofmann's own art flowered after he closed down his school. His late paintings are characterised by the juxtaposition of strongly coloured rectangles. These created the feeling of space because the human eye sees different colours as being at different distances from it. Hofmann termed this effect 'push and pull'. The paintings were often worked out by pinning rectangles of coloured paper to the canvas.