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Douglas Hofmann

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The naked female form is never in safer illustrative hands then when it’s in those of critically acclaimed contemporary figurative realist artist, Douglas Hofmann’s, who’s visual responsibility it is then to tell the story behind the picture through the sublime graphical narrative he supplies with routine relish. There’s a distinct photo-realistic approach and conviction in much of Hofmann’s towering compositional works where possibly a blind man would rejoice at differentiating between those images captured by a lens and those subjected to their canvas glory by the presence of a brush and oils alone. From modern dancers and ballerinas to typical, time-honoured muses and womenfolk simply of leisure, Hofmann has made it his pleasing habit of turning his cultured painting hand to all manner of figurative subject matter over the years, interpreting everything with his own style, panache, class and discernment.
Born the only child unto German-American parents in 1945 in Baltimore, Maryland, America, Hofmann has remained in his hometown ever since. It’s here that he’s been happily married for over three decades and has helped raise two children, who in turn have provided Hofmann and his wife with a further five grandchildren during this time. Recalling his settled and happy childhood – and identifying perhaps were his own artistry was founded – Hofmann describes how his father would construct model trains as a hobby, with a little help from his son. Detail-orientated and often laborious work in itself, Hofmann readily believes that this fastidious and determined exercise in developing patience and attention to detail would stand him in good stead in later life when he had overtures in becoming a realist painter. All relevant qualities and cross-fertalisational attributes.
Away from model-making and Hofmann was a big fan of the movies during his formative years growing up in Maryland, and he fondly remembers watching a couple of films with his parents every week. This influenced Hofmann and awakened his creative senses as he puts it, whilst also engendering a keen sense of and appreciation for beauty and composition. Elements which again would prove very resourceful in the future knowing now how Hofmann’s career panned out. Regarding both westerns and adventure movies as his favourite genres as a kid, Hofmann recounts that Disney’s ‘20,000 Leagues under the Sea’ was his overwhelming favourite film.
Despite being a dab hand at art, especially drawing throughout his school days, Hofmann never really looked upon art as either a calling in life or potential vocation from an early age, as many of his contemporaries have and continue to do so. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1963 when as an 18-year old Hofmann enrolled at the Maryland Institute College of Art on something of a whim according to the accomplished painter himself. Although abstract expressionism was very much the Avant garde artistic movement during his college years, and one in which the majority of his fellow students gravitated towards (which also pleased the lecturers at the time), Hofmann bucked that trend by instead opting to further his knowledge base in realism; and specifically the style of the old masters. Occasionally finding himself at odds with both the tutors and his peers, Hofmann nevertheless ploughed on with the artistic area in which furnished him with the most interest and moreover the discipline in which he could see himself practising in. under the tutelage of Joseph Sheppard, Hofmann was taught the ‘Maroger Method’, a painting discipline that emulates the chemistry and qualities of oil paintings by the Dutch Masters, as a result of his insistence.
Away from his further education base, Hofmann sought much pleasure and priceless creative insight from his part time job he undertook during his college period, and unreservedly considers to this very day that this role remains the most pivotal to his growth as an artist and his understanding of what is required of an artist, irrespective of genre. Employed in the window display department of Hecht’s department store, Hofmann learned how to identify the correct props for each and every window scenario and to arrange them in a display which would appeal to the general public and essentially show the products in their best light. Hofmann compares this with the methodical approach and application he reserves for his paintings and insists that this practical training was far more useful than anything he might have learned in the staid atmosphere of art school.
Returning to his art though and Hofmann continued to detract much from the collective works of some of the old masters and maintains that his primary artistic heroes are the realists of the 17th Century, and the impressionists of the 19th and early 20th Century. Jan Vermeer is chief amongst Hofmann’s influences and he talks at great length about the fashion in which Vermeer chose and positioned his typical setting, props and the figures depicted within the compositions; all of which to Hofmann’s mind and eye conveyed an innate believability. In Hofmann’s own words the realist painters readily concurs that: “Vermeer showed me that an artist could be extremely successful, by placing a normal person in a real room with good or at least interesting lighting, and attempt to paint merely what he saw”. Hofmann goes on to add; “A Vermeer painting might seem simplistic, but in truth portraying the complexities of real images correctly is insanely difficult”.
Aside from Vermeer, Hofmann pays tribute to the Impressionists and other painters who plied their artistic trade some 100 – 150 years ago. Explaining how key players in this much celebrated movement journeyed deeper than ever before into what appeared on the surface as ordinary, daily scenarios and vistas, yet which belied so much transient detail. Hofmann is clearly inspired by the way Impressionists pictured objects and subjects such as workers working, or dancers practicing, woman bathing, or simply lounging. Hofmann sums this up by offering the following; “For the painters of this era, even when an image was contrived, the goal was to leave the viewer with some insight into the characters. Like Degas or Manet, my goal is to leave to the viewer some tangible emotional feeling or insight into the subject”.