Hofmann, Heinrich Hofmann born 1824-1911

Johann Michael Ferdinand Heinrich Hofmann (March 19, 1824 - June 23, 1911) was a German painter of the late 19th to early 20th century. He was the uncle of the German painter Ludwig von Hofmann. He was born in Darmstadt and died in Dresden. He is best known for his many paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ. Heinrich Hofmann grew up in a family that harbored a deep interest in art. His father, advocate Heinrich Karl Hofmann (1795–1845) painted in watercolors, his mother Sophie Hofmann, née Volhard (1798–1854) gave lessons in art before she married, and his four brothers all showed artistic talent. Heinrich, however, was the only one for whom art was not only a profession but the center of his life. Hofmann received his first lessons in art from the copper engraver Ernst Rauch in Darmstadt. Then, in 1842, he entered the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf and attended the classes given in painting by Theodor Hildebrandt. Later, he was accepted into the studio of Wilhelm von Schadow and there he created his first large painting: A scene from the life of Alboin, King of the Langobards. Thereafter, he traveled to the Netherlands and France to intensify his studies of art. In 1846, Hofmann visited the Academy of Art in Antwerp. After passing a longer period of time in Munich he returned to Darmstadt in 1848, and at that time, he began an intensive phase of painting portraits. The young artist found that the political activities of his family opened many doors to influential persons of the time. This afforded him the opportunity to create two portraits of Heinrich von Gagern and one of Justus von Liebig (this portrait is now in the possession of Queen of the United Kingdom). In 1851, Hofmann went to Dresden to visit the art gallery there. In 1853, he traveled to Prague to paint the portrait of Dr. Beer, Great Grand Master of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Cross. In 1853, Hofmann returned to Darmstadt, and in the beginning of 1854, his beloved mother died. He was deeply moved by her death and it inspired him to paint his first large religious work: Burial of Christ. In fall of 1854, he started on a journey to Italy. His first longer stop was in Venice and he used the time there to study Giorgione, Bellini and Giotto (in nearby Padua). After having proceeded to Florence – where Hofmann stayed for two months – he then went to Rome in January 1855. The comprehensive correspondence with his family and his detailed diary reports convey an impression of his way of painting at that time. He was deeply impressed by artwork of Antiquity, Christianity and the Renaissance. Not long after his arrival in Rome, he was introduced to Peter von Cornelius (1783–1867) and frequently paid him a visit. When he began his masterpiece The Arrest of Jesus in 1854, this work awakened the interest of Cornelius and for 4 years he accompanied Hofmann with his counsel and his constructive criticism. In 1858 the painting was finished and acquired by the Grand Duchy Art Gallery in Darmstadt. (It is still there – not on exhibition but in the archives of the Hessisches Landesmuseum.) In 1858, Hofmann returned to Darmstadt and in the following year he married Elisabeth Werner. The couple had no children. Now another period of painting portraits began. In addition Hofmann created a large altarpiece for the church in Obermörlen (Hesse): “Madonna with Christ Child and apostles Paul and Peter”. Some time later an altarpiece for Væggerløse Church (Denmark) was painted: “The Resurrected Christ”. In 1862, Hofmann and his wife moved to Dresden. More and more he devoted himself to the genre of religious paintings. In 1870, Heinrich Hofmann was appointed successor of Professor Johann Carl Baehr of the Academy of Art in Dresden whose honorable member he already was. In 1872, King Johann bestowed on him the Great Golden Medal and later he received the Albrecht-Medal from King Albert. In 1891, Hofmann’s wife died and soon after that he withdrew from the Academy of Art in Dresden. Even though he stopped working for the Academy it is obvious from his letters that in private life he continued to create many works of art until his death on June 23, 1911.

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