More than a simple essay in praise of a great artist, this pays tribute to Hofmann's vast influence on American abstraction as well as on Greenberg, himself. Unfortunately, the "omissions" that Greenberg mentions in his first paragraph continue to this day. Hofmann the artist, as opposed to Hofmann the famous teacher, seems never to quite get hs due...
HANS HOFMANN'S ART is recognized increasingly as a major fountainhead of style and ideas for the "new" American painting, yet its value, independent of its influence and of Hofmann's role as a teacher, is still the object of qualifications. His omission from the "New American Painting" show that The Museum of Modern Art sent to Europe (1958 - 59) is a case in point (an omission which did more to distort the picture than did the number of highly questionable inclusions). A good share of the blame rests with the public of advanced art, which has its own kind of laziness and obtuseness, and usually asks that a "difficult" artist confine himself to a single readily identifiable manner before it will take trouble with him. (One would think that the exhilaration and satisfaction to be gotten from following advanced art were propor-tionate to the effort of discrimination required, but most of those who do the following do not seem to agree. Having accepted advanced art in principle, they want it to be made easy within its own context, apparently.) But Hofmann himself is also to blame in some part-and actually, the more excellence I find in his art the more I incline to shift the blame toward him. The variety of manners and even of styles in which he works would conspire to deprive even the most sympathetic public of a clear idea of his achievement. At the same time, such a diversity of manners makes one suspect an undue absorption in problems and challenges for their own sake. Or else that this artist too implicitly follows wherever his inventive fertility leads him instead of bending that fertility to his vision. And Hofmann's inventiveness is truly enormous, to the point where he might be called a virtuoso of invention-such as only the Klee of the 1930s was before him. But, in art one cannot scatter one's shots with impunity, and Hofmann has paid a certain price, in terms of quality as well as acceptance, for doing so. The price is certainly not as large as the price Klee paid in the 1930s, but it may be larger than the one Klee paid in his prime (when his "hand-written" approach and the small formats to which he restricted himself conferred a real unity of style upon all the different notational systems h used). And unlike Picasso since 1917, Hofmann has no ostensible main manner to which all his others are kept subordinate; he can work in as many as three or four different ones in the span of a year and give them all equal emphasis. The notion of experiment has been much abused in connection with modernist art, but Hofmann's painting would seem to justify its introduction if anything does.
Hofmann is perhaps the most difficult artist alive-difficult to grasp and to appreciate. But by the same token he is an immensely interesting, original, and rewarding one, whose troubles in clarifying his art stem in large part precisely from the fact that he has so much to say. And though he may belong to the same moment in the evolution of easel painting as Pollock, he is even less categorizable. He has been called a "German Expressionist," yet little in what is known as Expressionism, aside from Kandinsky's swirl, predicts him. His color and color textures may be "Nordic," but one clutches at this adjective in despair at a resolute originality in which the "Mediterranean" is assimilated. I would maintain that the only way to begin placing Hofmann's art is by taking cognizance of the uniqueness of his life's course, which has cut across as many art movements as national boundaries, and put him in several different centers of art at the precise time of their most fruitful activity. On top of that, his career as an artist has cut across at least three artists' generations.
Born and educated in Germany, Hofmann lived in Paris on close terms with the original Fauves and the original Cubists in the decade 1904 to 1914, during which both movements had their birth and efflorescence. (He was particularly close to Delaunay.) He made frequent trips to France and Italy in the twenties, after having founded his school in Munich. In 1931 he settled permanently in this country. For fifteen years he hardly picked up a brush but drew obsessively-as he says, to "sweat Cubism out." Only in 1935 or 1936, when he was in his mid--fifties, did he begin to paint again consistently-and only when he was already sixty, at a time when many of his own students had long since done so, did he commit himself to abstraction. His first one-man show in New York was held at Peggy Guggenheim's early in 1944, and since then he has shown in New York annually, as an artist with his reputation to make or break along with artists thirty to forty years younger, and asking for no special indulgence.
Hofmann himself explains the lateness of his development by the relative complacency fostered in him during his Paris years by the regular support of a patron, and by the time and energy he needed, afterward, to perfect himself as a teacher. But I would suggest, further, that his Paris experience confronted him with too many faits accomplis by artists his own age or only a few years older; that he had to wait until the art movements of those and the inter-war years were spent before making his own move; that he had first to "get over" Fauvism and Cub-ism, and over Kandinsky, Mondrian, Arp, Masson, and Miro as well.
His own move started with Fauvish landscapes and large still-life interiors that he began painting shortly after 1935. The interiors amalgamate Matisse with Cubism in a fully personal way, but are if anything a little too brilliantly wrought. The landscapes, however, especially the darker ones, open up a vision that Nolde alone had had a previous glimpse of, and Hofmann opens it up from a different direction Their billowing, broadly brushed surfaces declare depth and volume with a new, post-Matissean, and post-Monetian intensity of color, establishing unities in which both Fauvism and Impressionism acquire new relevance. Although there are already a few Hofmanns from 1939 in which no point of departure in nature can be recognized, the effective transition to abstract art takes place in the first years of the forties. Figures, landscapes, and still lifes become more and more schematically rendered, and finally vanish. What appear to be allusions to Kandinsky's near-abstract manner of 1910-11 constitute no real debt in my opinion; Hofmann would have arrived at the same place had Kandinsky never painted (though perhaps not if Miro, himself in debt to Kandinsky, had not). Rather than being influenced by Kandinsky, Hofmann seems to have converged with him at several points on the way to abstraction-a way that in his case was much broader, since it ran through the whole of Matisse and the whole of Cubism.
No one has digested Cubism more thoroughly than Hofmann, and perhaps no one has better conveyed its gist to others. Yet, though Cubism has been essential to the formation of his art, I doubt whether any important artist of this postwar era has suffered by it as much as Hofmann has. It is what I would call his "Cubist trauma" that is responsible, among other things, for the distractedness of his art in its abstract phase. Without the control of a subject in nature, he will too often impose Cubist drawing upon pictorial conceptions that are already complete in themselves; it will be added to, rather than integrated with, his redoubtable manipulations of paint. It is as if Hofmann had to demonstrate to himself periodically that he could still command the language with which Braque and Picasso surprised him fifty years ago in Paris. Yet the moments of his best pictures are precisely those in which his painterly gift, which is both pre- and post-Cubist, has freest rein and in which Cubism acts, not to control, but only to inform and imply, as an awareness of style but not as style itself.
To the same painterly powers are owed most of the revelations of Hofmann's first abstract period, before 1948-when, it is interesting to note, he painted almost exclusively on board. In a picture like Effervescence of 1944 he predicted an aspect of Pollock's "drip" method and at the same time Clyfford Still's anti-Cubist drawing and his bunching of dark tones. In Fairy Tale of the same year he expanded and deepened a hint taken unawares from Masson (whom Hofmann has never admired) in a way that anticipated Pollock's great Totem No. 1 of a few months later. In the tempera-on-gesso Cataclysm of 1945 (subtitled Homage to Howard Putzel) still another aspect of Pollock's later "drip" manner was anticipated ("drip" is inaccurate; more correct would be "pour and spatter"). These works are the first I know of to state that 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, and especially in numerous gouaches and water colors in which paint is wielded with a disregard of "construction" that represents the most inspired possession of it. Most of these pictures are more important as art than as prophecy, but it is only in the light of what they did prophesy that people like myself have learned to appreciate them; ten years ago and more, when they were first shown, they were too new.
In certain other pictures, however, Hofmann anticipated himself alone. Summer Glory of 1944 and Conjurer of 1946 declare the impastoed, non-linear manner which, in my view, was his most consis-tently successful one in the ten years after 1948. Here color determines form from the inside as it were; thick splotches, welts, smears, and ribbons of paint dispose themselves into intelligible shapes the instant they hit the surface; out of the fullness of color come drawing and design. The red and green Flowering Desert of 1954 is done in this manner, and so are many much smaller paintings in which warm greens (a color of which Hofmann is the unique master) predominate, as they do also in a master-piece like Le Gilotin of 1953 (which, in drying, has unfortunately lost almost all of its original luster); and there is also the Bouquet of l YS1.When Hofmann tries to reinforce contrasts of color and shape with taut contour lines, and when he trues shapes into a Cubistic but irrelevant regularity, it is then that his art tends to go off in eccentric directions. Given that the originality of his color consists often in oppositions of intense hues of the same degree of warmth and even of the same value; that a cool color like blue or an ambiguous one like green will be infused with unaccustomed heat; and that such things can tax the eye the way an unresolved chord taxes the ear-given all this, design becomes a very precarious matter in which it is safer to stop too soon than too late. To insist on line or edge can be excessive or disruptive. And sometimes the energy of Hofmann's line can be more nervous, more machined, than pictorial, and it can force an illegitimately sculptural effect. Or, as more recently, an overloaded effect is created by the compulsion to articulate every square inch of the surface with chromatic and graphic detail. For Hofmann's overriding weakness has nothing to do essentially with drawing, but lies in a tendency to push a picture too far in every direction. There is the endeavor to achieve, as it would seem, an old-fashioned synthesis of "drawing" and "color"-a grand-manner synthesis. This is an ambition that identifies Hofmann with his own chronological generation of artists and separates him from the generation he actually paints with. But it separates him only insofar as it distracts him, and in his bad paintings, not his good ones.
But if not all of his bad pictures are due to displaced draftsmanship, neither are all of his good ones a function of color first and foremost. There are many oils on paper, gouaches, and water colors in which Hofmann's Cubism develops a Matissean rather than Con-structivist grace of line. There are paintings, like Burst into Life of 1952 and The Prey of 1956, in which thick pigment is handled calligraphically over clear white areas. And there is the large and superbly original Undulating Expanse of 1955, which, along with four or five other, and smaller, paintings in the same series of studies-all inspired by the pos-sibility of an architectural commission-is rapidly and almost transpar-ently brush-drawn on the bare priming. These pictures strike one of the freshest notes to be detected anywhere in the painting of the last ten years, but it is characteristic of Hofmann not to have pursued further an idea that another artist would have built a whole career on. Pictures like these confirm, at any rate, one's impression that his first impulses are usually his best ones; when he fails it is most often because he forgets what he himself has drummed into his students: that science and discipline which have not become instinct are cramping rather than enabling factors.
A good deal of what is so rashly called "Abstract Expressionism" amounts essentially to a kind of Late Cubism (which takes nothing away from it in principle). In some of his best work Hofmann is almost as much a Late Cubist as Gorky or de Kooning. In another and even better part of it, however, he points to and enters a way that is fully post-Cubist, and when he does so he follows his deepest bent, whether he himself recognizes it or not, and fulfills his most personal vision. Klee and Soutine were perhaps the first to address the picture surface consciously as a responsive rather than an inert object, and painting itself as an affair of prodding and pushing, scoring and marking, rather than of simply inscribing or covering. Hofmann has taken this approach further, and made it do more. His paint surfaces breathe as no others do, opening up to animate the air around them, and it is by their open, pulsating surfaces that Hofmann's very best pictures surpass most of Kandinsky's, as I feel they do. And it is thanks in part to Hofmann that the "new" American painting in general is distinguished by a new liveness of surface, which is responsible in turn for the new kind of "light" that Europeans say they find in it.
But that part of the "new" American painting which is not Late Cubist has distinguished itself further by its freedom from the quasi--geometric truing and fairing of lines and edges which the Cubist frame imposed. This freedom belongs with Hofmann's open surfaces as it does not with de Kooning's or Kline's, and his hesitancy in fully availing himself of it-despite the large part he had in the winning of it-must be blamed on his reluctance to cut himself off from Cubism as a base of operations. And as I have already suggested, this reluctance seems the most immediate, if not the only, reason for the lack of self-evident coher-ence in the development of his art.
Yet having said all this, we are still far from done with Hofmann and his art. His name continues to be the one that springs to mind when we ask who, among all recent painters in this country, deserves most to be called a master in the full sense of the word. This may have something to do with his age, but it has more to do with his range and variety. It has also to do with his accomplishedness, his literal mastery. But it has even more to do with the fact that only a master could remain problematical over so long a period and continue to challenge taste in so sustained a way.
Hofmann's inconsistency itself is part of the challenge. His fully successful works may seem relatively few and far between, but each ~ of them sums up so much that their fewness has to be explained as the result of something other than mere unevenness. It is as though he worked his way toward each success as toward so many different cli-maxes of so many different processes of distilling and decanting. The less successful pictures point toward the more successful ones, and in the retrospective light of these they acquire a necessity that can endow them with conclusive qualities of their own. Thus the fewness itself of Hofmann's successful works becomes open to doubt-and all the, more so when we remember how long it took us to recognize his masterpieces of 1943 -48 for what they were. There is also the fact-not as minor as it looks-that, just as some of his thickly impastoed pictures (like the already mentioned Gilotin) lose quality when they dry out, so others gain quality in doing so. For these and other reasons-not least among which is the fact that, though in his early eighties, he is still in his full artistic prime-Hofmann's art contains promises whose fulfillment is not as yet made any the more foreseeable by the large part of it already pre-sent in paintings which go back twenty years and more.
Single-minded innovators usually make themselves understood quicker. The more puzzling ones-who often precede the single-minded ones-are those who innovate reluctantly, and in spite of themselves, because they find in innovation the only means to conservation. Among the puzzling, reluctant innovators, Hofmann, the first "drip painter," belongs. As I have said, he continues to dream of old-fashioned "syntheses." And as I have also said, this dream can do violence to his inspiration-but it can also furnish inspiration in itself. As far as the "history of forms" is concerned, the main event in postwar painting seems to me to be the transition to a newer and looser notion of the easel picture. Hofmann's dream of syntheses expresses a certain opposition to this. But his paint-ing itself, as distinct from what he wants of it, renders this opposition fruitful by assimilating the very tendencies it resists. It is the habit of his art to admit contradictory impulses without weakening their force, and to refuse to overcome their contradictoriness except in the most difficult way possible, which is by transcending it. Not only will Hofmann main-tain emphatic, Fauvist color against emphatic, Cubist drawing: he will oppose compression to diffusion, centripetality to centrifugality, in one and the same picture. (The "explosiveness" of Hofmann's paintings has been remarked on, but I do not see why their "implosiveness" is not equally remarked on.) Here unity is attained, if it is attained, by fusion rather than by reconciliation, and fusion itself is attained by dint of a heightening of intensity that is without like in contemporary art. At more than one group show I have had the experience of seeing even a rather indifferent Hofmann make all the other works present, including those by more cried-up artists, seem a little less than present by contrast with its own intense weight of presence. This weight equates itself not so much with violence of color or shape-it can be there in a quiet Hofmann too-but with something more pervasive that might be called the picture's concentrated radiance, its effulgence and plenitude as an identity: an identity gained as the result of a complete insistence on the paint-covered rectangle as a dramatically self-contained and involuted statement. And what makes the paint-covered rectangle all the more such statement is its admitting of so many accents in the way of color, shape, and the line that seem to negate involution. The risk incurred used to strike me as foolhardy or perverse; then it stopped striking me that way: it began to explain why Hofmann's pictures manage in the long run to keep on succeeding a little even when they seem most to fail.
There is, however, one risk-if it is a risk-that Hofmann refuses to take. He has not joined that trend to oversize canvases which has become prevalent lately in American abstract painting. Not that he cannot handle the oversize format-perhaps he can handle it more easily, and with more frequent or obvious success, than the one of twenty square feet or so that he generally favors-but it is typical of him not to take the path of least resistance. At the same time, however, I interpret him as feeling that "balance and luminous charge of mass and saturated volume" (to use his own words out of context) cannot be obtained from a surface so large that every part of it is not within easy arm's reach of the artist planted before it. The big canvas can, of course, achieve a charge and saturation of its own (as Hofmann's own Undulating Ex-panse of 1955 shows), but it is not the immediate, almost corporeal kind that Hofmann asks. The big canvas dictates too ineluctable an open-ness. Actually, Hofmann often appears to be demanding of abstract, shallow-depth painting the kind of closely wrought, intensive effects that seem possible only to illusionist painting with its trompe-l'oeil depth within depth.
Matisse was the first to understand how the increasingly stringent modernist interdiction of trompe-l'oeil made it necessary for the painter to seek in the extension of the sheer surface an equivalent of the space he used to find in the in-tension of illusioned depth. Matisse's reliance on mat and uniformly thin paint was a further inducement to the use of large surfaces, for no matter how saturated, thin pigment that swallows light instead of reflecting it needs to be spread over a relatively large area if it is to acquire intensity. Matisse was the artist of this cen-tury from whom Hofmann learned most, and about color above all, but Hofmann's reluctance to follow Matisse in the matter of the big format is connected, I feel, with his final independence from him as a colorist -an independence won in his very first abstract paintings.
Unlike Matisse, Hofmann has come to require his color to be saturated corporeally as well as optically. The weight and density of his paint-attributes it has even when it is not thickly impastoed-contribute to the presence his pictures have as objects as well as pictures. This is not the same as the superb physical identity (too little noticed) with which the Old Masters, even as they tried to conceal art with art, endowed their pictures by covering them with multiple films and scumbles of paint. The Old Masters were apt to conceive of the picture, with its enclosing shape and flat surface, as a receptacle into which things were put, whereas modernist painting tends increasingly to erase this distinction and make the picture as such coincide with its physical, literal self. _
Where the corporeality of an Old Master painting was supposed to contain the picture as something separate lying behind the paint surface and inside the frame, the paint surface and frame of a modernist painting are assumed to be just as obviously and essentially pictorial as the con-figurations they support and enclose. In his very first abstract works, Hofmann took this approach further perhaps than anybody else (not excluding Rouault) had up to that time. It was he-not Pollock or Dubuffet-who launched the "heavy" surface in abstract art, that fat, heavy, and eloquent surface which so many younger painters, both in America and in Europe, are now mechanically driving into the ground. Here again, Hofmann preserved the easel picture by going to certain extremes in the way of its subversion, and here still again, great but difficult pictorial qualities were born out of contradiction because they could not be born out of anything else.
Though color is the element in which Hofmann is most independent and original, it is simultaneously his chief means of conservation. He could be said to take the easel tradition into regions of chromatic experience it never before penetrated. In these regions he preserves the easel picture's identity by showing how oppositions of pure color can by themselves, and without help of references to nature, establish a pictorial order as firm as any that depends on conspicuousness of contour and value contrast. Since the decline of stained-glass painting the trend of Western tradition has been more or less to exclude color from a decisive role in pictorial art. The Impres-sionist and Fauve episodes may have checked this trend, but they did not really reverse it. Color still gets taken for granted as a secondary element. Not one of all those self-proclaimed nihilists of art, from Duchamp and Picabia to the "Neo-Dadaists," who profess to reject aesthetic norms in toto, seems to consider color important enough to treat unconventionally. On the other hand, the opinion is still common, in the avant-garde as well as the academy, that a primary emphasis on color means surrender to the purely decorative. Even Matisse's enor-mous example seems not to have dissipated this idea. Yet despite his reliance on the autonomous powers of color, the decorative has never been even an issue for Hofmann, either as an asset or liability; and like Matisse, he has actually had only indifferent success with outright decoration on the few occasions when he has put his hand to it. One might say even that this is because the decorative presents itself to him too much as a question of drawing and not enough as one of color.
What Hofmann has discovered, or rather rediscovered, is that color, when its resources are sufficiently called on, can galvanize the most inertly decorative pattern into a pictorial entity. This could not be made explicit-at least not in our time-until the arrival of fully abstract art, and Hofmann, as it seems to me, has made this even more explicit than Delaunay did (however much he himself may owe to Delaunay). Cézanne said, and perhaps he demonstrated (though I am not sure), that fullness of color insured the fullness of form or shape; Hofmann, freed from all obligations to three-dimensional form, has shown how color can subsume form; and in doing so he has linked up, over Delaunay's and over Matisse's head, with Monet's last phase. Monet is not a painter whom Hofmann seems ever to have particularly admired, but only in him do we find any possible precedent for the elisions of light-and-dark contrast that Hofmann dares to make for the sake of pure, singing color. But Hofmann goes beyond Monet and beyond all other precedent, Western or Oriental, when he contrives to make the variables of satura-tion and texture, as well as those of pure hue, determine drawing and pattern as consequences rather than as preconditions of themselves. Perhaps Soutine had a similar vision of a fully chromatic art, but it was with hardly anything like a similar awareness or command of such variables. Hofmann has not solved all the problems these present, but his being the first to broach them is enough of itself to give him a secure place in the history of painting.
I have dwelt on the difficulty of following Hofmann's evolution, and I attributed it, along with what seemed some of the failures of his art in itself, to his excessive attachment to Cubism. But even as I was putting the present text together, the coherence of one important theme of his recent development emerged with sudden and unforeseen clarity. In this theme, Hofmann's Cubism, while becoming more outspoken than ever before in oil, began at the same time both to vindicate and transcend itself-as if purposely to refute what I had already said about it. It was one more example of the way in which his art kept one off balance.
The beginnings of this particular theme go back to 1954. A number of paintings of that year show, against larger, brushed-in forms, little knifed-on oblongs of thicker pigment that resemble mosaic pieces. (Orchestral Dominance in Green is a particularly successful but characteristically knotty example.) In every year since then, pictures increasingly dominated by these "mosaic pieces" have appeared along with pictures in a variety of other directions. The little oblongs, though multiplying over the surface, do not grow particularly in size until 1959, when they suddenly swell out into large square, or nearly square, slabs of equally uniform color that settle themselves-though without being evenly aligned-on firmly horizontal axes. These slabs do not monopolize the surface entirely; even in a picture like Cathedral, where they threaten most to do so, enough of a freely brushed and variegated ground shows through to compromise the suggestion of a purely geometrical art. Perhaps the kind of color involved would suffice to do this all by itself; but even without the color and without the ground, the tactile connotations of the slightly raised edges and the thickened paint surfaces of the squares would be enough to suppress any real feeling of geometrical "purity." Yet the very fact that Cathedral teeters on the edge of a kind of art like Mondrian's is one of the things that give it its climactic quality as a work that sums up the realizations of a whole epoch of modernist art, and at the same time points toward the next one-in which geometrical and painterly drawing will become indistinguishable because they will have cancelled each other out under the pressures of color. Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko have already entered that epoch, and so have two or three younger American painters, but it has been left to Hofmann to establish firmly, and interestingly, the explicit no less than implicit continuity with the past of the new vision of color that is at stake.
Hofmann's Cathedral vein takes up Analytical Cubism, in order to continue it, at the very same point at which both Mondrian and Pollock took it up in order to continue it, which was where Braque and Picasso left it in 1912 when they saw it threatening to carry them all the way over into abstract art. The facet-planes of Analytical Cubism were left hanging as it were, until Mondrian flattened them out into exact rectangles that were subsequently enlarged into area-shapes. Thirty years later Pollock pinned the facet-plane down once again, smaller in scale than originally, in the interstices and flecks of the skeins of paint that fill his 1947-so pictures. In its first stages, Hofmann's "mosaic" series seems closer to Pollock, and then it seems to recapitulate Mondrian's expanding and squaring-up of the facet-plane. But Hofmann's actual course diverges from Mondrian's as much Mondrian's does from Pollock's, and in the end he is further away from both than either is from the other. Mondrian and Pollock think and feel throughout in terms of light and dark. Mondrian drives Analytical Cubism to an ostensibly simplifying conclusion in order to enhance the silhouetting, the draftsman's function of value contrast. Pollock pulverizes value contrast in order to loosen the Cubist surface (by prying it away from itself so to speak), but color stays in a subordinate role. Hofmann reaches his ostensibly simplifying conclusion in order precisely to aggrandize the role of color. Mondrian's edges assert themselves by their stark straight-ness; Hofmann's edges more or less efface themselves by the same means their straightness serving to render the contrasts of the color areas they divide more evidently, more sheerly defined in terms of color. Because the drawing is geometrical, it is simple, and because it is simple, it is expectable, and being expectable, it leaves all the more room for a rich and unexpected complexity of color relations.
Such color relations are, of all things in the art of painting, the hardest to point to with words. Suffice it to say that in Cathedral the picture plane is dissolved both by warm hues that advance and cool ones that retreat, yet restored at the same time by the interaction of warm and cool, light and dark, thin and thick, saturated and diluted. The deep blues, oranges, mauves, and browns in the upper third of the canvas loom over and weigh down the ochers, pistachio greens, and various whitened yellows in the lower two thirds, but these throw off the weight of the heavier colors above by virtue of their own greater brilliance, and also by virtue of the greater size, individually and collectively, of the squares they occupy. The outcome, like the outcome in every profoundly successful picture, is a stability that is sovereign because it is hard-won and precarious.
Hofmann offers a lesson in patience. That lesson, from him and from others, I shall never finish learning. It includes one's own mistakes. One is also reminded of how in art the tortoise so often overtakes the hare. Not all, but too many of the best writers, composers, and artists of our time begin to be acclaimed only when they no longer have anything to say and take to performing instead of stating. This is how they first become accessible to broad taste, which is lazy taste, and by the same token to the processes of publicity and consecration. As long as they were trammeled up in the urgency of getting things said they were too difficult, too "controversial." With the best will in the world Hofmann could not turn himself into a performer; far from ever being without enough to say, he will always have to cope with the opposite problem of having too much to say.
The consecration of one's reputation may be a cause as well as an effect of decline. Hofmann has one of the profoundest instincts for self-preservation I have ever become aware of, and I am inclined to think that, subliminally, he prefers, and needs, to delay his canonization. It is mostly, as I said at the beginning, his own doing. Though his name does not exactly go uncelebrated, though museums and collectors acquire his work, and though he does not refuse the honors that come his way or adopt attitudes of intransigence, he manages to keep at a distance the corrupting odor of incense.
-- Paris: Editions Georges Fall, 1961