Born. 11.10.1878 in Karlsruhe
Died. 03.04.1955 in Berlin
German artist, Expressionist
About the artist
Hofer was born in Karlsruhe in 1878. Shortly after his birth, his father, Karl Friedrich Hofer died of lung disease. As his mother Ottilie had to work to support the family, Karl was looked after by his two great aunts for 5 years and later sent to an orphanage for 8 years.
At the age of 14, Karl began and completed a three-year apprenticeship working in a bookshop.
Hofer started his painting studies at the Karlsruhe Art Academy in 1897, receiving a scholarship from the Grand Duke of Baden fund after it was seen that he had a natural talent. Hans Thoma was appointed to the Academy in 1899 and Hofer became his pupil.
He visited Paris twice and made several acquaintances. In 1902 Hofer studied and learned from Leopold von Kalckreuth at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. During his studies, he struck up a friendship with Hermann Haller the sculptor.
In 1903, Karl Hofer and Mathilde Scheinberger married in Vienna.
In 1902 Hofer entered into a five-year contract with Theodor Reinhart a Swiss entrepreneur, who agreed to offer regular support in return for three and later four paintings per year.
The contract was later extended by five years until 1913. Reinhart’s scholarship enabled Karl and Mathilde to spend time in Rome, and Paris, and later settle in Berlin. During his time in Paris, he was heavily influenced by Cézanne and Picasso.
Hofer’s paintings have been shown regularly at exhibitions since 1905. In 1908 he was represented at the exhibition of the “Berlin Secession”, Hofer became a member of the new “Freie Secession” in 1913 and was represented at its first exhibition in 1914. During the Summer of 1914, whilst staying in Ambleteuse, a French seaside resort, the Hofers were interned due to their nationality and the outbreak of the First World War. His wife and sons were allowed to return to Germany at the end of 1914. Hofer was dismissed by the mediation of Reinhart in 1917 and eventually moved to Zurich, Switzerland.
After the war ended, Hofer returned to his family in Berlin. In 1920 he was accepted at the College of Fine Arts in Charlottenburg, and in the following year, he was appointed as a professor.
Hofer was dismissed from teaching in the summer of 1934, and like many other German expressionist painters at this time, was condemned by the regime as degenerate art.
In the Nazi propaganda exhibition “Degenerate Art” held in Munich, in 1937, eight of Hofer’s works were represented. This was followed by the expulsion from the Prussian Academy of Arts. due to his marriage with Mathilde who was considered a Jew according to the Nazi laws of marriage, despite having converted to Protestantism, In July 1938, the couple was divorced. In October 1938, Hofer was dismissed from the Reich Chamber of the Fine Arts.
No longer allowed to sell his works publicly in the art trade or at auctions; the exclusion was therefore considered a professional ban. In November 1938, Hofer married for a second time to Elisabeth Schmidt, who according to Nazi standards was considered an “Aryan”. As a result, the ban was lifted and in February 1939, Hofer was reinstated by the President of the Reich Chamber.
After the divorce, his ex-wife Mathilde was no longer protected for being in a “privileged mixed marriage”, and was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she was killed on 21 November 1942.
After World War II ended, Hofer was involved in the construction of the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, later becoming director in July 1945.
His artistic recognition was recovered once again in post-war Germany, and he was awarded the Order Pour le mérite for Science and Arts in 1952, and the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Cross Order of Merit in 1953.
Hofer was involved in a public dispute with the art critic Will Grohmann on figuration and abstraction. It was at the climax of the dispute that he suffered a stroke, from which he would never recover. Hofer died on 3 April 1955, aged 76 years old.