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 Charles C. Hofmann  (1820/21 - 1882)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania / Germany      Known for: naive alms-house views, landscape painting

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Charles C. Hoffman is primarily known as Charles C. Hofmann

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Ad Code: 2
Charles C Hoffman
from Auction House Records.
Views of the buildings and surroundings of the Berks County, Pennsylvania Alms-House
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
One of three artists called "Almshouse Painters," Charles Hofmann did minutely detailed views of these types of Pennsylvania institutions, the only types of homes he appears to have had. Minimal information has been found about him except for paupers' registers listing "intemperance" as the cause for his poverty. His skill in detailing and appearance of the word lithograph in one of his works suggest training in graphics.

He was born in Germany, but the exact place remains unknown. He emigrated in 1860 to the United States, and it is surmised that he left Germany because artisans such as himself were no longer protected by guilds and could not compete with factory-made products. Like many Germans coming to America at that time, he settled in Pennsylvania, and by 1865 was in Reading where in April of that year, he painted two watercolor scenes of almshouses. From 1865 to 1872, he traveled along the Schuylkill River painting farm "portraits" on commission.

In 1872, he was committed to the Berks County Almshouse in Reading, Pennsylvania, and he completed two watercolor views of this facility and later did eight paintings of the same subject on canvas and on tin. For an unexplainable reason, his almshouse views are sunny, happy in tone, and depicting of pristine circumstances when in fact the almshouses were filthy and full of neglected inmates.

Between intermittent confinement to almshouses for drunkenness, he painted farmscapes and businesses for owners. In fact, many of his paintings show a bearded man with a bottle, likely a self portrait. In 1882, he died in the Berks County Almshouse.

His view of the Benjamin Reber farm is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Tom Armstrong, Essay in American Folk Painters of Three Centuries, Edited by Jean Lipman and Tom Armstrong

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Charles Hoffman is best known for his almshouse paintings, which he painted during periods of commitment for intemperance. An attributed watercolor in the Garbisch Collection puts him in the United States as early as 1837.

He was a native of Germany. Apart from the almshouses, there is no other recorded home for Hoffman. He is known to have traveled as far as New York City and he painted some farm views for private patrons. He also provided some renderings for atlas publications.

Hoffman was last committed to the Berks County Almshouse in 1881 with a broken arm. On March 1, 1882, he died of "dropsy" at the age of 61. He is buried in an unmarked pauper's grave behind the almshouse where he died.

William A. Cyr, Jr.

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