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 Frank B. Hoffman  (1888 - 1958)

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/Illinois      Known for: western painting, sculpture, illustration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Growing up in New Orleans where his father raced horses, Frank Hoffman developed a great love for these animals, which was reflected in his paintings. He worked as an illustrator for the "Chicago American" newspaper, which gave him an opportunity to draw many subjects from opera to prize fights, and eventually he became head of the department. During that time, he took formal art training from J. Wellington Reynolds, a portrait painter.

In 1916, having been rejected for military service because of poor eyesight, he went West and lived with cowboys and Indian tribes and served as public relations director for Glacier National Park. Eventually he settled on a ranch near Taos, New Mexico, and became part of that art colony and studied with Leon Gaspard, who encouraged him to use color freely.

Advertisers including General Motors, General Electric, and the Great Northern Railway hired him because they loved his bold, broad brush work and striking colors. He also did magazine illustrations, specializing in western subjects. Because of the spaciousness of his ranch that he called Hobby Horse Rancho, he kept live models of cow ponies, thoroughbred horses, longhorn steers, several breeds of dogs, eagles, a bear and burros.

From 1940 Brown & Bigelow Publishing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota had him under exclusive contract, and during the next 14 years, he produced 150 paintings for that company.

Walt Reed, The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
Known as a traditional Western illustrator, painter and sculptor, Frank Hoffman was born in Chicago, Illinois.  He grew up around his father's New Orleans, Louisiana, racing stables.

Through a family friend, Hoffman was hired to make sketches for the Chicago American, later becoming head of the art department.  While working for the paper, he had five years of formal art training in private lessons from J. Wellington Reynolds, a portrait painter.  In 1916, Hoffman went West to paint, living with the Indian tribes and the cowboys.  During that time, he also worked as public relations director for Glacier National Park, where he met noted artist John Singer Sargent.

In 1920, Hoffman joined the young art colony in Taos, New Mexico. He studied with Leon Gaspard, learning the use of color.  Although focusing on his fine art, Hoffman also painted for corporate advertising campaigns and illustrated Western subjects for the leading national magazines in the 1920's.

Hoffman became the best-known New Mexico illustrator of the time.  As his success grew, he bought his own Hobby Horse Rancho, where he raised quarter horses and kept as live models the longhorns, dogs, eagles, burros, and even a bear that he had begun to sculpt in the 1930's.

Later, beginning with 1940, Hoffman was under exclusive contract to Brown and Bigelow for calendar art, producing more than 150 Western paintings.

He died in Taos, New Mexico, surrounded by the life he painted.

Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West

Biography from Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum:
Born in Chicago, Frank Hoffman sketched horses while working as a jockey until he was nineteen.   Later, he sketched prize fights, operas, and other subjects in ink for the Chicago American Weekly newspaper and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago.  In 1916 the Great Northern Railroad hired Hoffman to paint wildlife to help promote Glacier National Park in Montana.   After seeing a Leon Gaspard exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, he first visited Taos in 1919 and began spending summers there while wintering in Chicago. 

Hoffman became a successful illustrator for Cream of Wheat, General Electric, and the Cuban Tobacco Company and Western articles by Zane Grey, Conrad Richter, and Jack London, published in  Country Gentleman, The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, and The Ladies Home Journal

In 1928, he established his Hobby Horse Rancho two miles from the Taos plaza continuing to illustrate and paint on ranches in the Taos area such as the C S and the Bell.  Between 1940 and 1953, he produced over 150 Western and outdoor paintings for Brown & Bigelow of St. Paul, Minnesota, then the largest calendar house in the United States. 

Eye strain forced Hoffman to give up painting in 1953, and he died and is buried at Taos.   The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum hosted three major Hoffman exhibitions in 1959, 1965, and 1990.  

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Frank Hoffman is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Taos Pre 1940
Western Painters

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