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 Polly Johnston Hoffman  (1890 - 1949)

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Lived/Active: Texas      Known for: floral still-life and landscape painting, teaching

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Ad Code: 4
Polly (Mrs. Luther) Hoffman
An example of work by Polly Johnston Hoffman
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Polly Hoffman (1890-1949)

The following biographical information has been provided by Ann Cox Hunter, granddaughter of the artist. Most references to paintings and exhibitions come from the Wichita Falls Times Record News. Polly Hoffman was a painter known primarily for oil paintings of floral still-life and landscape subjects. 

She was born Willie Rossie Johnston, in Bryan, Texas, February 8, 1890, and grew up in San Angelo, Texas, where her father, W. R. Johnston, owned a dry goods store. After graduating from high school, Miss Johnston taught at the school in nearby Sherwood, Texas. According to family stories, she was sketching a visiting speaker to the PTA; he saw her drawing and recommended her family send her to study art in New York.

She graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in 1914.  She also attended Teachers College in Columbia, NY.  After college, she taught art at the College of Industrial Arts, now TWU, in Denton, Texas, from 1914-1918.  There she met her husband Luther Hoffman. After his military service in World War I, the couple moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1920 from San Antonio and Major Hoffman opened a law practice.  

Mrs. Hoffman participated in summer art colonies at Christoval (near San Angelo) and in the Davis Mountains.  She studied under Henry Varnum Poor, Xavier Gonzales, Adele Laure Brunet, and Will Henry Stevens.  She taught art students in her home, wrote art columns for the Wichita Falls newspaper, and was a frequent lecturer about Texas Art.

Her paintings were included in many competitive exhibitions including the State Fair of Texas.  She was a member of the Southern States Art League and the Texas Fine Arts Association. 

A founding member of the Wichita Falls Art Association, she was involved in the formation of the Woman’s Forum and taught private art classes.  According to the Wichita Falls Times after her death in 1949, “Mrs. Hoffman had played an important role in the cultural development of the city, and Polly Hoffman’s oil paintings helped spread the renown of her home town.”

Hoffman was the mother of three children: Col. (Ret) Robert W. Hoffman, Joan Hoffman Davis, and Polly Hoffman Cox (all deceased).  Polly Cox was also a well- known Wichita Falls artist.

Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman were members of First Christian Church.  Polly served many years as a board member of the Children’s Aid Society of West Texas.  She belonged to the Travel Club, Unity Club, Criterion Club, and the Women’s Forum, where she served numerous times as chair of the art department.  She was involved in planning the Forum building on Speedway and designed some furniture for its interior.

According to the 1936-1937 Who’s Who in American Art, Hoffman won first prize for painting at the Texas-Oklahoma Fair in 1925, 1926, and 1927 and at the Texas Art colony in 1929.  An exhibition at the Dallas Woman’s Forum called the Nineteenth Annual Exhibition of Paintings by Texas Artists lists two paintings by Polly Hoffman, Spring Bouquet and Wistaria(sic). 

Hoffman was recognized in October, 1935, by the National Society of Arts and Sciences in New York.  She was listed in a national catalogue of “American Women.” In 1936 she exhibited Blue Morning Glories in the Texas University Centennial Exposition. In 1938 a painting entitled Jimson Weeds was exhibited in the Southern States Art League annual oil painting show; the piece was subsequently presented to Hardin College.

A 1942 Woman’s Forum Art Department show included two floral paintings and two landscapes.  She also had a one person show in December that year.  A number of the paintings were listed in the Wichita Falls Times: Woods at the Wilson Estate, Bridge on the Perkins Estate, Fall in Montague County, Creek Willow, Fall in Weeks Park, Cactus on a Hill Set at Big Bend, Ranch Country, Edge of the Desert, Santa Helena Canyon, Old Governor’s Palace at San Antonio, Early Spring, Concho River, and Red River Aspens. 

In 1943, the Forum hosted a one-person show of 40 paintings of Mrs. Hoffman’s. One of them was Sunday Morning, a scene with villagers on their way to church.  Others included New Mexico landscapes and numerous paintings of flowers: bluebells, gladiolus, daylilies, iris, magnolias, jimson weed, trumpet vine, and zinnias.

In 1944, two paintings of scenes at the McGregor ranch were part of the Woman’s Forum annual show.  A one-person show was held at the Woman’s Forum in 1945.  A painting entitled Second Monday won the War Bond Prize award at the Seventh Texas General Exhibition at the Witte Museum in 1945.  It depicted the trade day at Bowie.  The prize was given by the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, Texas, and the painting was sold to the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. 

In 1946, a painting called Street Dancing was selected for a circuit tour by the Texas Fine Arts Association and another painting, Texas Politics,  was included in a Texas Fine Arts show.  In 1948 an exhibition at the Forum included Parade and Haven Park on Sunday. After her death, a painting was donated to the state office of the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs, presented by Joe R. Farabee.

Polly Hoffman is listed in Texas Painters, Sculptors, and Graphic Artists by John and Deborah Powers (2002) and Dictionary of Texas Artists 1800 - 1945 by Paula Grauer and Michael Grauer (1999.)

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