Toughness, both physical and mental, is perhaps the most striking thing about the abstract expressionists. Without swaggering, most of them impress you as men who could take good care of themselves in a free-for-all, and could do it singly. For they are certainly not a close-welded brotherhood. When they band together, it is for social and tactical reasons, but in art and everything else they fight alone. The title "abstract expressionism" is a garment that fits because it is loose. Far less united than were the Fauves, the early cubists, or the de Stijl geometricists, they want no part of conformity or the dictatorships of theory and style.
Expect no mass standing vote from this group. You have to call the roll separately.
First is short, stocky Hans Hofmann, florid and white- haired, approaching eighty, yet overflowing with the vitality and the optimism of youth. Hofmann, born in Germany in 1880, belongs in the generation of Picasso, Braque, and Léger. Yet he takes his stand here, though old enough to be De Kooning's father and Stamos's, or even Motherwell's, grandfather.
Hofmann was reared among the German expressionists and then came here, where he has taught and painted since 1932. Hans is overpoweringly likable; he made many friends. The young accepted him as one of themselves, and his strong convictions, so magnetically conveyed, made him an early influence, particularly in the basic way that he insisted painting should be approached. The freed imagination, he has said, must create life in the picture. He believes that color by itself creates form, and he paints spontaneously with fury that is a real fury even if it is cheerful rather than grim.
Fervor, rather than fury, belongs to Mark Tobey, who,