Enn Kunila's Art Collection

Oskar Hoffmann (1851—1912)

Oskar Hoffmann was born in Tartu into the family of a German baker. Their home was located in the immediate vicinity of the market situated near the Emajõgi River and thus a whole gallery of types of people streamed past the windows of his home every day. At the age of 21, Hoffmann bade his homeland farewell and went to Düsseldorf, where he completed his studies at the academy of art there in six years and thereafter opened his own studio in the city. Everything seemed to be following its logical path of development, yet unexpectedly, Hoffmann packed his bags in 1883 and left for St. Petersburg – due to debts he had accumulated according to some sources. There he lived and worked with great success until his death. (Incidentally, this also explains why he signed his works in Cyrillic script.)

It is found that the latter half of the 1880’s in particular and the 1890’s form the best period of Hoffmann’s art, which trumps his other periods in terms of the level of elaboration and the high quality of his level of drawing in his works.

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Oskar Hoffmann

Dusk. Beach

1890’s

oil/canvas (pasted onto pasteboard)

19.2 x 29.0 cm

Hoffmann continued to vacation in is homeland even when he lived in St. Petersburg, sometimes spending several months consecutively in Estonia. He travelled a great deal and photographed the landscapes he saw, painting his compositions not in plein air – in the open air – but rather later in his studio and on the basis of photographs. Kristjan Raud wrote thus to Karl Eduard Sööt in 1915: “If I am not mistaken, Sah. [Reinhold Sachker – a photographer] was a close acquaintance of Hoffmann, who apparently went to him often to acquire photographs of typical scenes of Estonian life from him in order to use them for his paintings.” Hoffmann spent his time most often on the coast of Northern Estonia during his visits.