|by Annetta Hoffnung and Len
All photographs and art work © The Hoffnung Partnership. Please respect this copyright.
INFORMATION ON THE HOFFNUNG COLLECTION AND THE TOURING EXHIBITION
The Hoffnung collection is a virtually complete record of the life of an exceptionally gifted artist and humorist from the age of 5 years until his death 29 years later. It consists of approximately 1,500 drawings and paintings and a fascinating assemblage of memorabilia. Also included are a number of musical instruments including a series of six magnificent brass instruments based on Hoffnung cartoons and made by the Yamaha Corporation of Japan to commemorate its touring of the exhibition and concerts around Japan in 1992.
Hoffnung was almost as gifted a musician as he was an artist, his true passion being for the brass instruments of the orchestra; this led him one day to purchase a bass tuba which, with serious dedication, he set about learning to play. He was 25 at the time and, after two or three years and many hours of practice, he found himself ensconced amidst the brass section of the Morley College Orchestra as their bass tuba player. From this vantage point at the rear of the orchestra his perceptive eye was free to focus, with affection and critical amusement, on the foibles and idiosyncrasies of his fellow performers. This new experience further stimulated his imagination and love of music and musicians and inspired the many hundreds of musical cartoons produced during the final years of his short life.
Notwithstanding his wealth of talents (Hoffnung was also a talented broadcaster and raconteur whose gentle wit and humour on radio and television delighted a large audience) he regarded his profession first and foremost to be that of an artist. His drawings testify to his humour, creativity, inventiveness and artistry while, at the same time, reflecting the warmth and breadth of his humanity and joy in life.
In 1948 he exhibited, alongside Ronald Searle, Nicholas Bentley and others at The Little Gallery in Piccadilly, one of the rare occasions when his original drawings have been for sale. There was no indication during the remainder of his busy life that the thought of exhibiting his original drawings was on Hoffnung's agenda.
At his memorial concert, held at the Royal Festival Hall in 1960, a small exhibition was mounted to accompany the occasion and a similar showing of his drawings followed in Hongkong in 1962. It was not until 1965 that the first major exhibition of Hoffnung's original drawings was held at the Berlin Festival. This proved a significant success and a glimpse of what was to come. Exhibitions in New York and Rotterdam, at the Brighton and Edinburgh Festivals and in the main foyer of the Royal Festival Hall followed in rapid succession.
In retrospect it seems difficult to believe that the drawings were sent away unframed to these venues and then framed on their arrival. After a few of these events, it was realised that so much man-handling could not continue without the original artwork suffering deterioration. Thus it was with miraculous timing and generosity that the Welsh Arts Council came to the rescue with an offer to mount, frame, and crate approximately 450 drawings and paintings; in return they proposed to tour the exhibition around Wales for six months in 1969. Needless to say, their offer was most gratefully accepted .
Of the remaining 1,050 drawings now in the complete collection, 875 were, in fact, his childhood drawings. As a very young boy, Hoffnung showed a remarkable talent and enthusiasm for drawing and it was thanks to the foresight of his devoted mother that she dated and kept what must be the major part of his output from the age of 5 to 18 years. Only the fourteenth year lacks any drawings. This was the year that, accompanied by his mother, he reached London as a German Jewish refugee and was attending school as a temporary boarder, events which may explain this curious gap in the collection.
In 1975 his childhood drawings came to the notice of Dr Sheila Paine, who was later to become a lecturer at London University's Institute of Education. It was her enthusiasm and dedication that led to the Institute's decision in 1976 to form an exhibition of 220 selected drawings. This collection, entitled Young Hoffnung, was mounted and framed by the Institute. The new collection was a superb adjunct to the adult Hoffnung drawings and their launch together at London University was an exciting event.
On a few occasions Young Hoffnung has appeared alone but, under the title Irrepressible Hoffnung, the combined exhibition has provided an even more absorbing and fascinating experience; here you have a unique record of one man's life-work. It has proved worthy of the accolades awarded to it; as the Independent on Sunday once wrote: 'Hoffnung's unique position as jester to the court of serious music is unassailable and ensures his lasting fame.'
For further information, including hire fee and availability, please contact :
The Hoffnung Partnership, 44 Pilgrims Lane, London NW3 1SN
Tel/fax: 020 7435 6605. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org@freeuk.com