The Old Print Shop

Irwin D. Hoffman


Irwin Hoffman (1901-1989), painter and printmaker, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Russian immigrants, an element that would affect both his art and life. He had his first solo exhibition at the age of nineteen at Grace Horne Galleries in Boston. Just a few years later, in 1924, he received the prestigious Paige Traveling Scholarship, which allowed him and several other recipients to travel to Europe for further artistic study.

In 1929, Hoffman travelled to Russia. What he discovered there left him heart broken and appalled. He captured the horrors of Russian life under Stalin's communism (as well as the suffering of Americans during the Great Depression) in a series entitled "Faces of Suffering." In an essay published in 1982, Hoffman wrote "Russia was the biggest fraud and lie in history - I think, in all civilization. All people were beaten down and miserable. You couldn't sketch anybody; it was forbidden. But on the Voga boat, going down the Volga... I saw the real results of Communism. Peasants would come aboard at each village, you know, and try they next town. They would huddle with their few belongings... it was so pathetic. Their conditions were so terrible, beyond belief. At night while they slept I sketched them in their misery." 

Hoffman would publish some of those sketches in the New York Evening Post in 1930. It was a reality Communist supporters were not ready to see and Hoffman found himself at the brunt of their anger, to the point of being "accused of being an enemy of the people." 

During the 1930s and 1940s, Hoffman visited mining towns in the American southwest, Puerto Rico and Mexico with his brother, who operated a mining company. These trips resulted in a number of artistic pieces depicting the life and faces of the mining industry. He had a beautiful way of capturing the dark and gritty nature of the underground tunnels these men worked in.


- "Irwin D. Hoffman, an artist's life : essays on the artistic career of Irwin D. Hoffman" published by the Boston Public Library in 1982.