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Hoffmann, Edith

    Image Credit: Burlington Index

    Full Name: Hoffmann, Edith

    Other Names:

    • Edith Hoffmann

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 24 July 1907

    Place Born: Vienna, Vienna state, Austria

    Place Died: Jerusalem, Israel

    Home Country/ies: Czechoslovakia

    Subject Area(s): German (culture, style, period)

    Institution(s): Burlington Magazine


    Private scholar; editorial Secretary and Assistant Editor of the The Burlington Magazine, 1938-1950. Hoffmann was the daughter of the writer and Czech diplomat Camill (or Kamil) Hoffmann (1878-144) and his wife, Irma Oplatka (Hoffmann) (1883-1944). Irma’s father was an art writer and a friend of the Austrian Expressionist artist Oskar Kokoschka. After attending elementary school in the suburban town of Hellerau bei Dresden, she graduated from the Auguste Victoria Girls’ School in Berlin in 1928. She studied archaeology and art history at the universities in Berlin (under Adolph Goldschmidt), in Vienna (under Julius Alwin von Schlosser) and in Munich under Wilhelm Pinder. Though a Jew, her doctoral dissertation was accepted by Pinder in 1934 (despite Pinder’s Nazi sympathies he allowed his Jewish students to complete their studies). Her dissertation topic was eighteenth-century German group portraits. The Nazis in full control of Germany since 1933, Hoffmann fled to Britain volunteering initially in the Print Room of the British Museum. Through the 1938 London exhibition, “Twentieth Century German Art,” a response to the ‘Entartete Kunst” show in Munich the year before, Hoffmann came into contact with the Burlington Magazine. She joined the magazine the following year as editorial secretary under editor Herbert Read. Read used the International Congress of the History of Art in an editorial to emphasize the magazine’s equality editorial policy, implicitly contrasting it with the German persecution. After war broke out, Hoffmann formed part of a group of refugees invited to contribute to the magazine under Read’s editorship and later under that of Tancred Borenius. In addition to British writers–young researchers such as John Pope-Hennessy or senior researchers such as Laurence Binyon and Campbell Dodgson–expatriate art historians such as E. H. Gombrich, Otto Kurz, Léo Van Puyvelde and Nikolaus Bernard Leon Pevsner also contributed. Hoffmann ran the magazine during the hardships of restrictions: paper scarcity, fewer advertisers, and fewer foreign subscribers. Hoffmann became in effect the first woman to be in charge of the magazine (Pezzini). She married Eliezer Yapou (1908-1998) in 1940, a journalist and French lawyer born in the British mandate region of Palestine. After Borenius’ departure from the magazine in 1944, Ellis K. Waterhouse acted as editorial consultant and Hoffmann continued as Assistant Editor. Hoffmann was in charge of the total production of the magazine while Waterhouse’s contribution was limited to an advisory role of selecting articles–cursorily according to Hoffmann. She was officially promoted to Assistant Editor of the magazine in 1946. Hoffmann published the first monograph on Kokoschka in English in 1947, including essays by the artist himself. The same year Benedict Nicolson became editor of the magazine. Hoffmann left the magazine in 1950 to accompany her husband, now an Israeli diplomat, to various international postings, including Tel-Aviv, Brussels, New York and Jerusalem. She contributed entries to the Encyclopedia Hebraica beginning in 1953 (to 1965). In New York, she supplied monthly reviews and surveys of exhibitions for the Burlington Magazine, 1957-1958. She lectured in art history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1960-1961 and wrote art reviews for the magazine while in Paris, 1974-1975. In the 1990s she retired in Jerusalem where she died in 2016.

    Hoffmann’s main research interest was modern art, principally German Expressionism and, in later years, Symbolism and its literary connections. It was, however, only in 1943 that an article–a book review–appeared under her full name, this in Kunsthistorische Studien. After the war she wrote reviews and articles presenting German Expressionism to the British public which had for some time viewed these artists as crude in some ways. Her total articles, reviews and criticism number over 150.

    She is not related to another art historian with the same name, Edith Hoffmann (1888-1945) who worked at the Printroom of the Budapest Szépművészeti Múzeum and author of works on Dürer and Hungarian art.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Die Darstellung des Bürgers in der deutschen Malerei des 18. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, 1934; Kokoschka: Life and Work. London: Faber & Faber, 1947; “Notes on the Iconography of Félicien Rops.” Burlington Magazine 123 (April 1981): 204-218; “Rops: peintre de la femme moderne.” Burlington Magazine 126 (May 1984): 260-265.


    Hoffmann, Edith. “The Magazine in War-Time.” Burlington Magazine (July 1986): 478-480; Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munchen: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 317-319; Pezzini, Barbara. “Edith Hoffmann.” Burlington Magazine Contributors; Yapou, Yonna [daughter], personal correspondence on Edith Hoffmann, January 2011, June 2019.

    Contributors: Barbara Pezzini


    Barbara Pezzini. "Hoffmann, Edith." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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