Born in Weissenberg, Germany, he grew up in Munich, where he studied architecture before taking up painting. Between 1904 and 1914 he lived in Paris, experimenting with abstract painting. In 1915 he returned to Munich, setting up an academy of painting that he directed until 1931, which is when he went to live in the United States. After teaching in California and New York, he opened the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Arts in New York, which would rapidly become one of the most prestigious academies of art in the United States. He exhibited on numerous occasions in Europe and the United States and was very successful both with his work as a teacher and as a painter.