Fine Art/Horst Hoppman
A few years back, I found a 9"x12" oil painting sitting at the curb with
somebody's trash in my Norfolk, Virginia neighborhood. It was signed
"Hoppman" and on the back there were several handwritten numbers plus a
very faded, rubber-stamped "F.W.A." I googled for more info on any artist
named Hoppman, to no avail.
Last year, I pulled the painting out of my closet and googled "Hoppman"
again. To my surprise, an eBay listing for an almost identical painting in
California popped up. I purchased that painting ultra-cheap and found
similar numbers on the back, plus a tattered piece of paper with info about
"Horst Hoppman" typed on it. It reads:
HORST HOPPMAN. He was born in 1935 in East Prussia. He studied art at the
Berlin Academy of Art. After graduating he became the master pupil of
Professor Meyer in Berlin. He has expertise in colour, and his style is
incomparable. His exhibitions have been in galleries in Paris, London, Naples,
Rome, Florence, and the United States, where he has a most promising future.
Since writing on my blog about it, I've heard from over a dozen folks across
the country who own "Hoppman" paintings. They're all landscapes in oil,
some large, some small, most of these Bavarian village scenes. People
seemed to have inherited them or picked them up at garage and estate sales
and those "starving artist" at the mall-type shows. One fellow remembers his
mother ordering his painting from a catalog back in the '60s or '70s.
I'm guessing these were mass-produced canvases, perhaps painted by more
than one artist, as the signatures and styles, though similar, are not identical.
But was there really ever a "Horst Hoppman"? Or was that bio a marketing
gimmick created to sell these canvases?
And what was F.W.A.? I understand there was a New Deal/ Federal Works
Agency program that kept artists afloat by commissioning paintings for
federal buildings, but if Hoppman was born in '35, I don't believe he could
have been a part of that.
I'd be happy to send more images of my and others' Hoppmans, if it would be
Any info or research guidance you might be able to share would be most
Thanks for sending in so much information, AND a picture. Not often do I receive such comprehensive reports of what someone has. Well done.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you much. I have focused almost exclusively on American artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Herr Horst Hoppman is beyond my limited knowledge.
I will tell you that the Federal Arts Project (FAP) was the New Deal plan that supported artists...chiefly American modernists including many famed American fine artists ...Stuart Davis, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, for example. Your "Bavarian School" style painting ... doesn't come close.
Sue, I often advise people not to buy fine art on eBay or other websites. Fine art should be purchased with the assistance of a fine art dealer, a respected gallery owner or at reputable auction houses. Fine art is typically expensive, and holds its value over long stretches of time. Fine art is an investment; it is akin to buying a bond and putting it on the wall. Fine Art dealers aren't unapproachable by mere mortals...they are almost always good people who love the business they are in, and are willing to educate new entrants.
An important drawback of buying art over the Internet, is not being able to SEE what you are buying. Digital pictures can't show you the palette, the texture, the size and perspective of a good painting. Trust me, I've made this mistake before. Collecting fine art is an on-going educational process. Fine Art collectors are always learning about technique, and period, and materials, and paints, and signatures, and locations, and canvas conditions, etc. How can you tell for sure about the condition of a painting you purchase on the Internet? Finally, too many fakes and forgeries abound.
Decorator art, vacation art, "starving artist show" art, and yes, most all of the art you see on eBay is not Fine Art. Much of this is manufactured. Yes, you will find this in garbage cans.
I don't mean to sound snobby, I really don't, but generally you get what you pay for. If you are looking to collect art, trolling the Internet and eBay for inexpensive finds is unproductive. You are far better off to find local artists where you live, perhaps at University, and collect what they produce. If you like antiques, as I do, attend estate sales and auctions. See and touch what you are putting up hard dollars for. And what only what you love and desire to look at for a long time.
I wish you luck in your collecting! I enjoy looking at the original art hanging in my office every day. I hope you do, too!
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Stu,
Thanks so much for responding.
I totally agree about buying fine art online. I purchased the eBay painting
knowing full well it was probably worthless. But since it matched my
"trashcan" painting, I enjoyed the look of it, and it was dirt-cheap, I bought it
anyway. I think of my Hoppmans as kitschy collectibles, especially now that I
know there are so many floating around.
Though I know next to nothing about art, I seem to have become unofficial
point-gal for those of us who own Hoppmans, with folks sending their
inquiries to me. Everyone wants to know the same thing – who this
Hoppmann is/was and how there came to be so many of his paintings
around. Were/are oil paintings mass-produced by groups of artists in mid-
century America, everyone churning out similar looking landscapes with the
same signature? Could folks buy signed oil canvases from the Sears or
Penney's catalog decades ago, like one Hoppman owner seems to remember?
Can you recommend any directions I might take in my sleuthing? Short of
getting on PBS's "History Detectives" or "Antiques Roadshow" and having their
experts try to sort it out, I'm at a loss.
Would the curatorial staff at my local art museum be a good resource,
Good chuckles here..."TrAshcan Art". Yep.
Umm, I think you've answered your own question, Sue. "Collectibles" experts might have knowledge about this.
It is interesting that you mention Sears. In fact, Vincent Price the famous actor was an intrepid collector and convinced Sears to initiate selling truly original art in the sixties. They featured everything from true masterpieces to local unknowns in the famous Sears Roebuck catalog!
Heritage Auction house in Dallas Tx, might be able to help. I doubt if the local art museum would be terribly much help, but you should certainly try.
I love "History Detectives".