Hoffman was the Boston, Massachusetts-born son of Russian immigrants. He trained in Boston and in Europe. He had his first exhibition in Boston at the age of 19. Hoffman established himself in New York City, where he worked until his death. Hoffman’s work is typical of the 1930s and ’40s, often referred to as WPA-style art or American Regionalist. He traveled throughout the United States and Mexico during this time. In addition to his painting, he became “a prominent etcher of gritty genre scenes,” as one gallery puts it.
A number of his prints can be seen on the site of New York’s Old Print Shop. The site also has a copy of Margaret Sullivan’s 1936 monograph Irwin D. Hoffman, published by Associated American Artists.