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Hans Hartung

1904 - 1989

The life of twentieth-century painting giant Hans Hartung spans seven decades of creation driven by a pioneering spirit in a perpetual search for innovation. The author of an immense body of work, developed across a wide variety of media, Hartung was celebrated after the war as the leader of lyrical abstraction.

Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hartung began his career in 1922 by creating a series of already abstract watercolours, whose expressive power produced an aesthetic revolution that characterised the rest of his career. Throughout his life, Hartung placed this formal research at the heart of his work, constantly reinventing his own practice: he created his own tools, developed new techniques, diligently explored the possibilities offered by each medium and engaged his body in the creative process.

Driven from a very young age by an aesthetic quest, Hartung was interested in the mysterious feeling of beauty and “the inexplicable reasons that make us find something beautiful.” Addressing this question in a quasi-scientific way, Hartung was passionate about the Section d’or in the 1930s and adopted the technique of casting, transposing his spontaneous drawings onto canvas. The extremely thought-out dimension of his approach partly contradicts the image of a gestural and spontaneous painter that is often associated with Hartung.

During this period, Hartung discovered Paris, attracted by avant-garde movements, finally settling there in 1935. He took part in numerous group exhibitions, before the Second World War interrupted his career. He then enlisted in the foreign legion against his native country, lost a leg in battle, and only gained recognition for his work after the war, during his first solo exhibition at the Lydia Conti gallery in 1947. Celebrated for his pioneering role in the emerging movement of lyrical abstraction, he subsequently benefited from several exhibitions in the United States that allowed his work to be included in the major American collections.

The 1960s marked a new turning point. Hartung further engaged his body in the creative process and freed his gesture, which allowed him to achieve great virtuosity in the context of increasingly large formats. Abandoning oil painting for acrylic and vinyl, whose shorter drying time offered him new technical possibilities and transformed his relationship to speed and gesture, he acted directly on the canvas, using a wide variety of gestures: scratching, incising, abrasion and spraying. This period coincided with the Grand Prix de Peinture, which he won at the Venice Biennale in 1960, at the pinnacle of his international recognition.

Hans Hartung’s career is inseparable from that of his partner Anna-Eva Bergman, who was also an artist. Together, they bought an olive grove in Antibes in 1960 and built a complex according to Hartung’s plans, comprising three buildings, one devoted to their shared life and the other two to their respective studios. In 1973, the couple settled in this wonderful refuge of life and creation. Hartung worked there until the end of his days, with an unquenchable thirst for creation and innovation.

Hans Hartung’s works have been integrated into the collections of numerous institutions around the world, including those of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, where a permanent hall has been devoted to Hartung since 1982, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York or the Tate Modern in London.


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Nicolas de Staël's house-studio, which would become Hans Hartung's (rue Gauguet in Paris, in the 1950s). Photographer: Willy Maywal. ©Fondation Hartung Bergman

Hans Hartung mobilised, 1940. © Fondation Hartung Bergman

“For me, the house is a cube.
A white cube with simple lines
like the fishermen’s house
of the island of Menorca, or
in the south of Spain, like the one
that we had built in
Fornells. Ours house in Antibes
looks like them.”

Hans Hartung

Hans Hartung's villa-studio, Antibes © Fondation Hartung Bergman

Artworks

Hans Hartung

T1974-E41, 1974
Acrylic on canvas
100 x 162 cm | 39 3/8 x 63 3/4 in.

Hans Hartung, T1952-34

1952

Hans Hartung, PAS-12-1947

1947

Hans Hartung, T1961-40

1961

Hans Hartung, T1988-E27

1988

Exhibitions

Art Fairs

Publications

News

Calder, Soulages, Vasarely,… Abstractions plurielles (1950-1980)

March 2 - November 21, 2021

Musée d'art de Pully

Le Musée d’art de Pully collabore avec la Fondation Gandur pour l’Art autour d’une exposition consacrée à la peinture informelle des années 1950 à 1980. Les années qui suivent la Seconde Guerre mondiale connaissent une grande effervescence artistique. Paris reprend rapidement sa place de capitale culturelle et attire des peintres du monde entier. La tendance […]

Calder, Soulages, Vasarely,… Abstractions plurielles (1950-1980)

Hans Hartung, La peinture pour mémoire

October 2019

Pierre Wat

Figure incontournable de l’art moderne et acteur marquant de l’abstraction, Hans Hartung (1904-1989) n’a eu de cesse, sa vie durant, de laisser derrière lui des souvenirs de son activité  : un «  autoportrait  » en mots, qu’il publie en 1976, d’autres mots encore, des archives, des œuvres, entrelacés… Pour mémoire. Ecrire sur Hans Hartung c’est […]

Hans Hartung, La peinture pour mémoire

Hans Hartung | La fabrique du geste

October 11, 2019 - March 1st, 2020

Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris

On the occasion of its re-opening after extensive renovation work, the Museum of Modern Art presents a retrospective of work by the painter Hans Hartung (1904-1989). Given that his last retrospective in a French museum dates from 1969, it was time to restore the visibility Hans Hartung (1904–1989) so richly deserves. This exhibition brings a […]

Hans Hartung | La fabrique du geste

Hans Hartung – Les années de guerre

September 2018

Fondation Hartung-Bergman

Catalogue retraçant la production artistique et le quotidien du peintre franco-allemand durant la Seconde guerre mondiale. Légionnaire puis fugitif, Hartung développe pendant ces années une œuvre protéiforme, partagée entre continuité – abstractions colorées aux vifs contours noirs – et expérimentation, développant un étonnant vocabulaire figuratif tout en s’inspirant de sa collaboration avec le sculpteur Julio González. […]

Hans Hartung – Les années de guerre

HARTUNG ET LES PEINTRES LYRIQUES

December 11, 2016 - April 17, 2017

Fonds Hélène & Édouard Leclerc pour la Culture

Grâce à des prêts exceptionnels, cette exposition fait entrer Hartung en résonance avec des artistes que l’on relie historiquement à « l’abstraction lyrique » du début des années 50. Lien vers l’exposition

HARTUNG ET LES PEINTRES LYRIQUES

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