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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 in the post-war period as the leader of lyrical abstraction.

Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hartung began his artistic journey in 1922 with a series of abstract watercolours. These early works already foretold an aesthetic revolution that would unfold throughout his entire œuvre. Characterising Hartung’s career, formal research and experimentation were placed at the heart of his practice and allowed him to constantly reinvent himself: he created his own tools, developed new techniques, diligently explored all the possibilities offered by each medium. And always, he engaged his body in the creative process.

From a very young age, Hartung was driven by an aesthetic quest for the mysterious feeling of beauty and the “inexplicable reasons that make us find something beautiful”. Addressing this question in a quasi-scientific way, he became passionate about the Golden Section in the 1930s and adopted the technique of grid transfer, transposing his spontaneous drawings onto canvas. The thoughtful, calculated dimension of his approach partly contradicts the image of a gestural and spontaneous painter that is often associated with Hartung.

During the same period, Hartung discovered Paris, drawn by the avant-garde movements, and eventually settled there permanently in 1935. He participated in numerous group exhibitions until the outbreak of World War II interrupted his career. He then enlisted in the Foreign Legion to fight against his native country and lost a leg in combat. Due to his wartime service, his work was not recognised until after the war, with his first solo exhibition at the Lydia Conti gallery in 1947. Celebrated for his pioneering role in the emerging lyrical abstraction movement, he subsequently benefited from several exhibitions in the United States that allowed his work to enter major American collections.

The 1960s marked a new turning point for Hartung. He further engaged his body in his creative process, freeing his gestures on larger and larger formats. He abandoned oil paint in favor of acrylic and vinyl, whose shorter drying times offered him new technical possibilities. His approach to speed and gesture hence transformed and allowed him to act directly on the canvas through a wide variety of interventions: scratching, incising, abrading, spraying… This period of great creative flourishing coincided with the Grand Prize for Painting awarded to him by 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 had a complex built according to Hartung’s designs, comprising three buildings: one for their communal life and the other two for their respective studios. In 1973, the couple settled in this wonderful haven of life and creation. Hartung painted there until his last 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 dedicated to Hartung since 1982, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and 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


Hans Hartung

T1962-K30, 1962
Vinylic paint, pastel and scratching on canvas
57 x 150 cm

Hans Hartung, T1966-R29


Hans Hartung, T1975-K39


Hans Hartung

T1989-R37, 1989
Acrylic on canvas
97 x 146 cm | 38 1/4 x 57 1/2 in.

Hans Hartung, T1966-E45


Hans Hartung, T1961-40


Hans Hartung

T1971-E29 , 1971
Acrylic on canvas
102,5 x 130 cm | 40 3/8 x 51 1/8 in.

Hans Hartung, T1952-34


Hans Hartung, PAS-12-1947



Art Fairs




The Choice of Painting

February 10th - June 9th, 2024

Tessé Museum, Le Mans

The Tessé Museum is presenting the exhibition “The Choice of Painting, Another History of Abstraction, 1962-1989” from February 10th to June 9th, 2024. It offers a panorama of three decades of abstract painting in France, from the 1960s to the 1980s. How did artists kept on painting when the trend, starting from the 1960s, gazed […]

The Choice of Painting

VASARELY BEFORE THE OP: European abstraction, 1945-1955

17 June to 15 October 2023

Fondation Vasarely, Aix-En-Provence

The Vasarely Foundation continues its partnership with the Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne-Centre de création industrielle for the 4th consecutive year, with the summer exhibition “Vasarely avant l’Op, une abstraction européenne, 1945-1955”. From June 17 to October 15, 2023, a selection of 35 major works on loan from the Paris museum, the Musée départemental […]

VASARELY BEFORE THE OP: European abstraction, 1945-1955

At the heart of Abstraction Works from the collection of the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art

July 2 - November 22, 2022

Fondation Maeght

The exhibition at the Fondation Maeght will show works from the collection of the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art from the 2nd of July until the 20th of November 2022 and offers an immersion in the vibrant creation of the years 1945 to 1980. Home to a collection of more than 13,000 works, Fondation Maeght is […]

At the heart of Abstraction Works from the collection of the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art

The archives of creation

May 11 - September 30, 2022

Fondation Hartung Bergman

With Anna-Eva-Bergman as with Hans Hartung, the fact of archiving and archiving everything (sketches, letters, photographs, press…) was at the heart of their life and their work. It is one of the common dominators of the two artists, who are otherwise so autonomous in their aesthetic approach. The Hartung Bergman Foundation which emanates from their […]

The archives of creation

La luce nel nero

15 April 2022 – 28 August 2022

Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri

“La Luce del Nero” is the title of the upcoming exhibition hosted in one of the two museums of Fondazione Burri, the Ex Seccatoi del Tabacco in Città di Castello, Italy. Here, the color Black shifts from the concept of dark and absence to becoming an actual color. This event has been designed to be […]

La luce nel nero

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


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


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