Hans Hartung, German (1904 – 1989)

Hans Hartung was born in Leipzig and has lived much of his life on the edge of catastrophe, but with the unshakable belief in the transforming power of art. He drew incessantly as a child, and his fascination from the very beginning was with abstract forms. For many years Hartung was to experience all the solitude and hardships that an artist breaking new ground is traditionally believed to undergo. In Paris he countered lack of money and loneliness by copying at the Louvre and visiting the galleries. He married Anna-Eva Bergman, a Norwegian painter and they moved to the island of Minorca off Spain.

As World War II neared, German residents became suspect and they had to leave, even though they had very strong anti-Nazi convictions. He joined the Foreign Legion and survived most of the war without serious accident. Then, in 1944, while attempting to rescue a comrade behind enemy lines, he was shot in the leg, and eventually, the leg had to be amputated. Largely ignored before the war, abstract artists increasingly occupied center stage in Paris in the 1950s. Hartung began to exhibit.

School of Paris abstract painter in oils and pastel, etcher and lithographer. Born at Leipzig. Became interested in painting, and in 1922 executed a series of abstract tachiste watercolours. Studied philosophy and art history at Leipzig University and art at the Academies at Leipzig 1924-5, Dresden 1925-6 and Munich 1928. Lived mainly in Paris 1926-31, with visits to Holland and Belgium, and was influenced by Rouault, C-23zanne, van Gogh, and then by Cubism. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Heinrich K-4hl, Dresden, 1931.

Lived 1932-4 on Minorca, where he returned to a calligraphic abstract style. Moved to Berlin briefly in 1935, but then left Germany because of the Nazis and settled in Paris. Contacts with H-23lion, Kandinsky, Mondrian, and other abstract artists working there. In 1938, through friendship with Gonzalez, made a few sculptures. Fought in the French Foreign Legion and was gravely wounded in 1944. Began to paint again in 1945 after an interruption of six years. Took French nationality. Series of paintings with graphic signs and gestures inscribed with the brush or, from 1961, scratched into the wet paint; also some pictures from 1962 onwards with large shadowy dark patches. Awarded one of the two main painting prizes at the 1960 Venice Biennale. Married to the Norwegian painter Anna Eva Bergman and lives in Paris.

Hartung had important exhibitions in Paris, Brussels, Munich and Basle after 1949 and frequently showed works at the documenta in Kassel between 1955 and 1964. He was honoured with the 'Prix Guggenheim' in 1956 and awarded an honorary membership of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. He was awarded the Great International Prize for Painting at the Biennale in Venice in 1960. During the 1960s Hartung made monochrome areas of colour in which he engraved rows of parallel grooves, thus introducing not only a calligraphic but also a three-dimensional element into his work. Hartung published his memoirs called 'Autoportrait' in 1976. One year later he became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and in 1981 was awarded the Oskar-Kokoschka-Prize of the Republic of Austria. The large number of awards Hartung received for his work prove him to be an artist of international importance. He died in 1989 as one of the most important painters of the European Informel.

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