Leipzig, 1904 – Antibes, 1989
Hans Hartung was born into a family of artists. He initially developed an appreciation for Rembrandt, German painters such as Lovis Corinth and expressionists such as Oskar Kokoschka and Emil Nolde. In 1924, he enrolled at the University of Leipzig, where he studied philosophy and art history, and later studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. The modern French and Spanish works he saw in 1926 at the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Dresden were a revelation for him and he decided to move to Paris.
In Paris, Hartung had little contact with other artists and copied the works of old and modern masters. He visited the south of France, where the landscape inspired him to closely study the works of Cézanne. In 1929, he married the artist Anna-Eva Bergman and the couple settled in Menorca.
He exhibited for the first time in 1931 in Dresden, but was rejected by Nazi Germany for being a ‘degenerate’ for his painting style, associated with Cubism. In 1935, he attempted to sell some paintings while visiting Berlin but the police tried to arrest him. He was able to flee the country with the help of his friend Christian Zervos. Returning to Paris as a refugee, Hartung and his wife divorced. His paintings became more abstract and did not sell well. His friends then offered help and the sculptor Julio González allowed him to use his studio. In 1939 Hartung married González’s daughter Roberta.
In December 1939, he joined the French Foreign Legion but was arrested and detained for seven months by the French police. Upon his release, he rejoined the Legion to fight in North Africa, losing a leg in a battle near Belfort. He obtained French citizenship and had his first solo exhibition in Paris in 1947. At the end of the 1950s he gained recognition for his gestural, almost monochromatic paintings characterised by long, rhythmic brushstrokes.
In 1960 he was awarded the International Grand Prix for painting at the Venice Biennale. Hartung’s abstract paintings influenced many young American painters of the 1960s, making him an important precursor of the lyrical American abstraction of the 1960s and 1970s.
He appears in the 1963 documentary film ‘School of Paris: (5 Artists at Work)’ by American filmmaker Warren Forma.
© HANS HARTUNG, by SIAE 2024