Leipzig, 1904 – Antibes, 1989
Hans Hartung was born in 1904 in Leipzig, Germany. He shows passion for the arts, and especially for drawing, already as a child. Following this talent he studies art history and philosophy at the University of Leipzig and at the Academy of Dresden and later in Monaco with Max Doerner.
Noteworthy for his training is also the study and the exercise on the works of great old masters such as Rembrandt, admired at the Dresden museum. In parallel, between 1921 and 1922, he is fascinated by some contemporary artistic expressions: he encounters and appreciates the German Expressionists, especially Nolde and Kokoschka, while a few years later comes close to Fauvism and Cubism.
For the first time in 1922 he begins to elaborate abstract drawings; simultaneously he also denies the form in a series of watercolours. With Hartung takes place a key evolutionary step in the history of art: figurativism and geometric abstraction – introduced by Kandinsky and promoted by the avant-garde groups Cercle et Carré and Abstraction Création – leave space to Lyrical Abstraction, namely the absolute negation of the form and the contribution of a primary role to the expressive gesture that dominates the creative process.
The composition is guided by the instinctive gesture from which emerge, randomly, colour stains, violent brushstrokes, which produce “feathers”, spirals, arabesques and special signs achieved through grattage on fresh paint (often using a tool similar to a big broom with sharp needles). From 1932 to 1934 Hartung stays in Minorca where he realizes his “Ink Spots” paintings. Back in Germany, because of the rise of Hitler’s regime, he is forced to flee and, with the outbreak of World War II, he enlists in the Foreign Legion.
He comes back seriously injured. Later he returns to France: resides permanently in Antibes and resumes painting. Between 1955 and 1964 he participates several times at Documenta, Kassel. Hartung receives the Guggenheim International Prize in 1956 and the Grand Prize for painting at the Venice Biennale in 1960.
In 1977, the Centre Pompidou organizes an exhibition dedicated to his etchings and lithographs, then set in other places in France during the following four years. In 1981 the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, the Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst in Monaco and the Henie-Onstad Foundation in Oslo present a large retrospective of his work. In 1985 takes place another retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris.