Hans Hartung

(Leipzig, 1904 – Antibes, 1989)


Hans Hartung (French/German, 1904–1989) was a French artist of German birth who was internationally known for his contributions to the European Art Informel movement.

In the 1920s, Hartung studied art history and philosophy, first at the University of Leipzig, and later, in Munich, under the painter Max Doerner. His earliest works are characterized by sketchy, improvisational compositions that display an underlying tension between line and color. Hartung fled Nazi Germany for Paris in the 1930s, where he met the influential artists Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, and Alexander Calder. After being a prisoner of war and losing a leg as a soldier with the foreign legion (between 1939 and 1945), Hartung returned to Paris, where he became particularly interested in spontaneity, irrationality, and freedom of form. Rather than trying to control the process as earlier abstract painters had, Hartung applied paint with garden rakes, spray paint, and olive branches, embracing accidental and unexpected outcomes. In the 1950s, Hartung’s work was regularly exhibited in major cities across Europe.

Hartung’s work took on a more sculptural quality in the 1960s as he began to scratch lines into blocks of color in his paintings. Hartung continued to paint and exhibit his work internationally until his death in 1989.

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