From 25 October, the historic Mazzoleni gallery in piazza Solferino, Turin, will host Hans Hartung, a retrospective dedicated to the key artist of European Art Informel, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of his death.
The exhibition covers most of Hartung's career, with paintings and drawings illustrating the results of the research he conducted between the 1950s and the late 1980s. It is part of a larger project that also includes Hans Hartung and Art Informel, a companion exhibition running at the Mazzoleni London gallery from 1 October 2019 to 18 January 2020. The gallery has long been interested in Hartung, ever since presenting his works in Turin for the first time in 2004. Now, this project investigates the origins of Hartung's practice and his relationship with other artists who were working in Paris the 1950s and 1960s, including Serge Poliakoff, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Georges Mathieu.
The Turin retrospective highlights both the evolution and the great stylistic consistency that mark Hans Hartung's whole career. Over the course of his education at the Universities and Academies of Fine Arts of Leipzig, Dresden and Munich, he studied the works of the great masters, such as the Flemish painters, El Greco, and Francisco Goya. This was his stepping point to decoding those very same works into his 'blots', as he defines them in his autobiography titled Self-portrait. Mastery in the use of colour is the stylistic constant in his research, from the early watercolours to the canvases that gained him international fame.
France plays a key role in Hartung's life: he chose the country as his home in the 1930s, was subsequently imprisoned there as a German citizen during World War II, and went on to fight in its Foreign Legion. After the war, having acquired French citizenship, he resumed his artistic career in the bustling cultural environment of Paris. In the French capital, he immediately became the centre of the artistic circles of Tachisme and European Art Informel, as exemplified by the collective exhibition hosted by Mazzoleni London.
'Scribbling, scratching, working on the canvas, painting it finally, seem to me to be human activities that are as immediate, spontaneous and simple as can be singing, dancing or the play of an animal that runs, stamps or snorts.' Hans Hartung's own words fully encapsulate his vision of art, which is extensively represented in the selection of fifty works on display in Turin.
A publication in Italian and English, consisting of images and an essay by Alan Montgomery, accompanies both the Turin and London exhibitions.
Hans Hartung was born in 1904 in Leipzig, Germany. He studied philosophy and art history at universities and academies in Leipzig and in Dresden. In 1935 he moved to Paris and during the Second World War, he joined the Foreign Legion. After the war, Hartung returned to the capital as a French citizen. His first Parisian solo exhibition was held in 1947 at the Galerie Lydia Conti.
In 1948, Hartung participated for the first time in the 24th edition of the Venice Biennale, and in the succeeding 26th and 27th editions. He received the Guggenheim International Prize in 1956 and the Grand Prize for painting at the 30th edition of the Venice Biennale in 1960. In 1957, Hartung exhibited works at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Rome, alongside Lucio Fontana, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Alberto Magnelli and Giuseppe Santomaso. In 1966, the Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna (GAM) in Turin, presented a retrospective exhibition that brought together more than 180 works. The exhibition Painting in France, 1900—1967, opened in 1968 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, then toured to the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, later to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, and finally established Hartung in the USA. In 1969, a major retrospective was organised at the Musée National d'art Moderne (now housed in the Centre Pompidou) in Paris. He was awarded the Grand Prix des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris in 1970. In 1984, a dozen large paintings dated from 1980—1984 were exhibited in the French pavilion at the 41st edition of the Venice Biennale. Hartung died in 1989 in the house that he named 'Champ des Oliviers' in Antibes, France. The villa is now home to the Fondation Hartung-Bergman, which promotes both his work and that of his wife Anna-Eva Bergman.
A major retrospective dedicated to Hans Hartung will open this year at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (from 11 October 2019 to 1 March 2020).
Press release courtesy Mazzoleni.
In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.