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Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...
Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.
Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans Hartung migrated to Paris after encountering works by artists such as Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Rouault, and Rousseau at the International Art Exhibition in Dresden in 1926. In 1935, after a few years spent travelling through Europe, the artist settled in the city permanently, receiving French citizenship in 1946. In Paris, Hartung embarked on a gestural approach to painting, early examples of which are included in the exhibition at Mazzoleni London, including seven small 'Untitled' works from 1956 that contain lively dashes of India ink on paper.
Later compositions incorporated processes of scratching and scraping, with Hartung stating that to act is to 'invade the canvas'. This is visible in a selection of works in the exhibition from the 1960s, namely T1962-H19 (1962)—a dynamic composition, as Montgomery describes in this video, made up of layers of sprayed vinylic interrupted by scores of dancing lines. Hartung continued to experiment with these canvas 'invasions' throughout his life, employing olive tree branches from his home in Antibes, for example, to apply gestural storms of dark paint onto colourful, gradated backgrounds, as seen in T1980-E46 (1980).
Hartung was an active member of the Paris scene of the immediate post-war period, which saw a cultural renaissance from which Art Informel—a movement of gestural abstraction—originated. Artists active in this movement engaged with it in their own unique ways, with some arriving from as far as Canada (Jean-Paul Riopelle), Russia (Serge Poliakoff), China (Zao Wou-Ki), and Japan (Toshimitsu Imai). French members of Hartung's circle included Pierre Soulages, Henri Michaux, and Georges Matthieu. Much of the work by these artists possesses a sculptural quality, with paint layered across the canvas using a palette knife in the case of Couleur (1955) by Jean-Paul Riopelle, or applied directly to the canvas from the tube, as in the case of Georges Matthieu's Formule de Dirac (1955).
Beyond these artists, Montgomery notes Hartung's gestural and lyrical approach to art was admired by Picasso, along with Mark Rothko in the United States, with echoes of his abstraction present in canvases by Sam Francis and Helen Frankenthaler. —[O]
Born in Leipzig in 1904, French-German artist Hans Hartung was a key figure of 20th-century abstraction, known for his lyrical and gestural approach to painting and lithography. Born into a family of doctors, the artist began drawing at age six when attempting to capture lightning flashes during a storm. Of this experience, the artist noted: 'These flashes of lightening enabled me to understand the speed of the line, the desire to capture, in pencil or brush, the moment and they made me understand the urgent nature of spontaneity'. Beginning his studies in philosophy and art history at Leipzig University, Hartung later abandoned the course to attend art schools in Dresden, Leipzig, and Munich.
Hans Hartung's paintings have a calligraphic quality, where scraping and spraying techniques result in dynamic forms across the surface. Exempt of all figurative elements, the artist's painting explore the tension between coloured areas and compositions in the foreground, created using a variety of tools, from spray guns to, in later years, paint-dripped branches from olive trees around his home and studio in Antibes. These paintings appear spontaneous; however, each painting was preceded by fastidious sketches. In relation to the balance between chance and control, Hartung expressed: 'At the beginning, I act in total freedom. Work, by following its own course, constrains me more and more, and I am less and less at liberty to choose'.
In 1926, Hartung visited the International Art Exhibition in Dresden, which exposed him to works by artists such as Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso, and of artistic styles including Impressionism, Cubism, and Fauvism. In 1929, he married the Norwegian painter Anna-Eva Bergman, with whom he would buy two hectares of olive grove in Antibes, France, in the 1960s, where they settled to live and work in 1973. The artist's first exhibition took place in 1931 at the Kühl Gallery in Dresden, followed by an exhibition with his wife at Blomqvist Gallery in Oslo. During the early years of their marriage, Bergman and the artist attempted to settle in Berlin, but were forced into exile by the Nationalist Socialist regime. He settled in Paris, and made the acquaintance of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miró, and the sculptor Julio González. During this period, Hans Hartung developed a gestural style defined by coloured backgrounds foregrounded by clusters of graphic forms. At the outbreak of the War, he joined the French Foreign Legion, but was later arrested by the Gestapo, who imprisoned him for seven months for having served in a foreign army, and for his 'degenerate' painting style. He re-joined the army upon his release, but was severely injured in the Belfort siege of 1944, which led to the amputation of his right leg. In 1945, he returned to Paris and resumed painting, earning French citizenship a year later.
In the post-war years, Hartung became a key figure of the Art Informel and Taschist movements, associated with artists such as Pierre Soulages and Jean Fautrier. In an Ocula Insight video walkthrough of Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019–18 January 2020), writer and historian Alan Montgomery notes that artists of the Art Informel movement share 'a very gestural approach to painting, and a lyrical approach to their abstraction.' Abstraction boomed in the 1950s, and in the 1960s the artist experimented with 'invading' the canvas with scratches, saying: 'What I love is to act on the canvas. To act? That is to scratch, to tear, to stain, to invade the canvas with colour, in brief everything which is not "to paint".' The artist's practice had a profound influence on artists working in Paris and beyond, with echoes of his work present in paintings by Sam Francis and Helen Frankenthaler, for example.
In 1986, Hartung suffered a major stroke, which led to his being wheelchair-bound until his death in 1989. Hans Hartung's artworks from this period are no less rigorous in their experimentation, however. Of spectacular scale, he used a spray gun to shoot paint across the canvas, completing most of his canvases after just a few minutes. He was awarded the 1956 prize for the Europe-Africa section at the Guggenheim International Award, and the International Grand Prize for painting at the 1960 Venice Biennale. Major group exhibitions have been held at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 1937, organised by curator and critic Christian Zervos, and the Galerie du Luxembourg in Paris, organised by the artist Georges Mathieu, who organised further group exhibitions in April 1948 at the Galerie Colette Allendy (titled HWPSMTB—each letter drawn from the artists' names), and in July 1948 at the Galerie des Deux-Isles, titled White and Black. Major solo exhibitions of his work have occurred at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1975), and Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1980). In the last decade, Hartung's works have been presented at the Palace of Fine Arts Beijing and National Museum, Nanjing (Hartung in China, 2005), as well as in Hans Hartung: Spontaneous Calculus, Pictures, Photographs, Film 1922–1989, which showcased his lifelong use of photography at Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig; Hans Hartung: Essential, Circula de Bellas Artes, Madrid (2008); Hans Hartung: The Gesture and the Method, Fondation Marguerite and Aimé Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence (2008); Hartung: Prints, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva (2011); Hans Hartung: L'Atelier du Geste, CCBB, Sao Paulo (2014); Hans Hartung and Photography, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen (2016); and Hans Hartung: La fabrique du gest, Paris Museum of Modern Art (2019).
Mazzoleni London is proud to present Hans Hartung and Art Informel, which will open to the public on the 1 October 2019 and continue until the 18 January 2020. Collating artworks from four decades, the London exhibition will focus on a selection of Hartung's paintings shown in context with early post-war works by some of the most important artists within the Art Informel movement of the 20th century. A further solo exhibition of Hans Hartung's work will open to the public at the Turin gallery on 25 October 2019 until 18 January 2020, a continuation of the gallery's interest in the artist, since presenting selected works by Hans Hartung in 2004. The exhibitions will mark the 30th anniversary of the artist's death.
Hans Hartung is a renowned figure within Art Informel movement and of gestural abstract painting. The London exhibition will examine the origins of Hartung's work and investigate the discourse between the diverse circle of artists present in Paris during the 50s and 60s. Works by artists such as Giuseppe Capogrossi; Hisao Domoto; Jean Fautrier; Toshimitsu Imai; Henri Michaux; Georges Mathieu; Serge Poliakoff; Jean-Paul Riopelle; Gérard Schneider; Pierre Soulages; Wols and Zao Wou-Ki, will be presented with the aim to elucidate the artistic relationships which embraced tachisme and lyrical abstraction. The main section of the display will focus on works by Hartung from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, moreover, will track the evolution of his particular visual language to reveal an artist who was continually striving for the unfamiliar and the original.
Experimenting with rapid movement, Hartung used 'grattage', a technique where freshly applied paint is removed by scraping in order to create dynamic works with intense marks. Often fields of colour invade the canvas, compounded by aggressive scratches, depicting tension between the background and the surface. Hartung commented,
What I love is to act on the canvas. To act? That is to scratch, to tear, to stain, to invade the canvas with colour, in brief everything which is not 'to paint.'
The results are dramatic and timeless. The works displayed in Hans Hartung and Art Informel will bear witness to a time that challenged the very pillars of artistic tradition and laid the foundations of the birth of a new modern age. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay in English and Italian by Alan Montgomery.
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).
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