Hans Hartung’s dynamic and experimental practice evokes a powerful sense of self expression. His singular visual language established him as a leader in the field of 20th century abstraction and has had a profound influence over subsequent generations of artists, in particular proving inspirational to the trajectory of American lyrical abstraction in the 1960s and 1970s. Born in Leipzig, Germany in 1904, Hartung studied at art schools in both his hometown and Dresden. In the years preceding the outbreak of the Second World War he settled in Paris, where he became acquainted with artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Calder and Joan Miró, and struck up a close friendship with sculptor, Julio González. Associated with the Art Informel and Taschist movements, Hartung would become of one of France’s most significant post-war artists, renowned for his dramatic and innovative approach to abstraction.
Concerned with the translation of the inexpressible onto canvas, Hartung’s emotional abstractions eliminated all figurative elements, pursuing such freedom of gesture and spatial dynamism with a litany of non-traditional tools, including spray guns, brooms and branches from the olive trees that grew in the grounds of his home and studio in the south of France. Balanced between chance and control, Hartung’s oeuvre is unexpectedly pre-meditated. He observed, ‘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'. His late painting, much of which was made from the confines of a wheelchair, is amongst the most vigorous of his near seven-decades-long career, presenting a renewed sense of freedom, energy and ambition.
Simon Lee Gallery is proud to present an exhibition of late paintings by pioneer of twentieth-century abstraction, Hans Hartung (1904-1989). This inaugural presentation with the gallery celebrates the last, highly productive decade of the artist’s life, which saw him return to many of the themes that had occupied him throughout his career, while expanding his repertoire with an array of innovative painting practices. Hartung’s late painting, much of which was made from the confines of a wheelchair, is amongst the most vigorous of his lifetime, revealing a renewed sense of freedom, energy and ambition despite his advancing age and increasing frailty. Although the artist’s dramatic approach to the medium was remarkable throughout his career, it was not until the 1980s that many of his freest and most experimental works were produced. Distinguished by dramatic shifts in technique, tools, scale and gesture, Hartung’s output over the course of his last years is testament to his rich and constant exploration of the language of abstraction.