Hans Hartung was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1904, but is often identified by his artistic activity in Paris and his involvement in the French Art Informel or Tachist movements. His post-war paintings – emotional abstractions which explored varieties of gesture and mark were surprisingly premeditated, carefully copied from sometimes much earlier, spontaneous drawings enlarged to fit the canvas. Originally an economic decision Hartung’s exacting realization of his paintings is evidence of the great control, technical aptitude and thoughtfulness with which he approached his work.
Hartung’s career, especially in his home countries of France and Germany, was successful. His shows and awards were numerous; mid-career, in 1960, he won the Venice Biennale’s International Prize. Exploration and experimentation with various and unusual tools ensued, and included lithography rollers, plant fronds, wheelchair wheels and gardening paraphernalia.
In the last year of his life, confined to his wheelchair, Hartung seemed to focus entirely on his creative output; his late work presents a sense of freedom, innovation and ambition that was connected to his previous work. These works hint at the natural world, the qualities of light and shadow, and the infinitude of space, while remaining distinct artistic entities, anticipatory of contemporary concerns. Ultimately, they are witness to Hartung’s continuous, fearless exploration. Hartung stated: “As for me I want to remain free, mind body and spirit. I don’t want neither myself nor anybody else to shut me off it all.”