Hans Hartung: The Final Years 1980-1989

Hans Hartung: The Final Years 1980-1989

Thursday, March 10, 2011Saturday, April 9, 2011


London, United Kingdom

Timothy Taylor Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of ambitious late paintings by the celebrated abstract expressionist Hans Hartung. This will be the first exhibition of Hartungʼs work in London since 1996.

In his last ten, highly productive years (1980 – 1989), Hans Hartung both expanded upon and revisited many of the themes and techniques that he had used throughout his career. Using spray paint and rollers, garden rakes and olive branches as brushes, Hartung, despite advanced age and infirmity, produced extraordinarily dynamic and powerful paintings in his home and studio complex in Antibes. Whether large paintings only lightly touched by a fine mist of paint, or dramatic dark and heavily impastoed works, these ultra-modern canvasses express ideas of infinity and the sublime on the one hand, and existential inner torment on the other.

Drawing on works from across the decade, this exhibition will feature several paintings executed after 1986, when Hartung was told he was terminally ill. Hartung dedicated his remaining three years to a furious output of work, noted for its large scale and dramatic explosions of colour and form.

Hartungʼs work is enjoying a revival of critical and curatorial interest following exhibitions such as Deadline, at the Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris (2009) which included last works by, amongst others, Martin Kippenberger and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Hartungʼs work was also included alongside Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell, Eva Hesse and Cy Twombly in Action Painting (Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 2008), a show looking at abstract gestural painting in Europe and the United States following the Second World War.

Hans Hartung (born Leipzig 1904, died Antibes 1989) was a German-born émigré who made France his home and fought with the French Foreign Legion during WW2. He achieved great recognition for his work in post-war Europe, and was awarded the International Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1960. In 1994 a foundation in Antibes was established in his name alongside that of his wife, Anna Eva Bergman. This is the artistʼs first show in London since Hans Hartung: Works on Paper, 1922-1956, (curated by Jennifer Mundy) was held at Tate Britain in 1996.

Hartung is best known for his 1950s gestural and existential abstractions: psychographs in paint composed of dramatic sheaves of dark brush strokes, against a light washed background. What has only become known recently, is that Hartung meticulously planned and copied these apparently spontaneous paintings from much smaller sketches and studies. This fact has forced a reassessment of our idea of Hartung as the ultimate expressionist artist, positioning him instead as an early exponent of painting as a solipsistic and mimetic activity.

Current exhibitions include Hartung. Prints at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (until 16 January), travelling to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Musée d'art et d'histoire de Genève (both 2011) and Hans Hartung – Lo Slancio at the Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Turin (until 30 January). Hartungʼs late spray-painted works are currently on display at the Musée Régional dʼArt Contemporain Languedoc-Roussillon in Sérignan (until 10 February) and his work is also included in a new collection display at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World (1945-1968), (throughout 2011).