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Items corresponding to Post War & Modern Art - Hans Hartung

Hans Hartung (1904–1989) was a German-French painter, known for his gestural abstract style. He was also a decorated World War II veteran of the French Foreign Legion. Hartung was born in Leipzig, Germany into an artistic family. He developed an early appreciation of Rembrandt, German painters such as Lovis Corinth, and the Expressionists Oskar Kokoschka and Emil Nolde. In 1924 he enrolled in Leipzig University, where he studied philosophy and art history. He subsequently studied at the Fine Arts academy of Dresden, where he copied the paintings of the masters. The modern French and Spanish works he saw in 1926 at the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Dresden were a revelation to him, and he decided that he would leave his native country to prevent succumbing to provincialism. Consequently, he moved to Paris. In Paris, Hartung had little contact with other artists. He visited the south of France, where the landscape inspired him to a close study of the works of Cézanne, and he developed a great interest in principles of harmony and proportion such as the golden section. In 1928 he visited Munich where he studied painting technique with Max Doerner. In 1929 he married the artist Anna-Eva Bergman and established himself in the French towns of Leucate, and then in the Spanish Balearic Islands, eventually settling in Minorca. He exhibited for the first time in 1931 in Dresden. He was rejected from Nazi Germany on account of being a degenerate. In December 1939, he became a member of the French Foreign Legion. He was closely followed by the Gestapo and arrested for seven months by the French police. After they learned he was a painter, he was put in a red cell in an attempt to disturb his vision. After being released he rejoined the Legion to fight in North Africa, losing a leg in a battle near Belfort. He earned French citizenship in 1945, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. In 1947 in Paris he had his first solo exhibition. By the late 1950s he had achieved recognition for his gestural paintings, which were nearly monochromatic and characterized by configurations of long rhythmical brushstrokes or scratches. In 1960 he was awarded the International Grand Prix for painting at the Venice Biennale. Hartung's freewheeling abstract paintings set influential precedents for many younger American painters of the sixties, making him an important forerunner of American Lyrical Abstraction of the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1970s, Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman remarried after having divorced. He died on 7 December 1989, in Antibes, France.