Artist: Hans Hartung
Hartung was born in Leipzig, Germany into a family of artists. He studied with painters such as Corinth and Nolde and also learned the basics of cubism and French painting. Studying in both Leipzig and Dresden, he reproduced the paintings of his teachers, and then entered the Dresden and Munich Academies of Fine Arts. To avoid succumbing to provincialism, he decided in 1926 to leave his native country. Consequently, after a cycling trip through Italy, he moved to Paris. He lived with Anna-Eva Bergmann and settled in the French cities of Leucate, and then he was in Menorca (Balearic Islands). He spent much of his time fishing. His first exhibition was held in 1931 in Dresden. His last ties with Germany were severed when his father died in 1932. He was rejected by Nazi Germany as a "degenerate" artist, because his pictorial style was related to Cubism, an artistic movement incompatible with the ideals of the Nazi Germany. In 1935 when he tried to sell paintings while visiting Berlin, the police tried to arrest him. He was able to flee the country with the help of his friend Christian Zervos. After returning to Paris as a refugee, his wife left him, causing him to become depressed. His friends tried to help him financially, but his paintings were becoming more abstract and were not selling well. At that time he could only afford a small workshop where he could work on improving his technique. 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 learning that he was a painter, they put him in a red cell to impair his vision. After being released he returned to the Legion to fight in North Africa, losing a leg in a battle near Belfort. He obtained French citizenship in 1945, and received the Croix de Guerre. After 1947 he gained more prominence as a French painter. That year he exhibited his work for the first time in Paris. In 1960 he received the International Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale.1 His spontaneous abstract paintings set a highly influential precedent for many young American painters of the 1960s, making him an important predecessor to American lyrical abstraction of the 1960s and 1970s. He died in December 1989 in Antibes, France.