Fondation Hartung-Bergman

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Anna-Eva Bergman (1909-1987)


Artist of norwegian origin, Anna-Eva Berman produced a dense work marked by a radical turning point that lead her from figuration to abstraction. From the 20’s to the 40’s, her work of illustration demonstrates a virtuoso talent of the line and a witty spirit. Through the books and articles that she illustrates, and sometimes writes, she creates vibrant characters, often dealing with comical situations. This gentle and humorous drawing becomes dark and cynical when it comes to illustrate the Second World War and the occupation of Norway – her home country – by the troops of Hitler. As a painter, she produces a series of urban landscapes - in particular in Minorca, from 1932 to 1934 – that show her interest in the Golden Section, the architecture, the pure surfaces and announce the constructive and simple forms of her future work. Illustration is a first step of her work, yet she will reject it later, judging it sterile. Indeed Anna-Eva Bergman operates in the late forties a radical turn that leads her on ways of abstract painting. By 1952, she lays down a formal vocabulary of archetypal shapes inspired of the scandinavian nature and mythology : stones, planets, mountains, stelas, tombs, ships. She describes her work as ‘nonfigurative’ but brings nuances in her relationship to abstract art; instead of describing her practice as ‘abstract art” (art abstrait) she prefers ‘art of abstracting’ (art d’abstraire)(Dagbladet, october 5, 1950). She still maintains in fact a relationship with reality through these symbolic forms but also through landscape, that remains a key issue of her painting. The landscape is presented – not re-presented – in its original strength by its light, after a long work of memory and transcription of this memory. Bergman tries to convey the forceful light of the Norwegian landscape but she doesn’t paint from nature: she absorbs these impressions of sublime before rephrasing this universe by a slow process inseparable from a technique: that of the metal foil, technique that becomes from 1950 onwards the common denominator of her works. Her work is then also inseparable from a method: the construction with the Golden Ratio that she will use until the early 1970s.

Anna-Eva Bergman will patiently work until the end of her life, tirelessly transcribing this primeval landscape, producing an original expression, creating against the current artistic schools. During her lifetime, she will benefit from a true critical reception, participating in numerous exhibitions in France and beyond. Her life is also marked by her relationship with Hans Hartung, whom she married in 1929, divorced in 1938, before resuming her affair with him in 1952. Together they plan the design of their house and studios in the south of France, where they settle in 1973. In this workshop she imagined, with a huge picture window facing north, she enjoys the quiet conducive to meditation and a pure Mediterranean light. She worked there until 1987, when she died, leaving behind her an atypical work, rebel at any categorical classification.

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