Fondation Hartung-Bergman

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« Hans Hartung - The war years », until October 28, Musée Zervos, Vézelay


While the Second World War marked a unique parenthesis in the life of everyone who went through it, certainly it formed the heart of the extraordinary destiny of Hans Hartung (1904-1989).

Born in Leipzig, Germany, he moved to Paris in 1935 to live at the center of the most advanced artistic creation, where he developed an abstract gestural art.But his tenuous situation as an exile did not allow him to live in tranquility.Caught short by the declaration of war, he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in 1939, hid in the Zone Libre, then fled to Spain, reenlisting in 1944 to fight Nazism.As a stretcher-bearer, he was sent to the front and wounded while rescuing a comrade during the battle around Belfort.An amputation was necessary, profoundly affecting his identity: he was forced to learn not only to live with his handicap, but also to paint with a mutilated body. The exhibition at the Musée Zervos retraces Hartung’s war years in terms of both his artistic production and his daily life.

The works shown take their place in the continuity of his 1930s productions: we see the artist’s characteristic gesture combining abstract forms with sharp black contours and swathes of misty color.But these years were also marked by experiments with an astonishing figurative vocabulary, from his series of Heads, those fearful faces echoing Picasso’s celebrated Guernica, to the biomorphic and almost sculptural constructions inspired by his encounter and collaboration with sculptor Julio González. So, despite poverty and the many moves entailed by his plight as a legionnaire and a fugitive, Hartung continued to innovate.

An important collection of contemporary documents and photographs from the artist’s personal archives is also presented in conjunction with the artworks, providing insight into his years of hiding in the Zone Libre with his wife Roberta González, his concentration camp experience in Spain, his stint in the army, and his exchanges with the United States. 

Finally, this exhibition celebrates the mutual esteem between Hans Hartung and Christian Zervos.Their relationship shapes the exhibition, from their meeting in 1935 to the reproduction of a work by Hartung in the review Cahiers d’Art edited by Zervos in 1952, showing the continuity in the artist’s practice made possible by the support of his most faithful friends.

« Hans Hartung, les années de guerre »
From 14.07.2018 to 28.10.2018
Musée Zervos - 84450 Vézelay

Illustration on welcome page:
Hans Hartung, T1943-2, 1943
32 x 62 cm
Oil on paper on canvas
Collection Fondation Hartung-Bergman