Post-War and Contemporary Art auction: Hans Hartung


Hans Hartung – leading protagonist of the Informel and lover of the experiment – attached particular importance to the creative moment.  He is represented with three works from the 1960s and 1970s at the Dorotheum Post-War and Contemporary Art auction on the 5th of June.

Hans Hartung T1963-R49, 1963 acrylic on canvas, 92 x 73 cm estimate € 120,000 – 160,000, Post-War and Contemporary Art I auction, 5 June

Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans Hartung studied philosophy and history of art in Leipzig and later Fine Arts in Dresden. In 1932, he moved to Paris, where he would later meet Vasily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, and where he would hold his first solo exhibition in 1947.

He was a prominent contributor to Art Informel, an artistic movement born post-WWII from the need to bring forth a new language through which to process the trauma of the Second World War. Hartung no longer believed in figurative representation or rigid geometric abstraction, maintaining the need to experiment with a type of painting which recognises gestures and marks.

The rejection of form was already characteristic of other artistic movements, but Art Informel distinguishes itself in the specific attention paid to the creative gesture: the artistic event, which is exhausted in the very act of its creation. The work becomes witness to an experience and to a continual process of creation.

Hartung’s mark derives from apparently rapid and decisive, yet studied, gestures; it is a confident, clear gesture that scratches the canvas or metal sheet creating tension between the background and surface.

Gestures and marks aggressively occupy space: in some cases, fields of black invade a white background; in others, shades of grey prevail, or uniform stretches of colour are interrupted by the artist who cleaves the material with violent scratches.

Hans Hartung T1970-H45, 1970 acrylic on canvas, 114 x 146 cm estimate € 100,000 – 150,000, Post-War and Contemporary Art I auction, 5 June

I am pushed to sketch,  to create certain forms  by an emotional state,in order to try and transmit and provoke similar emotions in the viewer…  I like to act on the canvas. This desire moves me: the desire to leave a trace of my action. It is all about the act of painting, of drawing, of scratching,  of grating!


Following the success of the artist at the last auction of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Dorotheum, in which his T1963-R50 was sold for €247,000, Hartung returns to auction in June with three canvases from the 1960s and 1970s.

His works from this period are characterised by ever faster and more spontaneous gestures, in part thanks to the use of grattage, a technique whereby fresh paint is removed from the canvas with instruments such as rollers or brushes. In T1963-R49 a black background dominates the canvas, interrupted only by deep scratches drawn from top to bottom.

In T1962-A7 and in T1970-H45 sequences of lines with varying widths intertwine on a single colour background, creating a dense weave which lends dynamism to the work.

Notwithstanding his constant focus on signs and marks, Hartung diversified his production over the course of the years, conferring a distinct character on his work as a result of his continual tension with experimentation.


Auction date: 5 June 2019, 5 p.m.

Location: Palais Dorotheum, Dorotheergasse 17, 1010 Vienna

Exhibition: from Saturday, 25 May

View now the auction catalogue and read our myARTMAGAZINE!

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