Emblematic work from the most important creative period of Hans Hartung, an artist viewed as one of the fathers of abstraction, and considered by many as the inventor of gestural painting years before Pollock or de Kooning, T1949-6 is probably one of his most important works to be still in private hands. T1949-6 is a masterpiece of the post-war period and draws its incredible power from the architectonic web of black lines that freely unfurls from the center of the composition creating an extreme spatial tension. This work of impressive size paved the way of various experiments that inspired many generations of artists after Hartung, in France but also in Europe and the entire world.
Interested in abstraction from a very young age, Hartung was a precocious drawer. He would spend entire nights on the roof of the Basel home where he lived from 8 to 12 looking at the movements of the sky with a telescope to then try to transcribe them on paper. After moving to Paris in 1935, where he met two other great geniuses of modern art, Calder and Gonzalez, Hartung continued his researches on cosmic and atmospheric forms in keeping with his early interests, which he later commented by saying: "these childish sparks have (...) influenced my artistic development and my way of painting. They gave me a taste for swift drawing, the desire to capture instantaneity with my pencil and paintbrush. They taught me the urgency of spontaneity."
But beyond a nervous, instinctive and maybe juvenile spurt, T1949-6 shows how much Hartung worked to refine the plastic element of his work: loose lines tangle without ever being absorbed in the backdrop from which shimmering shapes emerge. Right after the war, Hartung's means of expression grew tremendously; allowing him to play on multiple technical levels with flare. Curved, loose, turbulent, thick or thin, opaque or transparent, webbed or knotted lines are swiftly thrown across the canvas.
To understand the importance of T1949-6, it is essential to recall that it was created at the same time as the artist's main contributions to the 20th century history of art. Starting in 1948, Hartung adopted a serial approach he developed up until 1989. Dealing with one series at a time, he would order his pictorial process around the exploration of all the variables around a main theme. Between 1943 and 1959, two series stand out: the palm leafs and the beams, a terminology here used only for convenience as none of the titles given by the artist made any reference to something tangible.
In these two series, big format paintings like T1949-6 were the result of the transfer on canvas of a previous drawing using a grid technique. Exhibited many times in some of the most famous museums in the world, including during the historic retrospective exhibition of Hans Hartung held at the National Museum of Modern Art in 1969, T1949-6 is, in spite of its spontaneous and maybe mechanical aspect, the fruit of a well thought out and documented process. And this is precisely where Hartung's genius resides: in his play with geometric curves and shapes to compose paintings which transparency, color and texture effects are finely orchestrated to overlap and bring an unexpected world to life.
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