For the first time in 50 year, Paris is hosting an important retrospective on the abstract artist Hans Hartung at the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris (MAMVP) from October 11, 2019 through March 1, 2020. Comprised of some 300 works, the exhibition retraces the entirety of Hartung’s career. It presents the German-born artist’s pioneering role in abstract art in France, where he carried out the majority of his career. The exhibition highlights the constant experimentation undertaken in Hartung’s work, in terms of his painting techniques and practices, as well as in other media, like photography, print and ceramics.
This exhibition also highlights the artistic and family ties that bind Hartung and the González family. In 1937, Hartung introduces himself to Julio González, whose work he admired. González takes Hartung under his wing, and introduces him to the autogenous welding technique he practiced in his workshop in Arcueil, that allowed him to revolutionize 20th century metallic sculpture. Under Gonzalez’s tutelage, Hartung produces an iron sculpture of his own, on display in the current exhibition, in his characteristically abstract style. Indeed, the two artists each defended a distinct vision of artistic creation. Hartung was an adamant defender of abstraction, while González believed in drawing from Nature as a necessary point of departure. Nonetheless, their relationship was built on a deeply-rooted mutual respect.
In frequenting Julio González’s workshop, Hartung grew closer to Roberta González, Julio’s daughter, she herself a painter. After an exhibition together at the Henriette Gomez gallery, the two young artists were married in 1939. The current exhibition displays documents that testify to their life together.
Their marriage takes place a short time before the outbreak of World War II. Hartung joins the French Foreign Legion to fight fascism, then takes refuge in unoccupied France, in the Lot region, with the González family.
In these dark years, filled with uncertainty, anxiety and precarity, Hartung realizes a series of “Gonzaloïd” works, including paintings and drawings of Cubo-Surrealist heads and sculptural, abstract forms, inspired by his father-in-law’s sculptures and drawings, as well as the work of Picasso. The display of these works in the current exhibition attest to this rare figurative interlude in the career of Hartung, who espouses abstraction early on. It also testifies to the concrete artistic exchange between Hartung and González.
Roberta González and Hans Hartung divorce in 1956, after Hartung gets back together with Ana Eva Bergman, his first wife, and she herself an artist. Nonetheless, Roberta González remains on friendly terms with the Hartung-Bergman’s until the end of her days, as their ample correspondance conserved at the Fondation Hartung-Bergman attests.