Hans Hartung (1904-1989) was a French-German artist famed for his gestural, abstract style of painting.

Born and raised in Germany, Hartung studied art in Dresden, copying old master paintings to perfect their controlled techniques. However, upon seeing the emerging Modernist works of French and Spanish painters at the 1926 Internationale Kunstaussllenung in Dresden, Hartung’s eyes were opened to a new way of painting, and he quickly moved to Paris to pursue these new techniques.

With a new approach informed by French cubism, Hartung returned to Germany to sell paintings when he was arrested by the Nazis in 1933. At that time, cubism was considered “degenerative” and incompatible with the Nazi ideals of art. Managing to flee Germany, Hartung returned and found refuge in Paris, where he dedicated himself to abstraction. 

Hartung continued to paint, despite serving for the French army and becoming a decorated war soldier. By the 1950’s, Hartung had gained global recognition for his unique style of gestural painting. His artworks were often characterized by mainly monochromatic configurations of long rhythmic brushstrokes or scratches.

In 1960 Hartung was awarded the International Grad Prixe at the Venice Biennale, and is still noted as a major influence for many American painters of the 60’s, particularly in the Lyrical Abstraction movement.

In anticipating of hosting the 1972 summer Olympics, Germany sought to create a positive image for itself. As Arnold Schwarzenegger described in his memoir "Holding the Olympic Games in Munich was meant to symbolize West Germany's transformation and reemergence in to the community of nations as a modern democratic power". The Olympic committee commissioned several international artists, including Josef Albers, David Hockney, Pierre Soulages, and Max Bill amongst others, to design promotional posters to position the event as “The Happy Games”.

Artists were free to chose their themes, but also encouraged to incorporate Olympics ideals into their works. This began a long and continuing tradition of commissioning beautiful art works to celebrate the Olympic games. (We have handled several examples of the Montreal Olympic posters from 1976, examples can be seen here and here). Hartung’s participation in this commissions represented an important reconciliation with his home country, and their rejection of the past Nazi rule which rejection and condemned his art. 

Unfortunately, the games were largely overshadowed by the tragic “Munich Massacre”, during which a band of Palestinian terrorists held hostage, and eventually killed, 11 Israeli athletes, coaches, and officials.

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Serigraph poster

Signed by the artist

German, 1972

40”H 25"W (work)

Very good condition.


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