Hans Hartung - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, May 31, 2024 | Phillips
  • “[My paintings] allow me to evoke atmospheric and cosmic tensions, the energies and forces that govern the universe. These are the vital, natural, and physical forces that I have always expressed in the gesture…I like the gesture to be definitive; I don’t want to have to come back to it, unless of course it didn’t come out quite right. From this improvisation on the canvas, this spontaneity comes the rhythm and the intensity.”
    — Hans Hartung

    Hans Hartung producing his art works during the late 1980s.
    Image: © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



    The Pursuit of Expression

    Hans Hartung, alongside Pierre Soulages, are among Picasso’s most admired abstract artists. His journey of painting goes beyond a mere career, but rather a migration of the soul. Born to the bustling scene of the early 20th century Germany, Hartung found himself at odds with the conventional German art scene. His brush, eager to transgress the boundaries of realism, was drawn to the abstract whispers of the future. While some of his contemporaries waded through the tangible, Hartung was conversing with the intangible, teasing out the emotional resonance locked within the free spirit of colours and forms.

    Paris, with the bustling scene of artistic expression, beckoned Hartung like a siren’s call. It was there he found his sanctuary, a place where the shackles of tradition slowly faded away and the canvas lay bare, ripe for his innovation. The city, a melting pot of avant-garde thoughts, welcomed Hartung’s iconoclastic visions. He started to absorb the rhythm of the contemporary spirits, the cadence of the Seine, and the whispers of the past echoing from the walls of Montparnasse. It was here, in the embrace of Paris, that Hartung’s idiom of abstraction began to sing.

    Yet, the world around him was descending into literal chaos. The Second World War ravaged the land, leaving scars both on the earth and in the hearts of those who witnessed its fury. Hartung was not spared. The war claimed his right leg, but in place of despair, he found a wellspring of fortitude. The physical loss became a catalyst for ingenuity. The limitations of his body forced him to explore new avenues of creation, pioneering techniques that would become hallmarks of his work.

    In the theatre of his studio, Hartung engaged in a ballet of gestures, replacing traditional brushes with the tools of an alchemist. Brooms and branches became his instruments, and the canvas, a vast ocean, surged with the currents of his sweeping motions. Paint, once a mere medium, was now an active participant in a performance that transcended the act of painting. It was a communion of artist and essence, and from this union, masterpieces were born. Hartung's work became an act of defiance, a declaration that art could thrive even in the face of adversity.


    Hans Hartung, T1989-U40, 1989
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong in June 2021 for HK$ 4,284,000
    Artwork: © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    The Symphony of T1989-U28


    In the twilight of his life, Hartung composed an eloquent display of imagery that resonated with the experiences of his journey in T1989-U28. The present lot was an affirmation to a lifetime spent in pursuit of a dialogue with the abstract. The painting, with its dramatic interplay of blue, beige, and black, clashing and conversing against a stark backdrop, was a manifestation of Hartung’s internal symphony. It was as if each stroke was laden with the weight of his biography—every hardship, every revelation, every moment of transcendence. The canvas feels incredibly alive with movement, each line and colour imbued with a sense of momentum that defies the stillness of the medium.


    Detail of the present lot


    The work is pulsed with a vitality that belied the artist’s years. The canvas is as much a palimpsest, a storied parchment telling tales of past and present, and archaeology, with each layer being a stratum of time and each colour a sediment of memory.

    Hartung’s approach to T1989-U28 was akin to a maestro to his orchestra—intuitive, impassioned, and precise. The gestural coils that catapulted across the canvas spoke of freedom, with the artist’s hand liberated from the constraints of convention. His use of impasto incorporated a textural depth, creating a topography of emotion where shadows and light moved in a dynamic dance. Echoing the restless spirit of its creator, here was a piece that defied the static - a work that seemed to be in perpetual motion.



    A Legacy Carved in Abstraction


    Hans Hartung’s oeuvre, particularly his late works like T1989-U28, stands as a monolith to the resilience of the human spirit. His art, born from the crucible of his experiences, was both a shelter and a battlefield, a place where he grappled with the forces of life and emerged triumphant. The paintings from his final years are replete with the vigour of an artist who, even in the face of physical decline, chose to engage with the act of creation with unwavering passion.

    His legacy is not confined to the canvases he left behind but is woven into the very fabric of abstract expressionism. Hartung's language of abstraction spoke to the ineffable, to the silent spaces between thoughts and feelings. He taught us that art could be a force of nature, as potent and as varied as the elements themselves.

    In T1989-U28, as in all his works, Hartung captured something elusive—a fleeting moment, a surge of emotion, a gust of wind. His paintings invite us to pause, to witness the beauty of the gestural and the grace of the impromptu. They challenge us to listen to the harmony of colours and to feel the rhythm of lines as they intertwine.



    Collector’s Digest


    Hans Hartung was the subject of a major retrospective in 2019-2020 mounted by the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, as well as a major show presented at the Kunstmuseum Bonn in 2018, which focused exclusively on the artist’s works from 1962-1989. His works are part of the collections of Paris’ Centre Pompidou and Musée d’Art Moderne, London’s Tate Modern, and New York’s MoMA, Guggenheim Museum of Art, and Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

    • Provenance

      Galerie Patrice Trigano, Paris
      Private Collection
      Christie's, Paris, 11 December 2007, lot 67
      Galleria Il Castello Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milan
      Private Collection, Europe
      Nahmad Contemporary, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and titled 'HARTUNG T1989-U28' on the overlap
acrylic on canvas
162 x 130 cm. (63 3/4 x 51 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1989, this work is registered in the archives of the Fondation Hartung Bergman under archive number T1989-U28, and is included in the artist's catalogue raisonné prepared by the Fondation Hartung Bergman.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$1,778,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2027

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 May 2024