To be included in the forthcoming Hans Hartung Catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Fondation Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman, Antibes.
T1949-32 is a lyrical and energetic work from the height of Hans Hartung's career, showcasing his own unique, calligraphic, abstract style. In T1949-32 Hartung unites solid, linear and spiralling forms, rendering them on canvas with animated and impulsive brush marks. The frenetic energy of these gestures is expertly balanced by a carefully considered and co-ordinated composition, marrying horizontal and vertical lines of varying thickness and tone of colour. As Hartung has elaborated, 'before the blank canvas I feel the need to make a certain spot, a certain colour, or a mark. The first marks lead to others. Colours lead to signs which in turn suggest marks whose roles might be to support or to contradict what already exists as much as to stabilize the painting. In any case, I act at first with complete liberty. It is the work, as it goes along, that limits my choices' (H. Hartung quoted in R. Borderier, L'Art et la manière: Hartung ou l'improvisation travaillée, in Art d'Aujourdhui, March-April 1954, pp. 44-45).
Hartung was by nature an abstract expressionist painter. As early as 1922 he had made his first foray into pictorial abstraction with a remarkable series of brightly coloured watercolours completed in a manner akin to those works by Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky. It was not until after a long break from painting however, enforced by the deprivations he had suffered during the Second World War, that Hartung began to paint in a deliberate and progressively abstract way. Returning to his father-in-law Julio Gonzélez's studio in Arcueil, Hartung began to make paintings in which the gestural act of painting became indivisible from the resultant work itself. For Hartung, the line was a means of distilling the raw energy of the person onto canvas. As an interaction between action and material and between man and canvas, painting in this way would not become just a record or expression of the artist's psychological experience, it would in fact become that experience. As the artist explained, 'the graphic symbol approaches ever more closely to the spiritual essence of man' (H. Hartung quoted in Painting in the Country of the Good Life, Hans Hartung: A Vision into Abstraction 1923-1964, exh. cat., Fischer Fine Art, London, 1981, p. 2).
In the late forties, alongside artists like Pierre Soulages, Jackson Pollock and Wols, Hartung became one of the leading exponents of what was then known as Action Painting or Art Informel in Europe. Like much of the art of this era, a large part of Hartung's aesthetic can be seen to reflect an Eastern sensibility towards the act of creation. In particular, the use of line in Hartung's art, acts as a graphic record of the painter's psyche. This predilection for the line, which he was to pursue throughout most of the 1950s and 1960s, is perhaps the most pronounced in paintings of the late 1940s like T1949-32. At this time, Hartung was painting and experimenting with paintings of black lines on China paper - works that inevitably brought out a strong calligraphic style. As a result, in T1949-32 the work pulsates with a certain gothic energy, demonstrating Hartung's enviable mastery of his materials. It also reflects Hartung's automatic approach to painting, embracing the spontaneous and opportune mark in the same way that distinguishes oriental calligraphy.