This work will be included in the forthcoming Hans Hartung Catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Foundation Hans Hartung and Eva Bergman, Antibes.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s alongside painters like de Kooning, Pollock, Soulages and Wols, Hartung became one of the leading exponents of what was the American critic Harold Rosenberg described as 'Action Painting'. Although his art emerged from a European tradition, a large part of Hartung's aesthetic, like much of the art of this era in fact, reflected an Eastern sensibility towards the act of creation. In particular, what was central to Hartung's art was the notion of line as a graphic record of the painter's psyche. Responding to the belief that a line is a force which borrows its energy from he who traces it, each mark and motion of Hartung's brush should, he believed, encapsulate and express the very nature of the force and action that went into making it. 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 in making it, it would in fact be that experience.
This predominantly graphic feature of his painting, which he was to pursue throughout most of the 1950s and '60s, first became pronounced at a time when Hartung was painting and experimenting with paintings of black lines on China paper. This practice inevitably bestowed a strong calligraphic nature onto Hartung's dramatic use of line. T 1955-9 is a fusion of both solid, linear and spiralling form intuitively and energetically brushed onto the canvas in both an animated and gestural way. The frenetic energy of these marks however is held in check by what appears to be a carefully considered and co-ordinated composition. Held into a strong, almost formal unity, each vivid and highly active element in the painting both maintains its autonomy and corresponds with the very different visual characteristics of the others, combining on the canvas to create a seemingly fragile but deeply resonant balance.