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Hans Hartung was counted among the so-called École de Paris. What did this refer to?

A classification of this kind has more to do with a historian's understanding. It's not a "brand" that emerged out of a debate among artists. To cite a current example: the "Leipzig School" is a product of art journalism. Along with the École de Paris, there was also the so-called New York School of Abstract Expressionism at the time. The term "school" actually stems from the 19th century. It still applied in the case of the Düsseldorf School of painting, which was clearly defined by a location, an institution, and a teacher-student relationship.

What characterizes the style of the École de Paris, and who belongs to the movement?

The Paris School is not a style, but the result of innumerable encounters, meetings, and experiments in international dialogue: there are the Frenchmen Manessier, Mathieu, and Soulage, the North African Atlan, the Swiss Schneider, the Russian Poliakoff, and the German Hartung. These are all very individual styles that resulted in paintings and not reproductions of a reality that is no more than a thin film.

Hans Hartung, T 1989-N10, 1989,
©Stiftung Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman, Antibes

What can be said about Hans Hartung's particular style, his very own kind of abstraction?

His visual notations are reminiscent of Oriental calligraphy; the tension between the sign and the surrounding pictorial space of the canvas or paper corresponds to the concentration in Zen art.

To this day, Markus Lüpertz finds it particularly difficult that Hartung never assumed a political position in art.

Yes, and this is very interesting, because Hartung was not an unpolitical person. Joining the Foreign Legion to fight against Hitler was a consistently political step. But he never incorporated the visualization of a political position in his painting. Hartung the artist was free expression; Hartung the person was political involvement.

Hans Hartung, CP, 1935,
©Stiftung Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman, Antibes

Abstraction has also lost importance in places where it was once highly regarded - for instance as a front-line position against Socialist realism. Today, it's considered difficult to explain or sell. How do you approach this exhibition?

We show an overview of the decades and concentrate on a few select areas. We begin with Hartung's paper works from the '20s, which were made here in Leipzig. These works give you the feeling that they could have been made by Blinky Palermo. Hartung looked neither to the Dresden Expressionists nor to the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau. There's merely a strangely ambivalent relationship to Kandinsky, somewhere between rejection and a deep preference - perhaps that's his main model. And then we show Hans Hartung's photography, which has never really been present until now. It constitutes an autonomous chapter that is essential to an understanding of Hartung's work, because it's a kind of photography that was implemented conceptually for painting. The thin, dead branches, the games with light and shadow, the clouds that he repeatedly photographed were then transferred into drawings and, in a third step, into painting. This is why our exhibition is called Spontaneous Calculation. We won't be following a strict chain of evidence, but we want to make it clear that Hartung's impulsive brushstroke was conceptually motivated. And painting as concept ties Hartung's position to the current art discourse.

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