Iain Gale on exhibitions

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The Independent Online
Occasionally, an exhibition comes along which, while relatively small in scale, highlights a vital aspect of art history. Such is the case with the Tate's current exhibition in its lower galleries, exploring the art of Hans Hartung.

Taking as its focus some 100 works on paper, selected from the late artist's own collection at Antibes, the show demonstrates the development of Hartung's work from his precocious experiments as a teenager in Germany during the early years of this century, to the familiar abstractions made in Paris during the late 1950s.

It is a little-known fact that the large Tachiste oils which so engaged the Parisian post-war existentialist audience were in fact not quite as spontaneous as they might at first seem, but carefully based on the genuinely direct gesturial drawings seen here.

As an expatriate German who went on to take French nationality in 1960, Hartung was in a unique position to make the violent, slashed and spiralling marks which were interpreted as comments on the French experience of the Occupation and the daily revelations of Nazi atrocities, as the concentration camps yielded their grim evidence. With the well-selected group of works, supported by studio sketch books, documentary material, photos and a well written accompanying catalogue, this is an exemplary show of its type: the Tate's impressive curatorial scholarship at its best.

Tate Gallery, Millbank, London SW1 (0171-887 8000) to 20 Oct

Below: detail from `Untitled', ink on paper

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