Karl Hartung (*May 2, 1908 in Hamburg, †July 19, 1967 in Berlin) is one of the most important representatives of abstract sculpture in twentieth-century Germany. Karl Hartung was chair of the Deutscher Künstlerbund from 1955 to 1967.
Karl Hartung’s Artistic Career
The son of a carpenter began his training as a wood sculptor in Carl Briese’s workshops in 1923. From 1925 he continued his studies at the Staatliche Schulen für Angewandte Kunst in Hamburg under the sculptor Johann Michael Bossard.
In 1929 the artist received a grant from the Lichtwerk-Stiftung and moved to Paris. While there he studied anthroposophy (literally “human wisdom,” founded by Rudolf Steiner) intensively. In 1932 Hartung moved into a studio in Florence with the painter Ilse Quast, where he created works influenced by Michelangelo and Donatello.
Hartung’s Life between 1936 and 1945
Drei Jahre darauf heiratete das Künstlerpaar und zog schließlich 1936 nach Berlin. Mit der Rückkehr nach Deutschland wurde das Künstlerehepaar mit der Kunstzensur des NS-Regimes konfrontiert, der besonders Hartung mit heftiger Ablehnung gegenüberstand. Seine abstrakten Werke musste er ab diesem Zeitpunkt unter dem Deckmantel der Geheimhaltung schaffen.
In Berlin machte der Künstler 1939 Bekanntschaft mit Constantin Brancusi, Hans Arp und Henri Laurens. Diese und viele weitere Künstlerbekanntschaften prägten seine Arbeit nachhaltig.
1941 wurde Hartung zum Kriegsdienst eingezogen. In den folgenden Jahren konnte er sich kaum seiner Kunst widmen.
Das Leben nach dem Krieg für Karl Hartung
The artist couple married three years later and eventually moved to Berlin in 1936. Upon their return to Germany, they were confronted with the art censorship of the National Socialist regime, to which Hartung in particular was fiercely opposed. From this point on, he had to create his abstract works under the cover of secrecy.
The artist met Constantin Brancusi, Hans Arp and Henri Laurens in Berlin in 1939. They—and many other artist acquaintances—had a lasting influence on his work.
In 1941 Hartung was drafted for military service. In the following years he was hardly able to focus on his art.
subsequently appointed as a professor at the institution in 1951. After Karl Hofer’s death, he was appointed chair of the Deutscher Künstlerbund in 1955. In the same year the sculptor took part in documenta, which was considered the first comprehensive exhibition of modern art after the end of World War II.
In 1956 Hartung’s Große Kugelform was erected in Hanover. Measuring 189 cm tall, the sculpture was one of the first abstract sculptures in Germany to be erected as a public artwork as part of national reconstruction. In the same year he became a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.