by Hans Burkhardt
Signed and Numbered by the Artist in Pencil
approximately 4″ x 6.5″
Fair Market Value: $115.00
Hans Burkhardt was born December 20th, 1904 in Basel Switzerland. His artwork has gone through several important changes from early pastel nudes to Arshille Gorky’s influence and finally to his collage style skull paintings of the 1980s. Burkhardt truly carries Modernism to a new level of profound psychological character through the means of fragmentation and amazing depth of composition. However, to understand the reach that Burkhardt’s work has had on Post-Modern art, we must examine the artist’s varied and experimental career.
Hans’ early childhood was spent in an orphanage, apprenticing with a gardener for which he was never paid. In 1924, Hans wrote to his father who had moved to the U.S. and begged for his help. Six months afterward, he also immigrated to America and found work in the furniture factory where his father was employed. During his first year there he attended night classes at Copper Union, winning first prize ($20 gold coin) for period decoration. The following year, 1927, Burkhardt enrolled full time at Grand Central School of Art at 42nd St. This was a pivotal point in Burkhardt’s early work because it was here that he met his life long friend and mentor Arshille Gorky. Burkhardt was in Gorky’s life drawing class and learned about Cubism, Cezanne, Miro and “how to put paint on”. He also attended private classes on Saturdays at Gorky’s studio.
Burkhardt’s early pastels and chalk drawings showed his struggle with abstract motion and self generated line through their intuitive conception. He did no preliminary sketches for these types of work and just went straight for the end result. It has been said that these pieces are a synthesis of Matisse’s gestural line and Picasso’s conceptual organic construction. The female nudes usually appear in groups of three as if muses in a progression of style, rough to complex. They are rendered not as how they were seen but as they would be touched and felt. The line both describes the form as it breaks away from the body in schematized color and bold backgrounds. Burkhardt’s work resembled Gorky’s style in its fluid, vertical movement from abstract to figurative and through it’s sensuous, gestural color application. However, it becomes much more densely composed with intense and empathetic color. There is a clear difference between the draftsman-like work of 1934 and the much more Modern, experimental work in 1938.
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