Swiss / American, 1904 - 1994
Hans Burkhardt is known for his meticulously structured and balanced paintings that blur the distinction between abstraction and representation. Burkhardt continually returned to depictions of war through abstract paintings dated from as early as World War II and as recently as the Gulf War in the early 1990s. A talented draughtsman and former student of Arshile Gorky, Burkhardt thought painting must have careful drawing as its basis: He always sketched in pencil, pastels, or ink before building up his heavily layered, fleshy surfaces in oil.
Hans Burkhardt was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1904, emigrating to New York in 1924. Upon his arrival to New York, he became associated with the pioneers of what was to later emerge as the New York School, Arshile Gorky and Willem De Kooning. He shared Gorky's studio between 1928 and 1937. In Los Angeles, he independently pursued his Abstract Expressionist style. Burkhardt's paintings spanned the range of human emotion, and while perhaps having painted the most provocative body of work on the subject of war, spanning the Spanish Civil War through his final works of the 1990s, his ouevre was balanced by works of celebration. While Los Angeles art in the 1960s was seduced by California Light, Hard Edge, Minimalism and Pop Art, Burkhardt, in typical independent manner, created what many now regard as some of the most powerful examples of Abstract Expressionism and is also well-known for his richly drawn pastel abstractions of the figure.
Hans Burkhardt's works have in recent years increasingly been exhibited in museum exhibitions nationally and internationally. He continues to attract significant critical attention from some of the leading art historians such as Peter Selz and Donald Kuspit. Burkhardt's works are included in the collections of such major museums as the British Museum, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, Palace of the Legion Honor, Santa Barbara Museum and Los Angeles County Museum. In 1922, Burkhardt was honored in New York by the American Academy of Art for his lifetime achievement.
He died in Los Angeles in 1994.