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Hans Gustav Burkhardt

 (1904 - 1994)
Hans Gustav Burkhardt was active/lived in New York, California.  Hans Burkhardt is known for cubist figure-still life, non objective painting.

Hans Gustav Burkhardt

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Hans Gustav Burkhardt
Born in Basel, Switzerland on Dec. 20, 1904.  Arriving in NYC in 1924, Burkhardt became a student of Arshile Gorky at the Grand Central School of Arts and involved with a group of European émigrés who espoused Abstract Expressionism.  When he relocated to Los Angeles in 1937, he became a vital link between the avant garde movements on both coasts.

In 1991 the city of Los Angeles honored the artist by proclaiming Hans Burkhardt Week. He continued to live and work in Los Angeles until his demise on April 22, 1994.

Exh (solos): Stendahl Gallery (LA), 1939; LACMA, 1945; Calif. WC Society, 1945-47; Univ. of Oregon, 1947; UCLA, 1953; Pasadena Art Museum, 1957; Santa Barbara Museum, 1961, 1977; Fresno Art Center, 1962; Palm Springs Desert Museum, 1964; Laguna Beach AA, 1966; San Diego Museum, 1968; Portland (OR) Museum, 1990; CGA, 1994. In: Palm Springs, La Jolla, Long Beach, Downey, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Oakland Art Museums; CGA; Worcester (MA) Art Museum; Norton Simon Museum.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Journal of the Print World, Summer 1994; SF Examiner, 4-24-1994 (obituary).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Inc.
Biography photo for Hans Gustav Burkhardt
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 1937, arriving in Los Angeles, Burkhardt represented the most direct link to the New York School.  In Los Angeles, he independently pursued his Abstract Expressionist style, often anticipating the work of his contemporaries and later artists on the East Coast and in Europe.  His first solo exhibition in 1939 at the Stendahl Gallery was at the suggestion of Lorser Feitelson, who was responsible for Burkhardt's inclusion in numerous national exhibitions.  As Director of the L.A. Art Association, Feitelson chose Burkhardt to be the first artist afforded a solo show by the Association.  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.  The works of Hans Burkhardt have been represented by Jack Rutberg Fine Arts since 1973.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
1945 Los Angeles County Museum, California
1947 University of Oregon, Eugene
1951 Museo de Bellas Artes, Guadalajara, Mexico: Exhibicion de pinturas modernas
Comara Gallery, Los Angeles, California: El muerte, June 15 – July 5
Los Angeles Art Association
1953 University of Southern California, Los Angeles
1955 Occidental College, Los Angeles, California
1956 Instituto Allende, San Miguel Allende, Mexico: Recent Paintings, March 1 – March 18
Mount Saint Mary's College, Los Angeles, California: Soul of Mexico, Nov.25 – Dec. 15
1957 Pasadena Art Museum, California: Ten Year Retrospective, June 14 – July 14
1958 Instituto Allende, San Miguel Allende, Mexico
1959 Long Beach State College, California
1960 University of Southern California, Los Angeles, August 16 – September 30
1961-62 Thirty Year Retrospective circulated to:
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, April 11 – May 7, 1961
Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, June 10 – July 9, 1962
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, January 9 – February 4, 1962
1962 Fresno Art Center, California
Santa Monica Municipal Art Gallery, California
1964 Palm Springs Desert Museum, California
1965 San Fernando Valley State College, California, November 9 - November 29,
Freie Schule, Basel, Switzerland, 2 April – 17 April, 1965
1966 San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, California: Forty Year Retrospective
Laguna Beach Art Association, California
1967 The Fullerton Main Library, Pomona, California: Annual “Night in Fullerton”
1970 San Fernando Valley State College, California, Selection from the Hans Burkhardt Collection, November 4 – December 1, 1970
1972 Long Beach Museum of Art, California: Retrospective 1950-1972, July 16 – September 24, 1972
1974 Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art
1975 California State University, Northridge: Permanent Installation at Oviatt Library, December 5, 1975
1977 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, Linocuts and Pastels, March 5 - April 20
1978 Laguna Beach Museum of Art, California: Mark Tobey/Hans Burkhardt, September 12 – October 23
Los Angeles Mission College, California: Hans Burkhardt, November 21 – Dec. 15
1994 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California: Hans Burkhardt In Memoriam
Laguna Art Museum, California: Tribute to Hans Burkhardt
2012 College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita, The Expansive Vision of Hans Burkhardt, Drawings of an American Master, January 24 – March 1, 2012
2013 Royale Project: Contemporary art, Palm Desert, California, Hans Burkhardt nineteen sixty seven, February 15 – March 23, 2013

Selected Group Exhibitions:
1945 Los Angeles County Museum, Annual, purchase award: Artists of LA. and Vicinity.
1946 Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, First Annual Spring Exhibition, April 3 - May 5, 1946.
1947 Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.: Twentieth Biennial Exhibition.
1947-48 Art Institute of Chicago: Abstract and Surrealist American Art, November 6, 1947 – January 11, 1948
Modern Institute of Art, Beverly Hills: Modern Artists in Transition.
California Palace Legion of Honor, San Francisco: 2nd Annual Exhibition of Painting, November 19, 1947 – January 4, 1948
Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Artists of L.A. and Vicinity, May 15 – June 30, 1948
1949 Denver Art Museum, Colorado: Annual Exhibition of Western Art.
1950 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: American Painting Today.
California State Fair
1951 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.: 22nd Biennial.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: Contemporary American Painters
1952 Chicago Art Institute
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: Annual
Los Angeles County Museum
1953 Denver Art Museum, Colorado
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
California State Fair, Sacramento
1954 Los Angeles County Museum, Annual Exhibition of Artists of Los Angeles and Vicinity, May 14 – June 27
Los Angeles County Museum, Fall Rental Gallery, Prints and Drawings, October 24 – November 14
California State Fair, Sacramento, purchase award
1958 Long Beach Museum, California: Art of Southern California II - Paintings,
circulated to:
Seattle Art Museum, Washington
Portland Art Museum, Oregon
University of Nebraska Art Galleries
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Madison Square Garden, New York: Art: USA.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California: Second Pacific Coast Biennial, purchase award, September 10 – October 13
1961 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California: Two Hundred Years of American Painting.
1964 Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland
Long Beach Museum of Art, California: Art of Southern California: Early Moderns
1967 Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas
1974 Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California:
Nine Senior Southern California Painters - Peter Krasnow, Nicholas Brigante, Lorser Feitelson, John McLaughlin, Florence Arnold, Helen Lunderberg, Emerson Woelffer, Han Burkhardt.
1996 The British Museum: Recent Acquisitions.
2002 Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Kindness of Friends A Selection of Gifts of Drawings and Prints: 1912-2001, December 13, 2001- April 7, 2002
2003 Portland Art Museum, By Hand: American Drawings from the Permanent Collection.
2004 Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, From Picasso to Thiebaud: Modern & Contemporary Art, February 18 – June 20, 2004.
2008 The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina,
Modern American Paintings, From the Bequest of Fannie and Alan Leslie,
Ongoing Exhibition through 2008.
2009-10 The Philadelphia Museum of Art., Arshile Gorky: In Context, October 21, 2009 - January 10, 2010.
2012 Pasadena Museum of California Art, L.A. Raw: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy, January 22 – May 20,2012

1945 Los Angeles County Museum, Annual Exhibition, Purchase Award, Oil
1951 Terry Art Institute, Miami, Cash Award
1954 Los Angeles County Museum, Second Prize, Modern Oil
California State Fair & Exposition, First Prize, Modern Oil
1955 Chaffey Community Art Association, Cash Award
1957 Los Angeles County Museum, Junior Art Council Prize
Los Angles All-City Art Festival, Purchase Prize, Oil
California State Fair & Expo, Cash Award, Pastel
1958 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Second Annual Pacific Coast Biennial,
Ala Story Purchase Award
1960 Los Angeles All-City Art Festival, First Purchase Award, Watercolor
California Watercolor Society, Merchandise Award
1961 California All-City Art Festival, First Purchase Award, Oil
1962 California State Fair & Exposition, Second Prize, Modern Oil
1963 California Watercolor Society, Purchase Award
1969 Academia Tomasso Campanella, Rome
International Academy of Arts, Silver Medal
1991 Citation from Mayor Tom Bradley, City of Los Angeles proclaiming Hans Burkhardt Week, October 11-17
1992 American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters, Jimmy Ernst Award in
Art for Lifetime Achievement
LA Artcore, 4th Annual Award in Art

Selected Public Collections:
Achenbach Foundation, Palace Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California
Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock
Art Collection of the State of California
British Museum, London, England
Hans Burkhardt Center for the Arts and Humanities, California State University,
Northridge, CA
Charles E. Craig Jr. Multicultural Art Collection, Louisiana State University Museum of Art, Baton Rouge
Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Downey Art Museum, Downey, California
Emerson Gallery, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Los Angeles
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Hirshhorn Collection, Washington, D.C.
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska
Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland
Laguna Art Museum, California
La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, California
Lancaster Museum of Art and History, California
Long Beach Museum of Art, California
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California
Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum, Utah State University, Logan
North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina
Norton Museum of Art, W. Palm Beach, FL
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California
Orange County Museum, Newport Beach, California
Oakland Museum, Oakland, California
Palm Springs Desert Museum, California
Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA
Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona
Portland Museum of Art, Maine
Portland Museum of Art, Oregon
San Diego Museum of Art, California
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California
Skirball Cultural Center and Museum, Los Angeles
The Speed Art Museum, Kentucky
Tamarind Institute, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, New York
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts
The Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries
Biography photo for Hans Gustav Burkhardt

Hans Burkhardt (1904-1994)

An extremely prolific artist, Hans Burkhardt remained relatively silent in the Los Angeles art world, choosing to let his artworks express his feelings and thoughts.  A forerunner of abstracted, expressionist painting, particularly amid the more conservative Los Angeles figurative painters in the late 1930s, Burkhardt nonetheless based his experimentation on a solid artistic foundation.  The order and balance in Burkhardt's compositions derive from his training as a draughtsman and his belief in the importance of underpinning painting with strong drawing skills.  Following the advice of his mentor, Arshile Gorky, who had often directed the young artist, "painting is not more than drawing with paint," Burkhardt always created sketches in pencil, pastel, or ink before beginning a canvas in oil.  As a result, his compositions exhibit a strong sense of structure and design, even in their abstraction.

Burkhardt drew motifs from nature, internalizing them and creating a highly personal, abstract realization of the scene or event.  In a 1974 interview for the Archives of American Art, the artist explained that for him paintings evolve out of emotions and ideas—a process not unlike the Surrealist's conception of the genesis of creative thought. Burkhardt recognized associations to things and people in nature.  In his canvases, objects became symbols (for example, two nails transformed into lovers under a moonlit sky.)  The symbolic and expressive content of these motifs derives from the artist's deeply felt humanism and compassion.

Born in 1904, in Basel, Switzerland, Burkhardt grew up in an orphanage.  In 1924 he wrote to his father, who had immigrated to the U.S., and that same year he immigrated to America, finding work in the furniture factory where his father was employed.  During the evenings Burkhardt studied art at Cooper Union.  After a year at Cooper Union, in 1928, Burkhardt left to attend the new Grand Central School of Art, where he met Arshile Gorky.  At this time, Gorky only had four pupils, one of whom was Willem de Kooning.  Burkhardt and his mentor Gorky formed a fast friendship and the two later shared a studio for almost a decade.  To support himself and his family during the lean Depression years, Burkhardt continued to work as a furniture finisher.  After a nasty battle with his ex-wife, Burkhardt relocated to Southern California in 1937.  There he worked for a defense plant during World War II and for MGM studios. 

During this time, Burkhardt's thoughts focused heavily on the ongoing war and he created numerous anti-war paintings and works dealing with the horror of the concentration camps, which might have reminded Burkhardt of his time spent as youth in the city ward.  Throughout his career, the artist's commitment to decrying the evils of war continued, with paintings devoted to the Korean War, Vietnam, and even 1991's Desert Storm.  Frequently missiles and bombs, bloodied bodies, and ravaged landscapes referenced the "collateral damage" that results from war.  Burkhardt's numerous anti-war paintings are among his most critically celebrated works. However, following the war, the artist's outlook changed, and a new optimism engendered paintings that visualized the "dream of one world." 

These years also brought Burkhardt considerable acclaim.  Despite the lack of a cohesive artistic community (the artist lamented the close knit art circle he left behind in New York), he became involved with several community arts organizations in California. One such group was Artist's Equity, an organization that gathered under the premise of uniting artists across the United States.  He also came into contact with a group of transplanted surrealists, such as Man Ray, Knud Merrild, and Eugene Berman. These artists no doubt encouraged Burkhardt's expressive sensibilities.  During this period, the artist began to gain commercial support. He received his first one-man exhibition in 1939 at the Stendahl Gallery in Los Angeles, an event that was followed by yearly solo shows at the Circle Gallery, Los Angeles from 1940-1945.  In 1945, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art gave him a purchase award for his contribution to the museum's annual exhibition.

With the resources gleaned from years of working in and owning his own furniture manufacturing business, in 1948 Burkhardt left for Mexico for two years to paint.  There, inspired by the poverty that abounded and the religious landscape of churches and graveyards, he created "body and soul" paintings. Burkhardt explained how he adopted motifs from the outside world and translated them into his personal expressive idiom: "I didn't want to paint the churches the way they were.  I created my own churches in their style." (1)

Although Burkhardt never graduated from college, on the recommendation of his friend Frances de Erdely, he was asked to teach art classes at California State University at Long Beach in 1958.  From then on Burkhardt made a significant impact on developing California artists.  He held regular teaching positions at University of Southern California, University of California Los Angeles, Otis College of Art and Design, and California State University at Northridge, among others.

In the late 1960s, Burkhardt's paintings took on more built up surfaces, creating the effects of scarring and wounding.  He also began to add man-made objects to his canvases, fragments from the outside world.  Some of these works, which included embedded skulls, were eloquent assemblages that called for social and political reform. In the seventies and eighties he had several one man shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1976-77 and at the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Maine in 1985. After a long, fruitful career, Burkhardt died in Los Angeles in 1994.

Throughout his career, Burkhardt remained a curious hybrid—a representational abstract painter, a draughtsman, and a committed humanist.  His work appears in the collections of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; the British Museum, London; the Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Kunstmuseum, Basel; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; and the Portland Museum of Art, Oregon.

1. Interview with Hans Burkhardt Conducted by Paul J. Karlstrom at the Artist's home in Los Angeles, CA, November 25, 1974 (Smithsonian Archives of American Art).

Biography from Caldwell Gallery Hudson
Biography photo for Hans Gustav Burkhardt
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 Street. 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.

In 1939, Burkhardt held his first one-man show at the Stendhal Gallery in Los Angeles, set up by the artist Lorser Feitelson. After his move out West, Burkhardt never returned permanently to New York and would no longer be recognized by the East Coast. Throughout the '50s and '60s, Burkhardt lived in virtual isolation from the prominent art world of New York and Europe. At this point his work became more reflective of current political strife, in particular the Spanish Civil War. In 1944 Burkhardt showed "War - Agony of Death" at the Circle Gallery, where it was attacked by a woman with a cane. His original interest in war and death was reinvented into the theme of tragic isolation in life.

The final realization of his ideas emerged in his skull paintings, begun in the 1960s. A new aesthetic of beauty arose though the surface drama of skulls in his collage work used to literalize the power of gesture. The morbidity of the relief work reveals density with physiognomic power.

Surprised by Gorky's death in 1948, Burkhardt paints three versions of "The Burial of Gorky" in the following two years, which are then shown at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. He later exhibited "The Studio of Gorky" at the Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC) and received strong critical acclaim. However, he rejected several offers of representation from galleries in New York, preferring to exhibit on his own. Burkhardt remained quite active as he took on a full time position teaching at the University of Southern California in 1959, three years after a 10 year retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum.

"Last Judgment, Dark Shadows - The Burial of my Enemies" was completed in 1966 and was Burkhardt's first time using actual skulls in his paintings. His work evolved around themes of trying to break away from regiment and hope for peace. Another painting revolving around World War II, entitled "Horror Never Happens Again", shows a circular border or arms and hands around an iridescent figure which represents protection and safety. Burkhardt was highly praised for his mature work both in ArtNews and by critic Hilton Kramer in The New York Times.

By the 1980s, Burkhardt's work had reached its fullest potential, turning from images of imbalance to tragedy. As the post-painterly Abstract Expressionist artists sought to expel this tragedy, Burkhardt embraced it. He continues to live and work in California while making occasional trips to Guadalajara, Mexico. Burkhardt's delve into the depths of human tragedy produces beauty and understanding unparalleled in Post-Modern art.

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About  Hans Gustav Burkhardt

Born:  1904 - Basel, Switzerland
Died:   1994 - Los Angeles, California
Known for:  cubist figure-still life, non objective painting

Essays referring to
Hans Gustav Burkhardt

Abstract Expressionism