Anna-Eva Bergman. A Graphic Universe
13 November 2015–14 August 2016
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The rhythms, lines, fields, and volumes of Anna-Eva Bergman’s art are inspired by nature. Her simple, geometric, and natural forms conjure up a sense of the poetical and the spiritual. The exhibition has been set up according to Bergman’s own categorization in her note «Les Themes».
Bergman used metal foils to create an illusion of light in her prints and paintings. By glazing the surfaces at various levels and using a palette knife to scrape the surface, she produced vivid effects of depth and relief. She also polished the foils in order to make the pictures flicker with a «magic» light.
Traces of Norway
Even though the Norwegian artist Anna-Eva Bergman (1909–1987) spent most of her life in France, Norway played an important role in her art. Impressions from two journeys to Northern Norway in the summers of 1950 and 1964 had a lasting influence on her prints and paintings. From the deck of the Hurtigruten coastal steamer, she observed the rugged Northern Norwegian nature and its deep fjords, steep mountains, vast ocean waters, midnight sun, and endless horizon. She became particularly fascinated by the Arctic light. Her husband, the German-French painter Hans Hartung (1904–1989), accompanied her on the second journey. Photographs from the trips underlay the creation of many of her works.
Anna-Eva Bergman met Hans Hartung in Paris during spring 1929, when she studied at the academy of the painter André Lhote. The couple married in the autumn of the same year. During the interwar period, Bergman and her husband kept company with the avant-garde artists Joan Miró, Vassily Kandinsky, and Piet Mondrian in Paris. The couple divorced in 1938, but their love remained, and they reunited in 1952. From then on they were once again part of the Parisian art scene with artist friends such as Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Alexander Calder, and Pierre Soulages. On several occasions during the 1960s, Bergman met the American artist Mark Rothko in both Paris and New York. She exhibited in Europe and participated in major group exhibitions worldwide. Her first major solo exhibition in Norway took place at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter outside of Oslo in 1979.
The Gift from Antibes
Bergman and Hartung purchased a large estate in Antibes, where they built a functionalist villa and two studios that were completed in 1973. Today the estate houses a foundation that sees to the conservation and storage of the couple’s artwork and archives.
The Fondation Hartung Bergman has donated 154 graphic works by Anna-Eva Bergman to the National Museum.
Bergman’s art underwent a transformation in the early 1950s, as her pictures became more abstract. She cultivated a formal idiom that focused on a handful of archetypal motifs she dubbed Les Themes, or «The Themes»: rocks, celestial bodies, mountains, fjords, horizons, boats, and menhirs (pre-historic standing stones).
Behind every picture lay exact calculations and pictorial constructions, and her imagery developed almost scientifically. She reduced the forms, employed geometric shapes, and repeated her preferred motifs with different variations. Underlying the compositions is an understanding of the golden ratio as a principle of construction, which she used to support a universal validity and an expression of harmony and stability.
From the initial lithographs in 1952 and until her death in 1987, Bergman worked with a variety of intaglio, relief, and planographic techniques. Much of her graphic output consists of woodcuts and lithographs, but she also worked with etching, copperplate, drypoint, and aquatint techniques. She repeated the archetypical forms of Les Themes again and again in both paintings and prints. Her explorations of printing techniques and their diverse styles, as well as her interest in the materials, techniques, and textures of the various surfaces, are modernist features of Bergman’s artistic career.
In collaboration with the Fondation Hartung Bergman, the National Museum will publish a catalogue raisonné of Bergman’s graphic production.
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