Hans Burkhardt

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Hans Burkhardt
Hans Burkhardt's untitled, 1950.JPG
Hans Burkhardt, Untitled, 1950. Oil on canvas
Born Hans Gustav Burkhardt
(1904-12-20)20 December 1904
Basel, Switzerland
Died 22 April 1994(1994-04-22) (aged 89)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality Swiss American
Education Cooper Union School of the Arts, 1928-29 Studies with Arshile Gorky At Grand Central School of Art, New York[1]
Known for Painting, Printmaker
Movement Abstract expressionism, cubist figure-still life, non objective painting
Awards Lifetime Achievement Award from American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1992

Hans Gustav Burkhardt (December 20, 1904 – April 22, 1994) was a Swiss American abstract expressionist.

Life and work[edit]

In 1924 he emigrated from Basel, Switzerland to New York.[2] He shared Arshile Gorky's studio from 1929 to 1936. When he moved to Los Angeles in 1937, Burkhardt represented the most significant bridge between New York and Los Angeles in that his paintings of the 1930s are part of the genesis of American abstract expressionism. He brought with him many of the nascent ideas of abstract and abstract expressionist painting that had been swirling among New York's artists, foremost among them, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning. Working independently in Los Angeles, Burkhardt's experimental investigative approach allowed him to parallel, and in many instances anticipate, the development of modern and contemporary art in New York and Europe.

Burkhardt's ability to evoke compelling works of human empathy has led several of today's preeminent art historians and critics to regard many of his paintings to be among the major works of our time. for example, that the art he created in response to war – beginning with the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s and continuing through World War II, Vietnam and Desert Storm – represents a body of work unprecedented in the history of art. In his drawings, primarily through the use of the figure, has reflected the same richness of expressionism and symbolism for which he is known in his paintings.

Hans Burkhardt retired as a professor emeritus from California State University, Northridge after teaching there for ten years. Hans was a friend of the American Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Tobey, who resided in Basel, Switzerland. Hans would often visit with Tobey in Basel.

His unique role as an important American painter is affirmed by the constant interest and continuing reassessment afforded his work. In 1992, Burkhardt was honored as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters' Jimmy Ernst Award.[3] Also in 1992, he established the Hans G. and Thordis W. Burkhardt Foundation.

In 1974, Hans Burkhardt said:

Stuart Davis used to come there and Willem de Kooning. He was very quiet. He was a house painter; I was a furniture finisher, but Arshile Gorky always had faith in Willem de Kooning and me. He said, "These two people I think are going to make it."[4]

Selected Major Collections[edit]


  1. ^ 1988 September 10- October 31. Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, INC. CA "Hans Burkhardt in Contrast" (Solo Exhibition, Copy from the original catalogo)
  2. ^ From 1925 to 1928 he attended the Cooper Union School of the Arts.
  3. ^ Wilson, William (May 19, 1992). "Honoring L.A.'s 'Secret' Art Pioneer: On the eve of receiving one of the art world's most prestigious awards, Hans Burkhardt looks back at decades of social conscience". LA Times. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Oral history interview with Hans Burkhardt, 1974 Nov. 25 by Paul J. Karlstrom http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-hans-burkhardt-12117


  • Marika Herskovic, American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s An Illustrated Survey, (New York School Press, 2003.) ISBN 0-9677994-1-4
  • Kuspit, Donald. Hans Burkhardt: Black Rain. (Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 1993.) ISBN 1-880566-10-9
  • Selz, Peter. Hans Burkhardt: Desert Storms. (Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 1991.) ISBN 1-880566-00-1
  • Bordeaux, Jean-Luc and Melina Wortz. Hans Burkhardt: Pastels, 50 Years of Figurative Expressionism. (Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 1984.)ISBN 1-880566-02-8
  • Hans Burkhardt: Paintings of the 1960s. (Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 2008.) ISBN 1-880566-17-6
  • California State University, Northridge. Hans Burkhardt: The California State University, Northridge Collection. 2008. ISBN 1-880566-16-8
  • Wolfe, Townsend. Hans Burkhardt: Drawings 1932 - 1989. (The Arkansas Arts Center, 1996.)
  • Selz, Peter. Hans Burkhardt: Pastelle, Eine Retrospektive Von 1938 - 1983. (Berlin: Galerie Hesselbach, 1993.) ISBN 1-880566-09-5
  • Hans Burkhardt: Paintings and Pastels 1988 - 1989 ISBN 1-880566-04-4
  • Kuspit, Donald. Catastrophe According to Hans Burkhardt. (Muhlenberg College, 1990.) ISBN 0-9625911-0-6
  • Hans Burkhardt: 1950 - 1960. (Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 1987.) ISBN 1-880566-02-8
  • Hans Burkhardt: The War Paintings, A Catalogue Raisonne. (Santa Susana Press, 1984.)
  • Aurelio de la Vega. Hans Burkhardt: Basel. (Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 1983.) ISBN 1-880566-01-X

External links[edit]