Anna Eva Bergman
The work of Anna-Eva Bergman, Norwegian and French painter, is located outside the domain of art history as envisaged within a progressive concept based on the succession of artistic avant-gardes. The use of materials such as gold and/or silver leaf combined with that of painting and a commitment to the symbolic reveal a metaphysical concept of the landscape and puts it out of step with the major aesthetic challenges of the 20th century. Recognized during her lifetime, and nevertheless held in a marginal position, her work raises renewed interest, artistic as well as critical.
Following artistic studies in Oslo and in Vienna, Anna-Eva Bergman came to Paris in 1929 where she followed for some time André Lhote’s courses. She met Hans Hartung whom she married only a few months after their meeting. At the end of the 1920s and during the 1930s her work was made up essentially of drawings, watercolors and caricatures at the same time naïve, full of humor and a social or political critique sometimes fierce in the run-up to the war. She separated a first time from Hans Hartung in 1937, and then returned to live in Norway. The war years were to be a period of intellectual training for Bergman. She studied philosophy, literature and architectural laws, all the while carrying out work as an illustrator for publishing and press.
She took up painting again at the beginning of 1946 and towards the end of the 1940s carried out a large number of abstract works. Then, very quickly, she found the plastic language that is significant of her work, profoundly inspired by her Norwegian culture and her observation of the vast Nordic landscapes that she discovered while travelling to the north of Norway and to the Lofoten isles, on the frontier of Russia. In 1952 she rejoined Hartung in Paris whom she remarried in 1957.
From 1952 to 1987, she explored a singular pursuit and managed to create modern icons, images of absence, more and more marked by a form of incarnate minimalism that certain critics tie easily to the American painting of Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman, rather than the Ecole de Paris. The Galerie de France consecrated a first one-woman show to her work in 1958. The 1960s were to be those of development in her artistic career: exhibition in 1966 at the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo; in 1967, at the Galleria Civica in Turin; in 1969, she represented Norway in the Sao Paulo Biennale. A retrospective in 1977-1978 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris crowned her career however modest with regard to the uniqueness and the importance of the work.
It was not until several years after her death that her work began to arouse interest on its own, apart from its biographical and historical context. The creation of the Fondation Hans Hartung-Anna Eva Bergman in 1994 thus furnished exceptional material for research, rich with thousands of works and archives enabling the study of the impact and originality of her work. In addition to a number of monographic exhibitions organized in Norway, Germany, Sweden or in France (Musée Picasso in Antibes in 1995, Musée des Jacobins in Toulouse in 2000, etc.), exhibition curators such as Michael Tarentino (Event Horizon, Irish Museum of Modern Art, 1996) confronted her work to that of contemporary artists, pointing out its universal and timeless strength, and thus opening new perspectives through which one can discover her work today.