French Hungarian abstract painter, Bia, 1922. – Paris, 2008.
French Hungarian abstract painter, Bia, 1922. – Paris, 2008.
Simon Hantai was a Hungarian-born French abstract painter best-known for developing his technique of pliage (folding). Hantai was temporarily blind at age 8, an experience that later influenced his unconventional artistic methods. He attended the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest where he studied from István Szőnyi. Later he moved to France with his wife in 1948. He was a member of the Roman Scholarship Winning Artists Group alongside with Judit Reigl, Lipót Böhm Poldi, Antal Bíró, and Sándor Zugor. In August, they spent ten days in Venice in the company of old and new friends during the 24th Biennial, where they took the opportunity to immerse themselves in the best of contemporary European art. Cézanne, Van Gogh and Picasso opened up entirely new horizons for Hantai, who absorbed as much of the new influences as he could. He was influenced by abstract expressionism and surrealism and artists like Jackson Pollock, Pierre Soulages, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Joan Miró.
About his Art
Enveloped in post-war France, Hantai further pursued his interests in avant-garde art and set out to reinvent painting. Hantai’s work of the 1950s drew from Surrealist and Art Brut techniques, in addition to biomorphic and geometric forms. His large-scale calligraphic paintings are based on the application of grattage and on highly saturated colors that often evoke the contemporaneous work of Judit Reigl. Most of Hantai's gestural paintings from this period feature a sensual rhythm of large undulating forms that preserves the pace and trajectory of his gestures.
The first-ever Hantai exhibition opened on 23 January 1953, and featured several works that would reappear at the current Retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, including La jeune mouche D. s’envole (“The young fly D. is flying away”, 1950), Elle seule doit y toucher (“She alone may touch it”, 1952), and Le Narcisse collectif (“Collective Narcissus”, 1952). Hantai – under the spell of new visual experiences, and particularly under the most emphatic influence of Max Ernst – unambiguously turns to new techniques. He trades his brush for a razor blade and other tools, applying the paint to the medium in several layers before scraping it back or wiping it away or, alternatively, pouring or splattering it on. He begins to work with collage, using pressed flowers, tree leaves, peacock and hummingbird feathers. Later on, he divides his paintings into cells and fills the resulting frames with quasi-organic fabrics and microscopic forms, achieving a veritable vortex of composition and color.
Pliage Method (Folding)
He utilized a variety of techniques, but it was between 1960 and 1962 when the artist developed the pliage method. Hantai would fold the canvas and cover it with paint before unfolding. Once unfolded, the canvas revealed blank areas intercepted by color. Commenting on his creative process, the artist stated: “...you could fill the folded canvas without knowing where the edge was. You don’t know where things stop.You could even go further, and paint with your eyes closed.”
Hantai followed the Lyrical Abstraction and Art Informel movements, which were open to personal expression and emotion. Hantai became a French citizen in 1966, the same year that he moved to the Fontainbleau Forest. He was interested in ideas of silence and absence, often retreating from society during the 1980s and 1990s. The reclusive artist once stated that he was asked to paint the ceiling of the Paris Opera House, but declined the commission to avoid the spotlight.
He was given retrospectives at the Centre Pompidou in 1976 and 2013. Hantai stopped working after he represented France at the 1984 Venice Biennale until he reemerged with a new series in 1998. His work has been collected extensively, including by notable institutions as the Musee National d’ Art Moderne in Paris, the Vatican Museum in Rome, the Ludwig Museum in Budapest and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Hantai works ara avalaible at the Kálmán Makláry Fine Arts.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS:
1954 Galerie l’Étoile Scellée, Paris
1956 Sexe-Prime. Hommage à Jean-Pierre Brisset, Galerie Kléber, Paris
1958 Souvenir de l’Avenir, Galerie Kléber, Paris
1959, 1961, 1962 Galerie Kléber, Paris
1965, 1968 Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1967 Peintures 1960-1967, Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1968 Peintures 1958-1968, Fondation Maeght, St. Paul-de-Vence (FR) (
1969 Études. Pour Pierre Reverdy, Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1970 Pour un mur. ARC, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris • ~ – Paintings 1960-1970, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
1971 Le pliage comme méthode. Regard sur dix années, Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1972 Aquarelles, Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1973 Musée d’Art et d’Industrie, Saint-Étienne (FR)
1974 Blancs I., Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris • Blancs II., Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1975 Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris • Galerie Véga, Liège • ~. Paintings and Watercolors 1971-1975, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York • Galerie du Fleuve, Bordeaux
1976 Galerie Mailliard, St. Paul-de-Vence (FR) • ~, Musée National d’Art Moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
1977 Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1978 abulas, Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek (USA)
1979 Galerie Ziegler, Zürich
1980 Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1981 l’Abbaye de Sénanque, Sénanque (FR) • Tabulas 1980-1981, CAPC, Entrepôt Lainé, Bordeaux (kat.)
1982 Tabulas 1974-1981, XL. Biennale di Venezia • Kasahara G., Oszaka (JP) • André Emmerich Gallery, New York • Tabulas lilas, Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
1983 Arca, Marseille
1984 Falten als Methode, Galerie M, Hannover
Fondation Maeght, St. Paul-de-Vence (FR)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Janus Pannonius Múzeum, Modern Képtár, Pécs
Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris
Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nice(FR)
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Toulon (FR)
M. Vaticano, Rome