Hermann Bartels (1928 - 1989)

The oeuvre of Hermann Bartels, who never attended an art academy, but instead enrolled only in private art lessons, displays an extraordinarily wide scope. The work’s development spans from stain- and blotch-paintings, monochromes aligned with the ZERO movement, to angle-montage and ‘Streifenüberspannung’ (a unique technique, by which colourful strips were overlaid and stretched onto a primed, white canvas).

Colour and its materiality played a central role throughout his work, a focus he shared with many of his contemporary artists. This fact is made manifest in the impasto application of large quantities of paint, as well as the varying combination of colourful bases.  

Towards the end of the 50s, influenced by French ‘art informel’, Bartels isolated the blotch in his pictures and made it an archetype, a primal form consisting of one sole, great blotch. He applied paint in thick, impasto layers, additionally scraping at it with a spatula, the attention to texture performing a decided shift towards the monochrome. Typically, the resin-based paints where distributed from left to right over a canvas of upright format, whereby vertically arranged ridge-like structures emerge on the edges, while the space between opens up into a smooth plain.

In the 7th evening exhibition held by the ZERO-group in what was Otto Piene’s atelier at the time, Bartels was represented with an informal work that carried the title No. 92. Further, he contributed a short text to the simultaneously published Magazine ZERO 1.

1959/60 was the creation of his increasingly monochrome scrape-paintings, held primarily in black and white. Frequently, his informal earlier pictures double as painting surfaces for these new works. Eventually he moved to Düsseldorf in 1960, so as to be closer to the group around Heinz Mack, Günter Uecker and Piene. During this time, he participated in several important ZERO exhibits.

However, as early as 1967, Bartels moved on from monochromes and turned to his ‘parallel montages’. According to the artist himself, the move from the sculpturally circumscribed areas to the multi-phase colourful, ‘stripe-paintings’, in which tonal gradation or simultaneous contrasts and complements are juxtaposed, presents a natural evolution.

From the second half of the 70s onwards, Bartels concentrates progressively on painting, creating his combines and in the late 80s, his complexes.




1928 Born in Riesenburg, West Prussia


1946 - 48 Apprenticeship as wood turner, after apprenticeship as bookseller


Private Art Education by the late impressionistic artist Kurt Bernecker, courses at the Kunstakademie Hamburg by Kurt Kranz


1952 Moved to Frankfurt on the Main 


1955-65 White based „Fleckenbilder“


1958 Meets Arnulf Rainer 


Short essay in the issue ZERO 1


1959 – 63 Monochrome „Spachtelbilder“, mostly in black or white


1960 Moved to Düsseldorf


1961 Journey to the netherlands, contact with the group nul


1963 – 65 „Farbstreifen“


from 1967 „Parallel-Montagen“


from 1977 „Freiwinklige Combines“


from 1986 „Complexes“


1989 Died in Düsseldorf

1955 Represented by the Zimmergalerie Franck, in contact with the artist group  Quadriga


1957 Galerie l’Entracte, Lausanne


1958 Group show with Lothar Quinte in the Wiener Galerie St. Stephan


           Participation at the 7th evening exhibition in Otto Pienes atelier in Düsseldorf


1960 Group show, Monochrome Malerei, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen


1961 dato-Galerie, Frankfurt am Main


1966 Group show, Weiss auf Weiss, Kunsthalle Bern


1972 Halfmannshof, Gelsenkirchen


1994 Galerie Schoeller, Düsseldorf


2003 Märkische Museum, Witten/Ruhr


2010 Hermann Bartels – Malerei zwischen Fläche und Raum, Museum für Konkrete Kunst Ingolstadt


2017 Le socle du monde Biennale, Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark