Hans Hartung was born in 1904 in Leipzig, Germany. He studied Philosophy and Art History at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig and in Dresden, then he moved to Munich to study with the painter Max Doerner. In 1932 he moved to Paris where he met Alexander Calder, Vasily Kandinsky, Joan Miró and Piet Mondrian; here he will exhibit his first works at the Salon des Indépendants. During the Second World War he joins the Foreign Legion and at the end of the war returns to Paris and assumes French citizenship. After a six year long inactivity, he participated in numerous group exhibitions with works characterized by wide coloured bands painted over with stripes and calligraphic signs. In the sixties he introduced three-dimensional elements. His first solo exhibition dates back to 1947 and inaugurates the Galerie Lydia Conti in Paris.
Between 1955 and 1964 he participated several times in important international events such as Documenta and Kassel. He received the Guggenheim International Prize in 1956 and the Grand Prize for painting at the Venice Biennale in 1960. In 1976 he published his memoirs (Autoportrait) and the following year he joined the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Also in 1977 he held the first exhibition of photographs at Cercle Noroit, Arras, while the Center Georges Pompidou organized one show dedicated to his engravings and lithographs, then exhibited in other locations in France during the following four years. In 1981, the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, the Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst in Munich and the Henie-Onstad Foundation in Oslo presented an extensive retrospective of his work after the winning of the first Oskar Kokoschka prize, awarded by the Austrian government.
In 1985 another retrospective was presented at the Grand Palais in Paris.
Hartung died in 1989 in Antibes, France.