All material on these pages
© Harald de Bary
photographic pictures © Egbert Polski
Some pictures by Erika de Bary

Johann Konrad Eberlein about Harald de Bary

Harald de Bary in workshop

In the years after 1945 visual artists were faced with a problem: they had to address the horrors and consequences of the recent past in their work while at the same time searching for non-affirmative answers. Art became a goddess with broken wings. In painting, Art Informel was an attempt to find an appropriate response to the events that had shattered the world. First, however, the artists had to dispel the common misconception that abstraction was a decorative and harmless artistic exercise that could be mastered with minimum effort. Thanks to intensive promotion by art historians, art critics and exhibition organisers, combined with the favourable impact of political factors, abstract art was exalted to the single effective means of finding the absolute, the spiritual, and was thus declared the universal language of modernism. Only non-representational art seemed capable of helping artists come to terms with the present. For many people, it reflected the destruction they saw all around them, but at the same time it sometimes also contained iconographic symbols of reconstruction and a new beginning. For example, the artists sometimes incorporated objets trouvés or employed impasto technique. The fundamental theme of the post-war years, the search for "structure", was visualised in countless works, on appropriately textured surfaces or by means of serial repetition, and thus "explored".

Harald de Bary in workshop

Harald de Bary belongs to the younger generation of German Informel artists. He was born into an old aristocratic family in Frankfurt am Main in 1935 and spent his formative years in the city, which was totally destroyed during the war. It was there that he met Johannes Rath (1910-1973), a painter and a priest in the Christian Community, who introduced him to abstract painting. From 1954 to 1956, while still at school, he took lessons from Heinz Kreutz, a member of the Quadriga group of artists, and thus got to know one of the main centres of German Art Informel. From 1956 to 1960 he studied in Stuttgart under Heinrich Wildemann (1904-1964), one of the most eminent non-representational artists in post-war Germany. On completing his studies, de Bary began to detach himself from the style of painting favoured by these artists - without ever denying their influence - to the extent that he was able to integrate elements of it into his own visual aesthetic. He developed an extraordinarily broad spectrum of formal means of portrayal, which can be interpreted as the visualisation of thematic inspirations. Motifs from his childhood paintings, religious themes, decay and ruin, symbolised in some cases by the use of objets trouvés, are the hallmarks of his work, as are reminiscences of travels in Africa undertaken at the instigation of his mother, the writer Erica de Bary, who herself was a frequent visitor to the Dark Continent. Using the means of expression typical of Art Informel, he translated his personal experiences into a reflection on the age, and thus this Frankfurt Patrician became a chronicler who extracted the spiritual element, in the form of abstract painting, from the psychological influences in his immediate environment that shaped him as an individual. The impressions conjured up range from childlike, ironic, esoteric, religious and dominant to natural and charming. The social theme of "structures" is dealt with in the form of serial works, which include his many line drawings, but which in the form of "Schlagbilder" - images that take on an iconic nature - also explore dark, psychic dimensions.

Harald de Bary in workshop

De Bary's works are characterised by an extreme directness and always confront the observer with the unexpected. The artist stands out from the other representatives of German Art Informel through the spontaneity of his personal view and the easy, unforced manner in which he translates this into art. His work is a form of communication based on a position of complete independence and designed to reach the observer solely through its formulations,which their creator expresses in ever new artistic guises.

Johann Konrad Eberlein

Johann Konrad Eberlein has written a comprehensive book on the life and work of Harald de Bary including a complete list (at the time of publishing) of works: Harald de Bary - Leben und Werk / Life and Work