b. 1904, Basel, Switzerland
d. 1994, Los Angeles, California
Born in Switzerland at the beginning of the twentieth century, Hans Burkhardt endured a tumultuous childhood. When he was three years old, his father moved to the United States to seek work. Three years later, Burkhardt's mother died, and he and his sister were sent to an orphanage. Growing up in the orphanage, Burkhardt would frequently visit the museum in Basel, teaching himself how to paint by copying the masterpieces hanging there. As a young man, Burkhardt moved to the United States, where he was reunited with his father. He found work in the decorating department of a furniture factory, but he would spend his nights and weekends attending art classes at Cooper Union and at the Grand Central School of Art. It was at the latter institution that Burkhardt met Arshile Gorky, who offered to give Burkhardt private lessons.
In 1937 Burkhardt moved to Los Angeles, becoming one of the critical modernists of the West Coast. His unique oeuvre blends aspects of Abstract Expressionism and Cubism, but doesn’t adhere to any tenets: as he once said, "I don't make a painting to please people, I make it to express something. If people like it, it's fine; if they don't like it, it's just too damn bad."
During his lifetime, Burkhardt received solo shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1976–1977), and the Portland Art Museum, Maine (1985). His work appears in the collections of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; the British Museum, London; the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Kunstmuseum, Basel; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Portland Museum of Art, Oregon.