Anna-Eva Bergman was born in Stockholm on 29 May 1909 to a Swedish father and Norwegian mother. Her childhood was a chaotic one, and she was only six months old when her parents separated. Her mother entrusted her to her maternal aunts in Norway, with whom she lived until 1925. A.-E. Bergman showed a very early talent for drawing. With her bold strokes and great sense of observation, she began drawing unusual figures in burlesque situations. Her gift led her to start studying at the age of sixteen at the School of Applied Arts in Oslo, then the next year at the Academy of Fine Arts. Much of her work was influenced by Edvard Munch at the time, and she painted landscapes inspired by Symbolism.
In 1928, A.-E. Bergman moved with her mother to Austria, where the experimental teaching methods of Professor Steinhof at the Kunstgewerbeschule marked her deeply. This was probably when she painted her first abstract paintings, which have since been lost. After three months in Austria, she fell dangerously ill and was hospitalised for serious digestive disorders, which she would suffer from her whole life. After her convalescence on the Côte d’Azur, she moved to Paris in April 1929 to study at André Lothe’s academy, then at the Académie Scandinave, where she met the young German painter Hans Hartung, whom she married six months later, thus acquiring German citizenship. During this time, her style was greatly influenced by the magic realism of artists from the German school Neue Sachlichkeit, such as Georg Gross and Otto Dix. However, she approached characters from a more ironical than critical angle, playfully observing the foibles of her contemporaries – middle-class people, couples, families, children, old people, and tourists. Some of her drawings, presented in 1932 at her first solo exhibition at the Heinrich Kühl Gallery in Dresden, then in Norway at the famous Blomqvist Gallery in Oslo, were published in Viennese periodicals.