English printmaker, draughtsman and painter, active in France and the USA. He came from a family of painters, including george Hayter, but started his career by studying chemistry and geology at King’s College, London (1917–21). After graduating he worked in the Persian Gulf for several years for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. In 1926 he settled in Paris, where he enrolled at the Académie Julian and studied burin engraving privately with the Polish artist Joseph Hecht (1891–1951), who also taught Anthony Gross. Hayter began to take his own pupils in 1927 and in 1933 named his workshop Atelier 17, after the street number of his studio in the Rue Campagne-Première. The hallmark of the workshop was its egalitarian structure, breaking sharply with the traditional French engraving studios by insisting on a cooperative approach to labour and technical discoveries. In 1929 Hayter was introduced to Surrealism by Yves Tanguy and André Masson, who with other Surrealists worked with Hayter at Atelier 17. The often violent imagery of Hayter’s Surrealist period was stimulated in part by his passionate response to the Spanish Civil War (e.g. Combat, 1936; New York, Brooklyn Mus.) and to the rise of Fascism. He organized portfolios of prints to raise funds for the Spanish cause, including Solidarité (Paris, 1938), a portfolio of seven prints, one of them by Picasso. Hayter exhibited frequently with the Surrealists during the 1930s, with works such as Rape of Lucretia (1934; see Black and Moorhead, no. 86), but left the movement when Paul Eluard was expelled. Eluard’s poem Facile Proie (1939) was written in response to a set of Hayter’s engravings. Other writers with whom Hayter collaborated in this way included Samuel Beckett and Georges Hugnet.
Hayter joined the exile of the Parisian avant-garde in 1939, moving with his second wife, the American sculptor Helen Phillips (b 1913), to New York. He ran a course entitled ‘Atelier 17’ at the New School for Social Research until 1945, when he opened the workshop independently in Greenwich Village, at 41 East 8th Street. Important figures in the emerging New York School associated with Hayter included Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, William Baziotes and David Smith. Critics considered Hayter himself to be a member of the new school. His theoretical writings on automatism and the expressive abstraction of his own work were a formative influence on Pollock and others. The touring exhibition Hayter and Studio 17, organized in 1944 by MOMA, New York, attracted more students to Atelier 17, including many artists who later ran printmaking departments in the expanded post-war American universities. Hayter’s first book, New Ways of Gravure (1949), became an indispensable text for printmakers.
In the 1930s Hayter had concentrated his technical experimentation on adapting the traditional black-and-white techniques of etching and engraving to the aesthetic concerns of modern art, for example the collage potential of soft-ground etching. From the 1940s his primary technical preoccupation was with colour printing. In San Francisco, where he taught a summer course in 1940, he made his first screenprint, Maternity (1940; see Black and Moorhead, no. 132), and later used screens to apply inks to the etching plate, enabling him to print in various colours simultaneously. Cinq Personnages (1946; see Black and Moorhead, no. 168) is credited as the first print in the history of the medium where this is achieved. In the 1950s, when he reopened the workshop in Paris at 278 Rue Vaugiraud, Hayter explored an entirely different method of colour etching, in which inks of contrasting viscosities were applied with rollers to a plate etched to different levels. This technique suited the increasingly Tachist look of his prints, in which he explored chance effects and his fascination with waves. From the 1970s Hayter reintroduced figurative elements in combination with a vibrant (often fluorescent) palette and lyrical freedom of brushstroke or burin line in some of his most fluent and imaginative works.
From Grove Art Online
© 2009 Oxford University Press