John Haymson was born of a Turkish father and Italian mother in Vienna, Austria in 1902. He discovered his interest in art when at the age of five he took a slate and drew a portrait of the mademoiselle who came to his house each day to teach him and his brother and sister. At age sixteen, in spite of his mother's concern that he would starve to death as an artist, he applied to and was accepted at the world-famed Vienna Academy of Fine Art. He later studied with and subsequently befriended Luigi Kasimir, one of the great master etchers of recent times.
An important period in Haymson's early career was his association with the famous theatrical impresario, Max Reinhardt, for whom he executed stage and costume designs in Salzburg. In the early 1930's he traveled throughout Europe extensively and studied graphics in Germany and Paris. He was employed during this time in the textile industry painting designs for silk fabrics.
While in Germany he met Hilde Opfer and they married in 1934. In 1938 Haymson and his wife were forced to leave their families and all their belongings behind because of Hitler and mounting anti-semitism in Austria. Days before the Gestapo came knocking on their door, they escaped the Holocaust, fleeing his beloved Austria, on foot, first to Hungary, then to Italy, and finally to Yugoslavia. There Haymson and his wife, under almost constant threat of exposure and arrest, awaited visas to the U.S which were time after time intercepted, stolen or confiscated. They avoided arrest by him painting portraits of Nazi sympathizers and police and military officials and their families. Finally, bribing an embassy official in Zagreb, they obtained their visas and made their way to France where they sailed from Le Havre, on the Ile de France, to the U.S. in late 1939.
In the United States Haymson worked for five very exciting years on movie synopsises for Warner Brothers. For an ensuing seven years he taught painting at New York's Parsons School of Design, while conducting student art groups to Austria, France, Israel, Greece and Mexico during the summers. At that same time he established his studio on 46th street in Manhattan and embarked on what was to become a very successful period of his life.
John Haymson's remarkable talent has had a major impact on twentieth century art. His contribution, which spanned several decades, has yet to be fully recognized. In the 1960's and 70's his lithographs, and in particular his watercolors, enjoyed huge popularity. It is an accepted fact that he was the Country's most widely reproduced and sold artist of the time. Represented by the New York Graphic Society and Aaron Ashley, Inc., his works were sold all over the world.
In 1969 Haymson was asked by Europe's renowned and oldest printmaker, Atelier Mourlot, to join a distinguished roster of prominent artists including Alexander Calder, Alexander Dobkin, Antonio Frasconi, Elaine de Kooning and Robert Osborn at Jacques mourlot's newly established studio in New York's Greenwich Village. While there Haymson was commissioned by SANE, The National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy,Inc. to create original lithographs depicting the suffering of the Vietnam War. Proceeds from the sale of the black and white lithographs, created in a signed limited edition, went to SANE in it's work to end the war. Subsequently, five of these works were gifted by Mourlot to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C..
Haymson has had many one-man shows in the United States and abroad. His watercolors, lithographs and oils enjoy wide popularity all over the world and have been purchased by many prominent people. He has been displayed in several museums and New York City galleries such as Hammer, Galerie Internationale, Schoneman and has had several important shows including a major retrospective, sponsored by the New York Graphic Society, at the Austrian Institute (Austrian Cultural Forum) in Manhattan. In 1968 he was honored by the government of his native Austria and commissioned to do a series of paintings depicting the life and times of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. He has had paintings commissioned for the United States Supreme Court. Two of his works hang in The Capitol in Washington, D.C..
The artist's work covers a broad range of subjects and shows great mastery of composition and color. His restless inner search for answers led him to forever explore new frontiers graphically. Elegant and moving canvases such as Cosmos, Creation of Man and the Universe, Before the Storm, Lolita, and the Mexican Wedding display remarkable depth and motion in complete harmony with the subject matter. His uniquely sensitive and probing style reflects his eclectic development and demonstrates the spirit of a constantly unfolding artist who transcends time and is disciplined in every graphic form of expression. A deeply sensitive man, Haymson also expressed himself in poetry. Some of his poems were published, but most were only shared with his mother for whom he had a deep affection. She, Paula Teltscher Haymson, survived the war hidden by the Sisters of Mercy in their convent in the French countryside.
During Haymson's later years he found new expression through his deep interest in the Aztec, Mayan and Polynesian cultures. His preoccupation with the significance of these cultures was ever more apparent in his work of that time. He displayed the vitality of a mature painter searching for the ultimate expression of being. While maintaining his studio in Manhattan, he wintered in Cuernavaca and Maui and painted voraciously. His reputation as a fine artist and the demand for his original paintings soared.
His talent mirrors the evolution of an artist for the times.
John Haymson died in Westchester County, New York in 1980.
This website is a work in progress maintained by his son Frank Haymson.
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