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 John Charles Haley  (1905 - 1991)

About: John Charles Haley


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Lived/Active: California/Minnesota      Known for: modernist-leaning landscape, sculptor, stain glass

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BIOGRAPHY for John Haley
1905 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
1991 (Richmond, California)


Self portrait - Self-portrait

Often Known For
modernist-leaning landscape, sculptor, stain glass

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Minneapolis, John Haley studied at the Minneapolis School of Art in the 1920s and later with Hans Hofmann in Munich. Returning to the U. S., he taught art in Minneapolis and then moved in 1930 to California where he became Professor of Art at the University of California at Berkeley for forty-two years.

In the 1930s and 40s, he spearheaded the Berkeley school of watercolor painting and was known for his innovative use of opaque watercolors. He began exhibiting with the California Watercolor Society in 1942. However, in the mid 1950s, his style and subject matter turned from realistic Regionalist to Abstract Expression.

Source: Edan Hughes, "Artists in California"
The following is from George Krevsky of San Francisco:

A feature of the artwork of John Charles Haley is diversity. Through his continual exploration of divergent styles and media his artwork remains, in the eyes of some critics, wonderfully fresh and innovative. Naturally, several labels were attributed to his work - figurative, modernist, abstract expressionist - all of which displeased Haley. At the same time, he was lauded as "one of those who have brought West Coast painting to maturity."

A native of Minnesota, Haley initially studied at the Minneapolis School of Art where he received training in the academic manner. An astute and talented student, he received an award that enabled him to study in Munich with the German modernist master, Hans Hofmann. Haley quickly absorbed the master's cubist forms, soon establishing himself as one of Hofmann's most outstanding students.

By 1930, Haley was hired as art instructor at the University of California at Berkeley where he became distinguished for promoting Hofmann's modernist ideas. Alfred Frankenstein, who organized John Haley's solo show at the de Young Museum in 1980, described Haley as the "principal cornerstone of the Berkeley School of Watercolor Painting" - referring to a style founded by Haley during the 1930s.

Haley is credited with building one of the strongest art departments in the country at the University of California at Berkeley and influencing generations of artists such as Elmer Bischoff, Paul Wonner and Stephen de Staebler. Haley won numerous awards and prizes for watercolors painted during his early career. With the advent of Surrealism and Abstraction during the post-war years - when many figurative artists were left dangling - Haley promptly responded to this new aesthetic. He reconsidered his figural themes during a five year period of experimentation; from this period - as his images of the figure became increasingly fragmented and abstracted - Haley produced some of the most pivotal works of his career.

While Haley avoided self-promotion and his work often defied classification, critics cited comparisons to Philip Guston, Dufy and Cezanne. Critic John Koplans has most appropriately described in Artforum, July, 1962: "What is enjoyable about Haley's work is his deep concern for painting rather than a search for a brand image." Art was a personal expression for him. His philosophy is perhaps best stated in The Daily Californian in 1933, "Modern art is not a quarrel with tradition. It is tradition expressing itself in a new way." Through tireless exploration, Haley maintained a fresh vision and response to art through change.

Biography from Addison Rowe Fine Art:
Haley received his art education at the Minneapolis School of Art. He was awarded the Ethel Morrison Van Derlip scholarship, giving him the opportunity to travel to Europe and study for a year under Han Hoffman in Munich. Hoffman's cubist forms molded Haley's style of painting.

Next stop was Berkeley, California. Haley accepted a position to become a teacher at the University of California. He became known for promoting the Modernist movement through his teachings. He worked primarily in watercolors early in his career and graduated to tropical â€"influenced oils in the 50's and 60's.

Haley was drafted into the United States Naval Reserve in 1943. He was requested to draw every detail of the Surrounding areas for invasion strategies. Then he was sent to Normandy, Sicily and the Pacific Islands. In 1945 Haley returned to U.C. Berkeley after an honorable discharge from the military.

Haley is credited with building one of the strongest art departments in the country. Thus the term "Berkeley School" came to be under his helm. The" Berkeley School" artists were watercolorists whose works were defined by their linear, graphic shapes. Haley taught at the University for over 40 years.

Throughout his life, Haley experimented in different styles of painting. He worked in sculpture, etchings and photography, studying for a time with Ansel Adams.

He retired from teaching in 1972 after building an impressive reputation as a teacher, mentor and artist.

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