Thirty-two prints, two drawings and three portfolios by Stanley William Hayter acquired by the Hunterian between 1991 and 2012 with nine NFA grants totalling £14,602.
Over the past 15 years I have been slowly adding to the Hunterian’s holding of prints by Stanley William Hayter (1901-1988), a scientist turned painter-engraver whom I was lucky enough to know at the end of his influential career. Hayter was born in London but in 1926 he settled in Paris. He was passionately interested in printmaking but critical of the disjunction between the work of modernist painters and the backward-looking artists of the ‘etching revival’, whose prints sometimes sold for high prices but which he regarded as pale imitations of older masters of etching, especially Whistler. So he took up the line-engraver’s defunct tool, the burin, and turned its forward-facing point into an instrument of surrealist art. He formed a studio called Atelier 17, where he taught until his death in 1988, and soon had collaborators for his investigations into the potential of printmaking. Many of the greatest names in 20th-century art were induced to make prints by Hayter’s dynamic personality.
Although we have no current plans for an exhibition, it has been possible to acquire, thanks to support from the National Fund for Acquisitions, a significant group of works from the 1930s and 1940s: thirty-two prints, two drawings and three important Surrealist portfolios. The six menacing landscape prints of the Paysages urbains of 1930 display the ‘whiplash’ burin line for which Hayter was famous; the larger prints of the Apocalypse of 1931 were accompanied by verses by Georges Hugnet (1906-1974), a poet who also collaborated with Picasso and Miró.
Another poet, Paul Eluard (1895-1952), was visiting Hayter in 1938 when he was producing a series of 8 cruel figure and landscape prints inspired by the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and Eluard addressed to Hayter the poem Facile proie which accompanies them. This set was bought for the Hunterian, in partnership with the NFA, by a West of Scotland collector to whom we are also extremely grateful.