John Haley Bio

JOHN HALEY: 1905-1991

A feature of the artwork of John Charles Haley is diversity.  Through his continual exploration of divergent styles and media his artwork remained 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.


1923 – 1927  Minneapolis School of Art (affiliated with the Minneapolis    Institute of Arts). 

                       Studied with Cameron Booth.

1927 – 1928  Studied with Hans Hofmann at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art in Munich,

                       Germany and at his school at the Island of Capri, Italy.


1928 – 1930   Instructor, Minneapolis School of Art.

1929 – 1930   Designed and executed stained & leaded glass windows for churches and Mayo Clinic,

                        Rochester, Minnesota.  Studied fresco & egg tempera methods.  Studied mosaics in

                        Ravenna, Italy.

1930 – 1972   Professor of Art, University of California, Berkeley.

1937               Fresco murals:  Administration Building, U.S. Coast Guard, Government Island,

                        Alameda, California.

1939               Dioramas for Pacific House, Golden Gate International Exposition.

1943 – 1945   United States Naval Reserve:  Pacific Fleet, Fleet Air Photographer, Group Naval

                        Aviation Combat Intelligence.

1943               Supervised model making for Office of Civilian Defense.  Camouflage course for

                        architects and engineers, University of California, Berkeley.


2000                Masterpieces from the Estate & Self Portraits, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco

1996                Sculpure, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco

1995                Works on Paper, George Krevsky Gallery San Francisco

1990                Richmond Museum, Richmond

1989                Jan Holloway Gallery, San Francisco

1974                Four Winds Gallery, Kalamazoo, Missouri

1963                California State University, Chico

1962,’80          M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco

1962                Worth Ryder Art Gallery, University of California, Berkeley

1954                Richmond Art Center, Richmond

1949,’52          Mortimer Levitt Gallery, New York

1943                University Art Gallery, Berkeley

1942                University of California, Los Angeles

1939                Sacramento Art Center, Sacramento

1939                San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco 

1935                Art Center Gallery, San Francisco


George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco (1999)

Richmond Art Center, CA (1974,’67,’66,’58,’55,’54,’51)

Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport, CA (1975)

University Art Museum, Berkeley (1967)

Museum of Modern Art, NY (1963)

California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland (1959)

Oakland Museum, Oakland (1958, ’77)

Sao Paulo Bienniale, Brazil (1955)

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia(1954)

Richmond Art Center, Richmond (1951, ’54, ’55, ’56, ’59, ’66, ’67,  ’74, ’77)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY (1950, ’52)

University of Illinois, Urbana, IL (1948, ’51, ’52, ’53)

Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (1947)

Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO (1946, ’55)

Mortimer Brandt Gallery, NY (1943)

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (1942, ’65)

University Art Gallery, Berkeley (1943, ’63, ’64, ’65, ’67)

Riverside Museum, NY (1940)

Chicago Art Institute (1940)

Golden Gate International Exposition (1939)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1935,’38,’41,’44,’48,’56,’62)

California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco (1935, ’47, ’48, ’50, ’60,  ’63, ’64,’67)

M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco (1934, ’57,’58)

San Francisco Art Association (1931,’36, ’37, ’40, ’41, ’44, ’46, ’48, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’55, ’56, ’57, ’59, ’60)

Minneapolis Institute of Arts (1926,’27)

COLLECTIONS (selected)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco

Mills College, Oakland, CA

Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA

Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

University of California, Berkeley, CA

California State University, Chico, CA

Huntington Art Collections, San Marino, CA

IBM Corporation