New Design

David Hare

American Sculptor, Photographer, and Painter

David Hare Photo
Born: March 10, 1917
New York, NY
Died: December 21, 1992
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
From the imagination must be formed an object whose oneness is seen through its ambiguity, whose truth centers on the fact that it has a presence and is not a symbol. It must be transfigured, not distorted. Perhaps above all it should frighten its creator, since it should hold more than he expected. Once born, it walks by itself.
David Hare Signature

Summary of David Hare

An American artist adopted by the exiled French Surrealists during World War II, David Hare created photographs, sculptures, paintings, and collages that probed the depths of the human psyche and condition. Eventually steel and bronze became his preferred materials as he created hybrid forms that came from dreams and memories and that evoke uncanny feelings in the viewer. Immersed in Surrealist philosophy but friends with the burgeoning Abstract Expressionists, Hare's sculpture is unique in its concreteness; not a representation of a dream exactly or an abstract symbol, Hare's sculptures seem to take on a life of their own.

Perhaps because he straddled two movements and split much of his time between the United States and Paris, Hare's work doesn't fit neatly into any one category. His overriding creative guidance was that, in his words, "a work of art breaks up reality and recombines it in such a manner as to enlarge our understanding of a total life." Though successful during his life, Hare was not much of a self-promoter and his work is not widely known today. His commitment to Surrealist explorations of human desire, death, and love, even after such subjects fell out of favor, is a testament to the idea that throughout time artists have created art from probing their own psychic spaces and memories.


Biography of David Hare

David Hare Photo

David Hare was born on March 10, 1917, in New York City into an affluent family. Hare's mother, Elizabeth Sage Goodwin, called Betty, was a renowned art collector from a wealthy family active in avant-garde art circles and a friend to artists, including Constantin Brâncuși and Marcel Duchamp. In 1913, she was among the patrons of the famed Armory Show that featured advanced European modern art to a large American audience. Hare's uncle, Philip Goodwin, was a trustee and the original architect of the Museum of Modern Art. His father, Meredith Hare, was a prominent corporate attorney, who supported all of his wife's activities. Betty was a generous benefactress of social issues, museums, and individual artists. As a result, Hare was exposed to art early in life and grew up in privileged circles of New York and Washington D. C.

Important Art by David Hare

Untitled (from VVV portfolio) (c.1942)

Untitled (from VVV portfolio) (c.1942)

This photograph is an example of David Hare's early experimentation with photography and notably with the technique of heatage, or brulage, developed by Surrealist Raoul Ubac. It consists of heating up or melting parts of the photographic negative during the development process, which causes the negative to ripple and distort. The result is a random deformation of the image. The chance-like nature of the technique appealed to the Surrealists and was comparable to other favored techniques like automatic drawing.

In this photograph, only the contour of a naked female body remains. The anatomical details have been replaced with alternating black and white masses. While the pattern is abstract and devised by chance manipulation, the effect conjures burnt flesh. The lack of facial features further accentuates the strangeness of this woman.

For his photographs, Hare usually chose female nudes and transformed them, playing with ideas of eroticism and censorship. The suggestive pose of the figure contrasts sharply with the metamorphosed body, creating a feeling of uneasiness and discomfort in the viewer. Art historian Phil Taylor explains that Ubac and Hare both use heatage in order to negate "the capacity of the photographic matrix to reproduce its original referents." Instead of reproducing an objective, or realistic, scene, Hare disrupts photography's illustrative powers to create something new.

In the context of the second World War, this technique takes on a subversive and political cast. The disintegrating figure is associated with a body mutilated by the violence of war. Gilbert states, "Hare's images opposed the aim of government censorship to control and sanitize the visual experience of war." He adds, "Hare's technical assault on the medium is itself significant and reflects a radical effort to subvert the documentary status and truth value of the official media's photographic reportage." In embracing Surrealist techniques, Hare did not shy away from the radical and, at times, revolutionary underpinnings of the avant-garde group.

Magician's Game (1944 (cast 1946))

Magician's Game (1944 (cast 1946))

Hare created this artwork in response to the gallerist Julien Levy who decided to curate a show about chess, a board game that he and many of his artist friends like Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst loved playing. Levy had designed his own set and asked 32 artists to contribute to his show that opened in the winter of 1944. Hare exhibited the plaster original of Magician's Game that he would cast in bronze in 1946.

The sculpture is a combination of shapes that resemble both animate and inanimate objects and suggests a slightly reclined figure sitting at a desk or game table. An egg-shaped object dangles in one of the desk's compartments, and from the other a stick emerges and from which comb-shaped form hangs. The reclining shape pierces the surface of the desk, suspended in the void by wires and, when pushed, quivers slightly and counterbalances the composition. This figure extends and connects itself under the desk with what appears to be a pointed tail.

Art Historian Mona Hadler describes this sculpture as epitomizing the Surrealist process of "free association of disparate ideas." Indeed, Hare combines many objects and shapes and creates a strange figure that seems to float in space. The figure is a hybrid entity, somewhere between a living creature and an inanimate object. It has no human attributes, except maybe the chest, but at the same time, it is clearly seated at a desk surrounded by human objects. Further the unrecognizable nature of the "game" adds another layer of mystery that draws in the viewer. The viewer is led to create the game in their own mind. Hadler points out that Hare has always wanted the viewer to actively participate, even in the act of literally moving the work. She explains, "The complexity and multiplicity of imagery of Hare's sculpture force an active process of viewing." The tensions that Hare's sculpture creates - animate/inanimate, stabile/mobile, seen/unseen, reality/fantasy - keep the viewers engaged.

Sunrise (1954 - 55)

Sunrise (1954 - 55)

This sculpture is part of a series that Hare created in the 1950s and that integrated elements of the natural landscape. The artist believed that art should have some relation to the physical world and not be entirely abstract. This work consists of a sun-like form at the top held by steel rods over a rock. There are also two other round forms between the sun and the rock that could represent a moon and a star. The vertical straight fragments of steel evoke lines of falling rain.

When asked in the 1960s by the Albright Knox Museum "Why would you sculpt a sunrise?" the artist answered that the main point "was first to make a sculpture from a subject which seemed highly unlikely as a sculptural material, the interest being in this being the difficulty of the problem and also its newness." Like his colleague David Smith, Hare appropriated a traditional subject of painting, but by welding the picture, he was able to make "drawings in space" and to create open and airy sculpture. Hare further explained about this work, "I wanted to take a picture of [the planet] before it disappeared." However, the artist also wanted to create a piece "that could be seen as abstract or as figurative," making this very tension the work of art itself.

Influences and Connections

Useful Resources on David Hare

Content compiled and written by Pich-Chenda Sar

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"David Hare Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. .
Content compiled and written by Pich-Chenda Sar
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 15 Oct 2020. Updated and modified regularly
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