The Collection of John M. Hall

John M. Hall was an architectural photographer for publications including New York Times Magazine, Elle Decor and Architectural Digest; he saw his work as "telling the story" of what architects built and his process was to "go from the overall to the the details," with a keen eye for the subtleties of line, form, light and shadow. Hall lived with art and design that reflected his refined sensibilities: simple, livable furniture by Eames, Knoll and Aalto, the clean lines and smooth surfaces of 1930s streamlined moderne lamps, china and glassware and minimalist works on paper by Robert Mangold and Richard Serra. Tucked into a small Manhattan apartment, Hall's collection shows the ease with which iconic 20th century designs were meant to be lived with.

John M. Hall photographed his apartment in the Flatiron district for an article highlighting
his collection in the June 1999 issue of House Beautiful

Hall grew up in North Carolina and studied architecture at North Carolina State University; he was also a ballet dancer and moved to New York in the mid-1970s to study at the American Ballet Theater School. In 1977, Hall relocated to Paris and worked as a model. It was during this time that he developed an interest in black and white photography. 

Thank God I missed post-modernism. I guess I'm just a classicist at heart. 
—John M. Hall

His structural, classical style was informed by photographers such as André Kertész and Walker Evans. Hall returned to New York in 1981 and began his career as an architectural photographer, with a particular interest in private gardens, Greek Revival and Biedermeier. He approached capturing these spaces as making "something that is more than just a document, [but] something that is visually exciting." 

The same is true of Hall's personal collection, with its attention to and exuberance for designs that are "clean and clear and simple as possible," while also still captivating. After Hall's passing in 2019, significant contributions from his collection were gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery and his alma mater's Gregg Museum of Art and Design; the present selection of works celebrates Hall's sophisticated and gracious eye for design.

I'm not a design historian. I'm attracted to objects because I find them interesting and, yes, beautiful. And that's where this 20th-century sensibility started for me. There's just something so right about it.

John M. Hall

An Interview with John M. Hall

An interview with Hall from the 1980s shows him on location photographing a home and sharing his philosophies on design, architecture and photography.
 


Eva Zeisel 1906–2011

Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1906, Éva Amália Zeisel (née Striker) transformed American tables with her beautiful and often biomorphic ceramic creations. Zeisel began her study of art by enrolling in the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Budapest for painting. However, Zeisel was soon inspired by the pottery creations of an aunt, and dropped out of the Royal Academy to devote herself to ceramics. In 1925, Zeisel traveled to Paris to see the groundbreaking International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, where she viewed the work of emerging modernists like Le Corbusier, Pierre Chareau, and Robert Mallet-Stevens. Zeisel turned away from the rigid geometry of these designers, which she found too cold and unfeeling, and instead embraced the warmth of sweeping curves in her own work. Zeisel immigrated to the United States in 1939, where she taught at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In 1940, she teamed up with the Museum of Modern Art in New York to create a line of dinnerware that was “the first translucent china dinnerware, modern in shape, to be produced in the United States.” Although the Museum line wasn’t finished until 1946, it was included in an exhibition of her work—the first-ever museum show for a solo female designer—at the MoMA that same year. Zeisel’s success caught the attention of Red Wing Pottery and she collaborated with them to create her famed Town and Country line of ceramics in 1947. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Zeisel took a hiatus from design to focus on writing. In 1984, the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts honored Zeisel with a retrospective of her work entitled Eva Zeisel On Design. In 2005, she won the lifetime achievement award in design from the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. Eva Zeisel passed away at the age of 105 in 2011. Her work is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among many others.