Born to a family of artists, Hayter began painting while pursuing his studies in chemistry and geology at King's College in London. While employed as a chemist for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company of Abadan, he did portraits of his colleagues, which were exhibited upon his return to England. After finally deciding to pursue painting and printmaking, Hayter moved to Paris in the spring of 1926, and soon opened a printmaking studio in his flat, later moving to 17 Rue Campagne-Première, where he called his studio Atelier 17. Hayter participated in the 1933 exhibition of surrealist painting at Galerie Pierre CoIle and the 1935 exhibition of surrealist drawings at Galerie des Quatre Chemins. He was one of the organizers of the International Surrealist Exhibition, in 1936, at the New Burlington Galleries in London, and an exhibitor at the 1937 Exhibition of Overseas Surrealistic Works, in Tokyo. Hayter experimented with the technique of automatism, combining organic forms in a flowing space. Picasso owned a Hayter engraving, Le Viol de Lucrèce (1934), which he considered particularly successful. Many of Hayter's sur-realist friends were initiated into engraving techniques at Atelier 17, Miró and Tanguy being the most assiduous. It was also at Atelier 17 that Giacometti made an engraving of his sculpture L'Objet Invisible, Max Ernst learned to do soft-ground etching, and Ubac practiced copperplate engraving to combine with his experiments in photography. In 1938, while participating in the International Exhibition of Surrealism, in Paris, Hayter showed his most recent paintings, titled Spain 37, inspired by a visit with the Spanish Republicans, at the Mayor Gallery in London. In 1940 Hayter moved to the United States and duplicated his Atelier 17 in New York, first at the New School for Social Research in 1941, then in 1945 at a private space in Greenwich Village. André Masson, also a refugee, often worked there with him. In 1950, Hayter returned to Paris for good, first reopening his Atelier 17 on the Rue de Vaugirard, then moving it several times before ending up at 10 Rue Didot, where it was renamed Atelier Contrepoint after his death.
Born 1901 in London; died 1988 in Paris.