Robert Samuel Haas, 1898–1997, graphic designer, photographer, printer and educator.
After mustering out of the Austro-Hungarian army in 1918, Robert Haas studied electrical engineering at Vienna’s Technische Hochschule, while simultaneously taking classes in economics, history and music at the city’s university, and typography and lettering with Rudolf von Larisch at the Kunstgewerbeschule and Akademie der bildenden Künste. He had co-founded the ground-breaking graphics studio, Officina Vindobonensis, and already been a successful printer and graphic designer for some time, when he spent two years learning photography from Trude Fleischmann. While continuing his graphic work, Haas became a photojournalist, celebrity portraitist, official photographer of the Salzburg Festival and created the world’s largest (32 x 8 meters) photomontage for the Austrian Pavilion in the 1937 World’s Fair. The following year, he fled Austria for England.
He spent six months working in London before heading to the United States. North Carolina’s miraculous little Black Mountain College took him in, as it had fifty-one other refugees from Nazi Germany during those dark times,1Darwent, Charles, In World War II-Era North Carolina, A Haven for German Jewish Artists and Academics, Jewish Book Council, November 6, 2018. including Xanti Schawinsky. But, without enough work in Black Mountain, Haas moved to New York, where, in 1941, he founded the Ram Press on 25th Street in Manhattan. In addition to designing and printing for the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum, he helped Clark and Way, for a time, with printing the historically trouble-prone Frick Collection catalogue.
Haas taught calligraphy (and later typography) at Cooper Union, concurrently with Ismar David. The enigmatic note below was written long after both men had stopped working there. The reference to Haas’ brother is presumably to Georg Haas, a zoologist and paleontologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem since 1932, who had died eight months earlier.
Dear Mr. David:
Many thanks for your beautiful drawing which I shall keep as a valuable memorial to my brother.
Again, my apologies for the invonvenience I have caused.