Garbage Collectors

Hajo Christoph (1903-1992)
Date: c. 1930
Medium: Watercolor on board
Dimensions: 12 1/2 H x 9 3/4 W

Signed, bottom right: Hajo

Credit: Gift of Peter and Florence Christoph
Accession Number: 2009.2.27

The watercolor illustrations Garbage Collectors and Side Walks of New York (Monday Morning) focus on the mundane and unpleasant subject of refuse, but—through whimsical compositions and attractive graphic handling—artist Hajo Christoph has transformed garbage day into an amusing visual essay about urban life. These two watercolors are part of a significant donation of materials documenting Hajo’s life and work. More than 220 original drawings, watercolors, product packaging designs, linoleum prints, and other objects comprise the collection, along with personal correspondence, photographs, and publications donated by Hajo’s son and daughter-in-law Peter and Florence Christoph.

Born at the family home in Berlin, Germany, Hans-Joachim Christoph (1903–1992), known familiarly as Hajo, attended the Reimann School (Schule Reimann), Berlin, beginning in 1921. The school specialized in the practical application of art for commercial and industrial purposes. Hajo received training in poster design and stage scenery, skills that prepared him to enter the new field of commercial art.

After finishing his studies, Hajo worked for a time designing ads for a shoe company, but Germany’s rapid inflation created such instability that it made life uncertain and unpredictable. By 1925, an American cousin convinced Hajo to immigrate to America. He eventually landed a job at the New York office of Lucien Bernhard, noted graphic designer and fellow Berliner.

In 1931, Hajo accepted a position with the Fort Orange Paper Company in Castleton, New York. The company manufactured paper and cardboard boxes and product packaging, and Hajo was the first staff artist the company employed. He brought to Fort Orange and its clients a modern design aesthetic.

Hajo also became active in the artistic communities of Castleton and Albany, and in 1944 he and several other artists formed the Albany Artist Group. In an unpublished autobiography, Hajo fondly remembered the Sunday painting sessions, when he and others ventured off together to paint rural landscapes, cheerful farm houses, familiar towns, and quiet woodland streams.