Joseph Hecht was born in 1891 in Lodz, a textile center southwest of Warsaw. As a young boy, he exhibited interest in becoming an artist, encouraged by his family’s appreciation of the arts. At the age of eighteen, Hecht entered the Academie Beaux-Arts in Krakow, following a traditional course of studies for five years. Upon completion of his studies in Krakow, Hecht visited museums throughout Europe.
Hecht found himself in Berlin at the outbreak of World War I and he decided to go to neutral Norway for the remainder of the war. In Norway he discovered and began experimenting with light and landscape in his work. During this time he produced numerous fine drypoints and engravings.
Hecht traveled to Italy immediately following the armistice and two years later he traveled to Paris where he established a studio. He became a member of the Salon d’Automne, thereby gaining renown in the Parisian art world and the ability to exhibit his work on a regular basis. Hecht was particularly productive from 1919 to 1939, exhibiting widely and producing many drypoints and engravings and a smaller number of etchings and woodcuts. During this time Hecht met Stanley William Hayter through a mutual friend and Hecht helped Hayter to make his first drypoint.
Known as a stickler for detail in his work, Hecht ground his own printing ink and established a number of innovative printing methods. Only late in his career did he allow anyone other than himself to print his plates.
Hecht’s most successful period began in 1926 when he published his first suite of six prints, “l’Arche de Noe” which was exhibited at the Paris Gallery, Le Nouvel Essor, in December of the same year. In 1927, the collaborated efforts of Hecht and Hayter led to the establishment of Atelier 17. Hecht became a founding member of La Jeune Gravure Contemporaine in 1929. He also began associating with members of Les Peintres-Graveurs Independants, a group founded in 1923 by Jean Emile Labourer and Raoul Dufy.
As World War II approached, there was a diminution in Hecht’s production and as he was of Jewish descent, France offered him little protection or safety. He left Paris and traveled to the Savoy region near the Swiss- Italian border, spending the duration of the war working as an agricultural laborer. Hayter returned to France in 1946 and re-established contact with Hecht, only to find him out of work and in poor health. Hayter procured an enormous copper plate, which he took to Hecht’s studio and began to engrave. Hecht could not resist also taking up a burin and working on the plate, resulting in the collaborative print, “La Noyee”. Hecht regained enthusiasm for his work, producing numerous new engravings and, additionally, developing methods of printing engravings in relief. Hecht died in his Paris studio in 1951 as the result of a heart attack.