Paul Burty Haviland was born in Paris in 1880. He was the son of Madeleine Burty and the American Charles Haviland, who built up an industrial porcelain empire in Limoges.
Through his maternal grandfather, a famous critic and collector, and his father, who entertained at his «studio» in Auteuil, Paul Haviland became familiar with the art world at an early age. Renoir painted his portrait in 1884, when he was four. He also met Félix Bracquemond, Albert Dammouse and Ernest Chaplet, his father’s artist friends.
In 1899, at the age of 19, Paul Haviland left France for the United States to study at the prestigious University of Harvard. Here he read law, graduating in 1901. Under pressure from his dictatorial father, he was then forced to take on the family business in New York, but Paul gradually freed himself from this paternal authority by pursuing his own interests, which at the time were poetry, photography and the theatre.
In 1905, Alfred Stieglitz opened a gallery in New York, the 291, which Paul and his brother Franck visited regularly. He only met Stieglitz in January 1908 at the first exhibition of Rodin’s drawings in New York. When he learned that the 291 was in financial trouble, Paul came to the rescue of his friend by becoming his patron. A deep friendship developed between the two men. In January 1909, Paul contributed his first article to Camera Work and in October published his first photograph in it. In 1910, he became the review’s editor. Camera Work, a portfolio created by Stieglitz, brought together the leading Pictorialist photographers. From then on, Paul Burty-Haviland was recognised as a key figure in the Photo-Secession group.
In 1907, Paul met Marius de Zayas. They rapidly became friends, and worked together to give a fresh boost to 291. In 1913, they published an essay on modern art for the Armory Show, where Haviland met Francis Picabia. Zayas and Haviland travelled together a great deal, particularly in France and Mexico, where he discovered Pre-Columbian art and began to collect it.
Paul’s involvement in this group and the influence of photography certainly had a bad effect on the business of Haviland & Co. His father, furious at his son’s lack of interest and extremely concerned by the company’s financial results, forced him to return to France forthwith, and replaced him as director.
Back in France in July 1915, and now banished from the family business, Paul Haviland developed a passion for the Creuse region. He rented a studio-house in Crozant, and produced numerous views of ruins. He met Armand Guillaumin, whom he photographed at his easel, together with Suzanne, the daughter of René Lalique, whom he married in 1917. His father-in-law asked him to reorganise his glassworks factory. He continued working as a photographer, taking portraits of members of the Lalique and Haviland families, and more or less well-known figures like Paul Morand, Georges Picard, Louis Vignier, Zamacois and Lechavallier-Chevignard, the director of the Sèvres porcelain factory. However, Paul lacked fulfilment in his new life, which bored him, and felt nostalgic for everything he had left behind in New York, especially the career he might have led over there. However, he played an important creative role in the Lalique company, instigating new themes, such as the introduction of Pre-Columbian and Mexican art into the famous company’s aesthetic approach.
In 1929, the year of the Wall Street Crash, Paul lost part of his fortune, and had to sell a large part of his collections. For financial reasons, he began to work as a commercial photographer. He produced a catalogue of paintings by his wife, together with a publication listing all the Lalique glassworks. In 1935, Paul Burty Haviland moved to a farm in Touraine. As well as the wine-making business he started up, he devoted himself to his new passions, astrology and graphology. In 1948, he returned to live in Paris, where he died in 1950.