Joseph Hazan, a longtime Village resident, died at home on Oct. 27. He was 96.
Born in 1916 in Thessaloniki, Greece (known as Salonica to the Spanish Jewish community there), he came to New York at 4 months old with his mother Delicia and older brother.
The family, which would grow to six children, lived on the Lower East Side and then in Brooklyn. His father started a women’s clothing business, Isaac Hazan and Co., that supplied dresses and skirts to department stores like Orbach’s.
Expected to join the family business, Joe instead at 18 left home to explore the world, hoping to reach Tahiti. His mother sewed $5 into his pants and he learned to ride freight trains with the hobos, reaching as far as California.
Joe returned to New York, where he studied ballet and Indian dance. Through dance he met writer Lincoln Kerstein and the critic Edwin Denby. He worked as an artist’s model at the Art Students League and for the artist Hans Hoffman, who had a school in Provincetown, Mass., where Joe became good friends with a group that included Tennessee Williams. Letters between the two are included in the collected letters of Tennessee Williams; Joe’s notable photographs of Williams and other members of the group have appeared in newpapers, books and other media in recent years.
During World War II, Joe Hazan worked as a draftsman at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. After a brief early marriage to Sylvia Braverman, he joined the family business where he would work for 20 years. He supervised the workers on the factory floor where he became a favorite of the seamstresses and skirt pressers.
Through the artist and filmmaker Rudy Burkhardt (a friend of Denby’s) he met the artist Jane Freilicher, infamously bringing his pet monkey Geno along on their first date. He and Freilicher married in 1957 and they bought a house on W. 11th St. They joined a group of artists who spent summers in the Hamptons, where they built a house in 1960.
In 1965, Joe Hazan left the family business and bought two houses on W. Ninth St. that he would sell in the early 1980s. He studied at the Art Students League with Edwin Dickenson and painted for the rest of his life.
In 1970 Hazan and Freilicher’s house on W. 11th St. was severely damaged when bombs the Weathermen were building in the house next door accidently exploded. At the time of the bombing Dustin Hoffman was a tenant in their building, living on the parlor floor. He was one of many notable tenants of Hazan and Freilicher over the years, including Angela Lansbury and Barbara Harris.
Joe Hazan is survived by his wife Jane and daughter Elizabeth, who is also an artist, and three grandchildren. Also surviving are his brother Murray Hazan of Long Island and sisters Lee Friedman of Long Island and Sally Long of New York City, as well as many nieces and nephews.