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 Victor Vasarely  (1906 - 1997)

/ vah-zah-ray-lee/
About: Victor Vasarely
 

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Lived/Active: France/Hungary      Known for: op art painting, geometric images

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BIOGRAPHY for Victor Vasarely
Facts/Data
Birth
1906 (Pecs, Hungary)
 
Death
1997 (Paris, France)

Lived/Active
France/Hungary

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op art painting, geometric images

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Biography from American Design Ltd.:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Victor Vasarely's innovations in color and optical illusion have had a profound influence on contemporary art.  He is in the vanguard of contemporary artists who seek new ways to bring beauty and reality closer together, and his goal is to create art that becomes an integral part of everyday life and the environment.

The artist was born in Pecs, Hungary, in 1908.  After receiving his baccalaureate degree in medicine, he began studying art at the Podolini-Volkmann Academy in Budapest.  In 1929, he transferred to the Muhely Academy, also known as the Budapest Bauhaus.  There he became familiar with contemporary research in color and optics by Johannes Itten, Josef Albers and the Constructivists Malevich and Kandinsky.

After his first one-man show in Budapest in 1930, Vasarely moved to Paris, the art center of the world.  He established a successful business as a graphic draftsman, developing his fine art in the evenings after work.

In 1943, Vasarely began to work extensively in oils, creating both abstract and figurative canvases.  His first Paris exhibition occurred the following year at Galerie Denise René, which he helped to found.  Vasarely became the leader of the avant-garde group of important artists affiliated with the gallery.

During the 1950s, Vasarely wrote a series of manifestos on the use of optical phenomena for artistic purposes. These were a significant influence on younger artists.  According to Vasarely, "In the last analysis, the picture-object in pure composition appears to me as the last link in the family 'paintings,' still possessing by its shining beauty, an end in itself. But it is already more than a painting. The forms and colors which compose it are still situated, on the plane, but the plastic event which they trigger fuses in front of and in the plane. It is thereby an end, but also a beginning, a kind of launching pad for future achievements."

In 1955, Galerie Denise René hosted a major group exhibition in connection with Vasarely's painting experiments with movement. This was the first important exhibition of kinetic art; in addition to art by Vasarely, it included works by Yaacov Agam, Pol Bury, Soto and Jean Tinguely, among others.  Most Americans were first introduced to Vasarely by the groundbreaking exhibition, "The Responsive Eye," at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1965.  The show confirmed Vasarely's international reputation as the father of Op art.

The artist has madenumerous monumental sculptures and murals, including works for the Students' Residential Center of Caracas; Faculté des Sciences, Marseille-Saint-Jerome; University of Bonn; Padagogische Hochschule, Essen; University of the Ruhr, Bochum; Maine-Montparnasse Station, Paris; Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Montpellier; and Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Vasarely has received numerous important awards and honors, including the Guggenheim Prize, New York; Painting Prize, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Grand Prize, Eighth Biennial of Art, Sao Paulo; Medal of Honor, Aix-en-Provence; Gold Medal, Milan Triennial; Foreign Ministers' Prize, Tokyo Biennale; and Certificate of Distinction and Presidential Citation, New York University. In 1970, Vasarely was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor in France.  He has received an honorary Ph.D. from Cleveland State University and is an honorary professor at the School of Applied Arts, Budapest, as well as an honorary citizen of New Orleans and Villeparisis, France.

Among the many major books which have been written on Vasarely are Vasarely, A Survey of His Work by Jean Clay, Victor Vasarely by Abraham Moles, Vasarely by Gaston Diehi, Vasarely et le Cinetisme by Michael Ragon, Vasarely I-IV by Victor Vasarely and Vasarely by Werner Spies.

The artist's works are included in almost every museum in the world which has a collection of contemporary art. Major museums in Gordes and in Aix-en-Provence, France; in Pecs, Hungary; and a wing of the Zichy Palace, Hungary are devoted exclusively to the art of Vasarely.

In 1989, Victor Vasarely visited the United States for the first time in many years to participate in the gala openings of two major Vasarely retrospective exhibitions at Circle Gallery-Soho, New York and Circle Gallery, Chicago.

Selected Major Museum Collections


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York

Museum of Modern Art
New York

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Buffalo

Tare Gallery
London

Art Institute of Chicago

Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art

Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam

Musee d'Art Moderne
Paris

Yale University Art Gallery
New Haven

Museum of Art
Pittsburgh

Detroit Institute of Arts

Joseph H. Hirshhorn Museum
Washington, D.C.

Jewish Museum
New York

Museum of Contemporary Art
Montreal

Dallas Museum of Fine Arts

New Orleans Museum of Art

St. Louis City Art Museum

Philadelphia Museum of Art Dordrecht Museum
Holland

Musee Boymans
Rotterdam

Gemente Museum
Le Havre, Holland

Art Gallery
University of Manchester, England

Ulster Museum
Belfast

Musee Royaux des Beaux-Arts
Brussels

Musee de Leverkusen
Germany

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe
Hamburg

Musee d'Art Moderne
Basel, Switzerland

Museum of Vienna

Museum of Art
Copenhagen

Museum of Art
Skopje, Yugoslavia

Jerusalem Museum

Tel Aviv Art Museum

Museum of Art
Berlin

Calvert Museum
Avignon

Biography from RoGallery.com:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Hungarian-born Victor Vasarely is known as a founder of Optical Art.  Vasarely was born in Pecs and grew up in Pieštany (then Pöstyén) and Budapest where in 1925 he took up medical studies at Budapest University.  In 1927 he abandoned medicine to learn traditional academic painting at the private Podolini-Volkmann Academy. In 1928/1929, he enrolled at Sándor Bortnyik's Muhely (lit. "workshop", in existence until 1938), then widely recognized as the center of Bauhaus studies in Budapest. Cash-strapped, the muhely could not offer the whole range of its illustrious Bauhaus model, and concentrated on applied graphic art and typographic design.

Vasarely’s excellence in drawing was quickly noticed. In 1929 he painted his Blue Study and Green Study. In 1930 he married his fellow student Claire Spinner (1908-1990). Together they had two sons, Andre and Jean-Pierre. In Budapest, he worked for a ball-bearings company in accounting and designing advertising posters. Victor Vasarely became a graphics designer and a poster artist during the 1930’s who combined patterns and organic images with each other.

He studied at the Bauhaus Muhely in Budapest and in 1930 emigrated to Paris where he developed his particular vision which stems from the idea of democratizing the art object. Influenced greatly by the problems of the world's cities, he feels his work offers a solution by presenting a clear view of the "color-surface-perception" relationship.

Vasarely left Hungary and settled in Paris in 1930 working as a graphic artist and as a creative consultant at the advertising agencies Havas, Draeger and Devambez (1930-1935). His interactions with other artists during this time were limited. He played with the idea of opening up an institution modeled after Sándor Bortnyik Muhely’s and developed some teaching material for it. Having lived mostly in cheap hotels, he settled in 1942/1944 in Saint-Céré in the Lot département. After the Second World War, he opened an atelier in Arcueil, a suburb some 10 kilometers from the center of Paris (in the Val-de-Marne département of the Île-de-France). In 1961 he finally settled in Annet-sur-Marne (in the Seine-et-Marne département).

Over the next three decades, Vasarely developed his style of geometric abstract art, working in various materials but using a minimal number of forms and colours:

He has used the income from the sale of these "investigations," as he calls his prints, to establish a socio-cultural foundation in Aix-en-Provence, France, for the study of the integration of plastic beauty at all levels of the urban environment. He is represented in major museums all over the world and has received many artistic and honorary awards. Among these distinctions are the French Legion of Honor, the Guggenheim Prize, and the Gold Medal of the Triennale in Milan.

On 5 June 1970, Vasarely opened his first dedicated museum with over 500 works in a renaissance palace in Gordes (closed in 1996). A second major undertaking was the Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence, a museum housed in a distinct structure specially designed by Vasarely. It was inaugurated in 1976 by French president Georges Pompidou. Sadly the museum is now in a state of disrepair, several of the pieces on display have been damaged by water leaking from the ceiling. Also, in 1976 his large kinematic object Georges Pompidou was installed in the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Vasarely Museum located at his birth place in Pécs, Hungary, was established with a large donation of works by Vasarely. In 1982 154 specially created serigraphs were taken into space by the cosmonaut Jean-Loup Chrétien on board the French-Soviet spacecraft Salyut 7 and later sold for the benefit of UNESCO. In 1987, the second Hungarian Vasarely museum was established in Zichy Palace in Budapest with more than 400 works.

He died in Paris on 15 March 1997.

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