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 Denes De Holesch  (1910 - 1983)

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Lived/Active: New York / Hungary/China      Known for: portrait and equestrian genre painting

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Ad Code: 3
Denes De Holesch
The Yellow Turnban o/c on board; 37.8 cm x 31.6 cm
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This full biography of Hungarian-American painter Denes de Holesch has been provided by Klari Fekete, Hungarian journalist, friend of the family.


1910 Denes De Holesch was born on 9 February, 1910 at Besztercebanya, Northern Hungary.

1913 From an early age he showed a keen interest in painting, music and horses.

1928 He received a formal education, concentrating on the study of art and in 1928 won a scholarship to the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest.

1933 After completing his degree he travelled to the Orient. He remained in China for the next two years.

1934 An exhibition of his Chinese works was held in Peking.

1936 He left China and travelled through Hong Kong to Japan where he briefly stayed before moving to the Philippines. He lived with a tribe of Igorot headhunters.

1937 He left the Philippines and travelled to Java and the on to Bali. In Bali he continued to paint the natives at work and at play and the natives helped him construct a studio from the local timbers.

1938 He was invited to join the Australian Government backed Northern Australian expedition as the official artist by Mr. Hugh Stuart, General Manager of the 'Sydney Morning Herald'. A number of landscape works depicting the aborigines of Northern Australia in their natural environment were produced as well as a number of portraits.

1939 Returning from the expedition, he established a studio in a boat shed on Lavender Bay, near Sydney. He remained there for close to five years, and received during this time many commissions for portraits.

1940 In March, an exhibition of his works was held at the Macquarie Galleries in Bligh Street Sydney.

1944 On the 23rd March he married the Melbourne concert pianist Joyce Greer in Sydney.

1945 In October, the couple left Australia for New York. At this point of his career his interest turned to the painting of horses. Exhibitions were held at Gallery Wildenstein, Herve and F. A.R.

1946 He moved to Montreal, and continued with his portrait and horse paintings, which were exhibited at the National Gallery of Montreal.

1947 Early in the year he moved to Boston and continued painting portraits and horses. His works were exhibited in Ehrmann's and Vose Galleries. Later in the year he moved to San Francisco.

1948 He produced a clay sculpture head of Egon Petri. He also produced a number of wood carvings. His paintings were chosen in the 'Renoir to Picasso' Exhibition held at the Maxwell Gallery in San Francisco.

1949 He left San Francisco for a short stay in New York.
1950 He travelled to England to live in St. John's Wood.

1951 He returned to New York to complete a number of portrait commissions and was accepted as a member of Portraits Inc., New York.

1952 In August, he took out a United States of America Certificate of Naturalization.

1953 His works were included in a Group Impressionists Exhibition held at the Ohana Gallery, London.

1954 He travelled to New York where he was commissioned to paint Herbert Gasser, Nobel Prize Winner in Biochemistry.

1955 He returned to England and then travelled to Paris to exhibit his works in the Galerie Marcel Lenoir.

1956 He again returned to New York to work on portrait commissions and exhibitions of his works, mainly of horses. These were held in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.

1957 An exhibition of his works was held at the Veerhoff Gallery, Washington, D. C.

1958 He returned to England to live in Markham Square, Chelsea. He continued with his paintings of horses, mainly oils on canvas.

1960 He moved to Antibes, on the French Riviera in the South-East of France. His works were now permanently exhibited at Galerie Madsen, Rue St. Honore, Paris and Galerie Davis, Place Vendome, Paris.

1961 He was invited to attend a special bull-fight held in the South of France, which was organized for Pablo Picasso's 80th birthday. Scenes of bull-fights were later to appear in a number of his canvases.

1963 He moved to Belgravia, London and soon after moved to New York for portrait commissions. He than travelled to Mexico City where his works were exhibited at the Galerie Arte de Coleccionistas. Late in the year he returned to England and moved once again this time to Vienna.

1964 He moved from Vienna to Wurttemberg, close to the Black Forest in South-West Germany. He remained there for three years although there were regular trips to Paris and Spain.

1967 From Wurttemberg, he moved to an old stone farmhouse in the village of Voulangis, situated some forty kilometres outside of Paris.

1967 On one short trip he travelled to Beverly Hills, California where his works were exhibited by the Art Collectors Gallery.

1974 He painted the portrait of 'Octavio', the favorite Arab horse of Delia, Princess Zu Oettingen of Wallerstein. Her husband, the Prince, being President of the Baden-Baden Jockey Club.

1975 He moved from Voulangis to Castelfontana in the Dorf Tirol overlooking Merano, Italy. He exhibited his works in a group exhibition in Merano in which works by Dali and Annigoni were also displayed.

1976 His works were chosen for a group exhibition held in the Museo de los Castillos, Manzanaves el Real, Madrid, Spain.

1978 He travelled to Ottawa, Canada where he stayed for three to four months, painting portraits on commission.

1979 He returned to his old farmhouse at Voulangis for a few months and then travelled to Westmount, Montreal, where he lived for just over a year.

1981 He moved from Westmount to Oxford, England where he resided for a few months before moving to Stoneythorpe Hall in Warwickshire.

1983 After a short stay in Paris he travelled to Hungary and only four weeks after his arrival he died of cancer on the 11th May.

He left behind a heritage of portrait and fine horse paintings, the latter of which fall within seven distinct themes. These seven themes are polo, circus, rodeo, hunt, bull-fight, race-course and running free.

1985 His works were selected for a group exhibition in Cascais, Lisbon.

Additional to de Holesch Biography

1989 Holesch-horse paintings in Budapest, Hotel Atrium Hyatt

1989 Catalogue and Biography was published by Andrew Mackenzie Australian art-writer

1999 His famous painting "Courtship" can be seen /and two more/ in the American film "One other day in Paradise" with Melanie Griffith.

2000 We love horses don't we? Holesch paintings were exhibited with contemporary Hungarian paintings in Budapest.

The next Holesch exhibition will be opening on 26th of November in Budapest, in House of Hungarian Press.

2001 Hungarian journalist, Klari Fekete published a book: "Holesch, in prison of freedom".

2009 Joyce Greer de Holesch, Australian pianist and the painter's widow and muse, passed away in Budapest, Hungary.  Thanks to a wonderful portrait of Joyce painted in 1949, Holesch could join Portraits Inc., New York.  Unfortunately, that portrait was lost during the long journey.

2010 The Centenary Year of Denes de Holesch exhibition, "Holesch 100", at the Hungarian Culture Foundation in Budapest with 70 paintings, many collected with help from the internet including

2011 The artist's 1979 portrait of Pope John Paul II is exhibited at the Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary.

2014 A 40-minute documentary film detailing the half century journey of the painter titled: Prisoner of Freedom-Portrait of a Painter is available (English subtitles)

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information is submitted by Klari Fekete. The source is ART MOZAIK, March 2003.

Holesch's Horses Came Home to Budapest!

Denes Holesch (Denes de Holesch) was born in 1910 in Besztercebanya, Hungary.  He entered the Academy of Fine Arts as a Hungarian with a Czechoslovakian passport, since Hungary was divided after the Trianon Treaty in 1920.  That frustrating feeling made him try his fortune abroad.  He became devoted to freedom, while he was homesick constantly and desperately.

During the fifty years he spent outside Hungary, he lived and worked in fifteen countries.  After China and the Philippines he went to Bali.  The seven years he spent in Australia proved to be significant both in his career and private life.  He met the celebrated pianist, Joyce Greer there, and married her.  He longed to go to America, the land of freedom.  He did not arrive to surrender but to conquer.

He became a member of the American Portrait Painters' Society and received the American citizenship.  An Australian critic told him once: 'Denes, you are the Stubbs of the 20th century!'. He was more and more appreciated as an artist, but Europe's call was stronger.

Breaking his vow he made back in 1956, he returned to Hungary in 1983.  He could not enjoy his homeland for a long time, as a few month later, on 11th May he died.  Holesch's first run came to an end. Wherever he went in the world, he claimed to be a Hungarian painter.  His death pushed him back to unfamiliarity.

As a result of the devoted work by his family members and Hungarian art lovers, he has become a recognized, popular painter in his homeland Hungary.  Although his paintings appear regularly in international auctions, a tremendous proportion of his art heritage was discovered in  the world and brought to Hungary for his Centenary Exhibition in 2010. 

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