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 Ferenc Varga  (1906 - 1989)

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Lived/Active: Florida / Hungary      Known for: sculpture

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from Auction House Records.
Bust of St. Francis
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ferenc Varga (1906 - 1989)

Born in Szekesfehervar on May 29, 1906, he was the second of nine children.  He had to start to work early to assist his parents but also had many opportunities at home to use his hands, to make things and to express his surprisingly advanced talent for drawings.  The young artist was around ten years old when he put his mind to being a painter.  As models, he used art works in public places, visiting the museum and art galleries, making fast sketches which he painted later at home.

His artistic ability earned him a place in the Academy of Fine Arts and after completing his secondary school he went to Budapest to study under professors Jeno Bory and Ferenc Sidlo.  The sculpture of Ferenc Varga expressed beauty and also majestic strength and dignity. 

After graduating from the Academy, he became associate professor at his Alma Mater at the age of 22 and from 1928 to 1940 he was teaching with professor Bory.  Teaching remained his vocation throughout his entire life.  He later taught in his studios in Detroit and many years later in Delray Beach.

Ferenc Varga was twenty years old when he won the Grand Prize in a nationwide art exhibition with his life size marble statue, “Eve” (1926), and from that time on he participated in all important exhibitions and national competitions in Hungary.  He received the prestigious Lord Rothermere Award in 1928.  His composition won him his first memorial for the dead of World War I in the town of Piszke. He won a scholarship for further study in Italy in 1937.  During this stay, he exhibited his work, and the Italian government purchased a number of his statues.

Coming home to Hungary, he received an invitation from Professor Elemer Schwartz to assist him in the newly initiated “Betlehemes Mozgalom” ( a movement to popularize the Nativity in Christmas) to bring back the image of the Holy Family into the lives of the Hungarian families.  Soon a number of life size statues depicting scenes of the Holy Family graced the squares and churches of Budapest.  Two more war memorials followed (Kiskunfelegyhaza in 1941 and Szatmar in 1942) and in the same year a new scholarship (Ede Ballo) took him to Rodin’s Paris.

In 1943 he won the open competition for a memorial to Aron Gabor, a famous figure in a war against the Habsburgs in 1848.  That same year he completed Szt. Istvan (St. Stephen) and students in Carrara marble for the city of Budapest and started to work on six near life size statues in wood for the church of the Cistercian Order in Buda.  

In the meantime the Hungarian government continued to collect Varga sculptures for the National Museum the Budapest City Museum and for the National Gallery.  His popularity was as high as ever, his works were frequently reviewed in many periodicals and in the daily papers.  He was elected to the St. Istvan Academy Of Arts, Letters and Sciences and Varga statues could be found in the Vatican, Italian, Swiss and Belgian museums.  The last recognition in Hungary came in the form of the first prize he won in a competition to commemorate the great Hungarian painter, Rippl-Ronay.  This prize was a parting farewell from one great artist to another

He married Anna Pazman in 1937 and their only child Ferenc (Frank) junior, was born in 1943.

The family left Hungary in 1948, and after spending a short time in Belgium, went to Canada and then to the United States.  In a relatively short two years in Canada, Ferenc Varga was working in a number of small jobs, among them as a plasterer for various builders.  At the same time he exhibited, and the Windsor Star wrote on May 12, 1951 that the work of Ferenc Varga dominated an exhibit of foreign born artists only two years after arriving to the new world.

Ferenc Varga moved to the United States and opened his first studio in Detroit.  The first few years were very difficult but his talent and his name became known and soon commissions arrived.   Among those were the “Peace”, the 39 feet high figure of Christ for the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the 28 feet high stone relief of St. Joseph for St. Joseph Church, Wyandotte, Michigan.  He completed a series of 14 feet high white marble figures of the twelve apostles and of the “Good Shepherd” among others for Fort  Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood Maryland; the feet 10 high granite archangels and the 18 feet statue of “ Queen of Heaven” for the cemetery of the same name in Chicago, Illinois.  These were followed by the 8 feet high St. Francis and other figures in stone and mahogany for the St. Francis Retreat House in DeWitt, Michigan and also an 8 feet tall Pieta for St. Juliana Convent in Detroit, Michigan.

His Statues of Casmir Pulaski, the astronomer Nikolas Copernicus are in Detroit together with the heroic size bust of Ferenc Liszt in the Ford Auditorium.  The nearby city of Hamtramck received the nine feet tall figure of Pope John Paul II.  The life size bronze statue of Cardinal Mindszenty was completed for New Brunswick, New Jersey.  There are other cities, among them Toledo (Ohio), Buffalo (N.Y.), Dallas (Texas), Belle Glade, Delray Beach, Highland Beach (all in Florida ), or the Canadian cities of Toronto, Windsor and Chatam which commissioned similar life size or heroic size works of Ferenc Varga.

Ferenc Varga relocated his studio to Delray Beach, Florida in 1970 and he not only continued to receive commissions both for religious and non-religious works but he was also teaching an ever increasing number of students.

His health failing, he was still teaching until the very last few weeks.  He passed on September 3,1989.

Source:
varga-art.com/

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