Victor Vasarely

Last updated

Victor Vasarely
Victor Vasarely.jpg
Photograph c. 1930
Győző Vásárhelyi

( 1906-04-09)9 April 1906
Died15 March 1997(1997-03-15) (aged 90)
Nationality Hungarian
Known for Painting, sculpture
Notable work
Zebra (c. 1930s)
Movement Op art

Victor Vasarely (French:  [viktɔʁ vazaʁəli] ; born Győző Vásárhelyi, Hungarian:  [ˈvaːʃaːrhɛji ˈɟøːzøː] ; 9 April 1906 [1] 15 March 1997), was a Hungarian-French artist, who is widely accepted as a "grandfather" and leader [2] of the op art movement.

French people are a Romance ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

Op art art movement

Op art, short for optical art, is a style of visual art that uses optical illusions.


His work entitled Zebra, created in the 1930s, is considered by some to be one of the earliest examples of op art.

Life and work

Vasarely was born in Pécs and grew up in Pöstyén (now Piešťany, Slovakia) and Budapest, where, in 1925, he took up medical studies at Eötvös Loránd 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 private art school called Műhely (lit. "Workshop", in existence until 1938), then widely recognized as Budapest's centre of Bauhaus studies. Cash-strapped, the műhely could not offer all that the Bauhaus offered. Instead it concentrated on applied graphic art and typographical design.

Pécs City with county rights in Southern Transdanubia, Hungary

Pécs is the fifth largest city of Hungary, located on the slopes of the Mecsek mountains in the south-west of the country, close to its border with Croatia. It is the administrative and economic centre of Baranya County. Pécs is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pécs.

Piešťany Town in Slovakia

Piešťany is a town in Slovakia. It is located in the western part of the country within the Trnava Region and is the seat of its own district. It is the biggest and best known spa town in Slovakia and has around 28,000 inhabitants.

Budapest Capital of Hungary

Budapest is the capital and the most populous city of Hungary, and the tenth-largest city in the European Union by population within city limits. The city has an estimated population of 1,752,286 over a land area of about 525 square kilometres. Budapest is both a city and county, and forms the centre of the Budapest metropolitan area, which has an area of 7,626 square kilometres and a population of 3,303,786, comprising 33% of the population of Hungary.

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. Jean-Pierre was also an artist and used the professional name 'Yvaral'. In Budapest, he worked for a ball-bearings company in accounting and designing advertising posters. Vasarely became a graphic designer and a poster artist during the 1930s combining patterns and organic images with each other.

Jean-Pierre Vasarely (1934–2002), professionally known as Yvaral, was a French artist working in the fields of op-art and kinetic art from 1954 onwards. He was the son of Victor Vasarely, who was a pioneer of op-art.

Outdoor Vasarely artwork at the church of Palos in Pecs Hungary pecs - vasarely0.jpg
Outdoor Vasarely artwork at the church of Pálos in Pécs

Vasarely left Hungary and settled in Paris in 1930. He worked 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 thought of opening an institution modeled after Sándor Bortnyik's műhely 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 about 10 kilometers from the centre 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).

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Sándor Bortnyik Hungarian artist

Sándor Bortnyik was a Hungarian painter and graphic designer. His work was greatly influenced by Cubism, Expressionism and Constructivism.

Saint-Céré Commune in Occitanie, France

Saint-Céré is a commune of 3,609 people situated in the Lot valley in the Lot. The commune includes within its borders the castle of St-Laurent-Les-Tours, where the artist Jean Lurçat lived and worked for many years, and from which he operated a secret radio for the French Resistance. The castle still houses a collection of his works.

Vasarely eventually went on to produce art and sculpture using optical illusion. Over the next three decades, Vasarely developed his style of geometric abstract art [3] , working in various materials but using a minimal number of forms and colours:

Optical illusion Visually perceived images that differ from objective reality

An optical illusion is an illusion caused by the visual system and characterized by a visual percept that arguably appears to differ from reality. Illusions come in a wide variety; their categorization is difficult because the underlying cause is often not clear but a classification proposed by Richard Gregory is useful as an orientation. According to that, there are three main classes: physical, physiological, and cognitive illusions, and in each class there are four kinds: Ambiguities, distortions, paradoxes, and fictions. A classical example for a physical distortion would be the apparent bending of a stick half immerged in water; an example for a physiological paradox is the motion aftereffect. An example for a physiological fiction is an afterimage. Three typical cognitive distortions are the Ponzo, Poggendorff, and Müller-Lyer illusion. Physical illusions are caused by the physical environment, e.g. by the optical properties of water. Physiological illusions arise in the eye or the visual pathway, e.g. from the effects of excessive stimulation of a specific receptor type. Cognitive visual illusions are the result of unconscious inferences and are perhaps those most widely known.

Cubism Early-20th-century avant-garde art movement

Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture. Cubism has been considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century. The term is broadly used in association with a wide variety of art produced in Paris during the 1910s and throughout the 1920s.

Expressionism modernist art movement

Expressionism is a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists have sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality.

Symbolism (arts) art movement

Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts.

Tribute to Malevitch (1954), Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas Victor Vasarely (28Tribute to Malevitch) UCV 1954.jpg
Tribute to Malevitch (1954), Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas
Supernovae (1959-61) in Tate Modern Supernovae (1959-61) by Victor Vasarely.jpg
Supernovae (1959–61) in Tate Modern
Kezdi-Ga, 1970, Screenprint in colours, Edition of 250, 50.8 cm x 50.8 cm (20.0 in x 20.0 in) Victor Vasarely Kezdi-Ga 1970 Screenprint in colors 20x20in 50.8x50.8cm Edition of 250.jpg
Kezdi-Ga, 1970, Screenprint in colours, Edition of 250, 50.8 cm × 50.8 cm (20.0 in × 20.0 in)

In October 1967, designer Will Burtin invited Vasarely to make a presentation to Burtin's Vision '67 conference, held at New York University. 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 Foundation 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, two years after his death. 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 birthplace in Pécs, Hungary, was established with a large donation of works by Vasarely. In the same decade, he took a stab at industrial design with a 500-piece run of the upscale Suomi tableware by Timo Sarpaneva that Vasarely decorated for the German Rosenthal porcelain maker's Studio Linie. [4] 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 age 90 in Paris on 15 March 1997.


A new Vasarely exhibit was mounted I Paris at Musée en Herbe in 2012.

In 2019, a temporary exhibition of Vasarely's work entitled Le Partage des Formes was displayed in the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. [5]


Museum Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence Fondation Vasarely, Aix-en-Provence.jpg
Museum Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence


See also

Related Research Articles

Josef Albers German-American artist and educator

Josef Albers was a German-born American artist and educator whose work, both in Europe and in the United States, formed the basis of modern art education programs of the twentieth century.

Óbuda Part of District III of Budapest, Hungary

Óbuda was a city in Hungary that was merged with Buda and Pest on 17 November 1873; it now forms part of District III-Óbuda-Békásmegyer of Budapest. The name means Old Buda in Hungarian. The name in Croatian and Serbian for this city is Stari Budim, but the local Croat minority calls it Obuda.

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka painter from Hungary

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka was a Hungarian painter who was part of the avant-garde movement of the early twentieth century. Working mostly in Budapest, he was one of the first Hungarian painters to become known in Europe. On 15 December 2006 the Kieselbach Gallery in Budapest sold an auction the most expensive Csontváry painting so far. The Rendezvous (1902) was bought by an anonymous client for more than one million EUR.

Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest) Art museum in Heroes Square, Budapest

The Museum of Fine Arts is a museum in Heroes' Square, Budapest, Hungary, facing the Palace of Art.

Mihály Zichy Hungarian painter

Mihály Zichy was a Hungarian painter and graphic artist.

Árpád Szenes Hungarian-Jewish abstract painter

Árpád Szenes was a Hungarian-Jewish abstract painter who worked in France.

Bertalan Pór Hungarian artist

Bertalan Pór (1880–1964) was a Hungarian painter associated with the development of modernist Hungarian art. He was a member of The Eight, a movement among several Hungarian painters in the early twentieth century who represented the radical edge in Budapest. They introduced Fauvism, cubism, and expressionism to Hungarian art.

The Architecture of Hungary is understood as the architecture of the territory of the country of Hungary, and in a wider, of the Kingdom of Hungary, from the conquest to the present day.

Róbert Berény Hungarian artist

Róbert Berény was a Hungarian painter, one of the avant-garde group known as The Eight who introduced cubism and expressionism to Hungarian art in the early twentieth century before the First World War. He had studied and exhibited in Paris as a young man and was also considered one of the Hungarian Fauves.

János Saxon-Szász is a freelance Hungarian creative artist and art organizer.

Zsuzsa Szikra is a Hungarian painter whose works are marked by their poetic abstract character. She is also well known for her portraits. Zsuzsa Szikra is a member of the Association of Hungarian Creative Artists, in Hungarian Magyar Alkotóművészek Országos Egyesülete – MAOE.

Lajos Tihanyi Hungarian painter

Lajos Tihanyi was a Hungarian painter and lithographer who achieved international renown working outside his country, primarily in Paris, France. After emigrating in 1919, he never returned to Hungary, even on a visit.

Endre Tot born in Sümeg, Hungary,1937 is a Hungarian artist who lives and works in Cologne, Germany.

Károly Kernstok Hungarian artist

Károly Kernstok is a Hungarian painter. In the early twentieth century, he was known for being among the leading groups of Hungarian painters known as the "Neos" and The Eight (1909–1918), before the First World War. He was particularly influenced by the work of Henri Matisse, as may be seen in his monumental painting Riders at the Waterside (1910).

László Dombrovszky was a painter born as Stanislaw Dombrowski.

Ilona Keserü Ilona Hungarian painter

Ilona Keserü Ilona, IKI is a Hungarian painter, professor emerita, Kossuth Prize winner.

<i>The New Adam</i> painting by Sándor Bortnyik

The New Adam is a painting by the Hungarian artist Sándor Bortnyik from 1924.

János Major was a Hungarian graphic artist, painter and photographer from Budapest. He was born as Janos Neufeld to a Jewish family in Budapest.


  1. Birth registered at county archives of Pécs ref. no. 330/1906
  2. Smith, Roberta (18 March 1997). "Victor Vasarely, Op Art Patriarch, Dies at 90". The New York Times .
  3. "What Is Abstract Art? How Artists Make Something Out of Nothing". Park West Gallery. 13 June 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  4. [Anon.] (1976). "Faenza-Goldmedaille für SUOMI". Artis. Vol. 29. p. 8. ISSN   0004-3842.
  5. "Vasarely – Sharing Forms". Centre Pompidou . Retrieved 7 May 2019.
Further reading