Victor Vasarely (1906-1997)
Victor Vasarely is a French painter of Hungarian origin. Born in 1906 as Győző Vásárhelyi, he trained at the Académie Pololini-Volkmann, then in 1929 in Budapest, at Sándor Bortnyik’s Académie Műhely (close to Bauhaus), before moving to Paris in 1931. He began his career in advertising with Havas, Devambez, Draeger, where between 1936 and 1944 he created an important graphic oeuvre which includes the Zebra series, considered to be a first example of Pop Art.
In 1944, he contributed to the founding of the gallery Denise René, inaugurated by his very first exhibition. After a series of portraits in a post-Cubist style (Autoportrait, Antonin Artaud), Vasarely immersed himself in the works of Kandinsky, Mondrian, Klee, and Malévitch, developing from 1952 a geometric abstraction based on the play of several colours and a supple and dynamic line.
‘The languages of the mind are merely the “supervibrations” of the great physical nature’, he continuously affirmed after observing a pebble during a trip to Belle-Île.
His discovery of Kinetism and Optic Art (mid-1950s – mid-1960s) is in fact the fruit of a persistent labour, the many stages of which we can distinguish from his first works. In 1959, he conceived the ‘plastic unit’, a basic pictorial unit consisting of a square containing a coloured geometric figure.
Turning away from the painting of a single surface upon an easel, his practice evolved to experiment with walls and volume, utilising new materials such as aluminium and glass. He sought to integrate his creations within architecture, realising, for example, at the Cité universitaire in Caracas a ceramic wall creation with aluminium slats, and in Paris, works upon the façades of buildings constructed by Jean Ginsberg on boulevard Lannes and avenue de Versailles. The plastic artist thereafter carried out architectonic integrations at Gare Montparnasse and on the façade of RTL in Paris, all the while continuing his pursuit of animating a wall with optical effects.
Participating in all major Contemporary art events, Vasarely became famous throughout the world.
With his wife Claire he created the Fondation Vasarely, recognised in 1971 as promoting the public interest. The Foundation united the Didactic Museum in Gordes (inaugurated in 1970, closed in 1996), the Aix-en-Provence Centre of Architectonic Research (inaugurated in 1976) and two didactic museums in Pécs, Hungary (1976) and in Budapest (1986).
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