(1906 – 1997)

In Current Viewing Room
Le Jongleur by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork painting
Victor Vasarely
Le Jongleur, c. 1985
Stern Pissarro Gallery Enter Viewing Room

Victor Vasarely Biography

Hungarian-French painter and printmaker Victor Vasarely is often hailed as the grandfather of Op art. The artist is renowned for creating artwork that produces the illusion of movement through the precise arrangement of geometric shapes in patterns of contrasting tones, either in black and white or vivid colour.

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Vasarely's practice has influenced Op artists Bridget Riley, Jesús Rafael Soto, Yaacov Agam, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Julio Le Parc and François Morellet.

Early Years

Vasarely was born in Pécs, Hungary, growing up in Piešt'any, in what is now Slovakia, and Budapest. Showing more interest in science rather than art during his childhood, Vasarely initially began his studies in medicine, but left after two years to pursue traditional academic painting. Shortly thereafter, Vasarely enrolled at the Műhely, a private art academy led by Sàndor Bortynik, an avantgarde artist and advocate of the Bauhaus.

There Vasarely was exposed to the teachings of the original Bauhaus artists—Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy, and Paul Klee—and their formal language of abstract and geometrical arrangement. He was also heavily influenced by the work of the Russian Constructivists and Suprematists to produce kinetic art, art that moved or gave the illusion of doing so.

In the 1930s, Vasarely moved to Paris to work in advertising as a graphic designer. During this early period, Vasarely experimented with the scientific principles of colour and optics, producing prints and paintings that were abstractions of real subjects. In 1937, he produced Zebra, a black-and-white image of two zebras defined only by their white stripes, which is considered to be one of the first pieces of Op art.

In 1944, he co-founded the Denise René Gallery with art dealer Denise René, where he held his first significant exhibition of his graphic works and drawings. It was following the Second World War, during which Vasarely had spent some years living in the Lot region in southwest France, that Vasarely transitioned to his signature style, producing fully abstract works based purely on the organisation of geometric shapes and the illusion of movement.

Victor Vasarely Artworks

The hallmark of Victor Vasarely's 1950s style is a visually intense arrangement of contrasting hard-edged geometric shapes in black and white, set in complex orderly patterns. Not only does this style give the illusion of space and depth on an abstract two-dimensional surface, but it also contains a sense of dynamic movement.

In 1955, Vasarely exhibited in Le Mouvement, a landmark exhibition at the Denise René Gallery that also the featured work of Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Jean Tinguely, and is credited with popularising kinetic art. There Vasarely demonstrated his scientific theories of art-making, which he also published in his Yellow Manifesto in the same year.

Vasarely began to work with colour more in the 1960s. It was in this decade that he fully realised his alphabet plastique (plastic alphabet), a basic set of geometric shapes and colours that could be arranged in potentially endless configurations. This compositional system was used to create the influential 'Planetary Folklore' series, through which Vasarely sought to generate visual effects that could be universally understood. The systematicity of Vasarely's plastic alphabet, which could be easily reproduced by studio assistants, also laid the foundation for serial art, a movement that involved the composition of artworks through strictly defined, modular principles.

The 1960s also saw Vasarely's arrival on the international art scene. At the influential Op art exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1965, The Responsive Eye, Vasarely exhibited alongside other younger Op artists such as Bridget Riley and Yaacov Agam. As well as bringing international fame and demand for Vasarely's works, the exhibition led to the appropriation of Op art by fashion, advertising, and popular graphics. Op art was well-suited to these industries as a style able to lend itself to mass production and hold broad universal appeal, requiring only the eye, rather than prior knowledge, to be appreciated.

Exhibitions

Victor Vasarely exhibited in solo and group exhibitions both throughout his lifetime and after. In 1970, he established the Vasarely Foundation and the first museum dedicated to his work in Gordes, France, followed by a second outpost of the Vasarely Foundation in Aix-en-Provence in 1976. There are two museums dedicated to his work in Hungary, located in his hometown of Pécs and in Budapest.

Significant solo exhibitions include Vasarely — Sharing Forms, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2019) and Vasarely vous a à l'oeil, Le Musée en Herbe, Paris (2012).

Website

The Fondation Vasarely's website can be found here.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2022

Victor Vasarely Featured Artworks

View All (12)
Einstein by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Victor Vasarely Einstein, 1976 Felt tip pen on cardboard
76.3 x 53 cm
Not for sale
Mazzoleni
Cassiopée 3 by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork painting
Victor Vasarely Cassiopée 3, 1957 Acrylic on card laid down on wood panel
Mazzoleni Contact Gallery
Infin by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork painting
Victor Vasarely Infin, 1979 Acrylic on canvas
200 x 200 cm
Mazzoleni Contact Gallery
Alom VV by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork painting
Victor Vasarely Alom VV, 1970 Acrylic on canvas
197.7 x 197.1 cm
Mazzoleni Contact Gallery
Dorlak by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Victor Vasarely Dorlak, 1991 Acrylic on canvas
130.4 x 130.1 x 3.5 cm
Mazzoleni Contact Gallery
Cheyt-E by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork painting
Victor Vasarely Cheyt-E, 1970 Acrylic on artist board
52.5 x 49.8 cm
Galerie Thomas Contact Gallery
Untitled (Mur de brique) by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork works on paper
Victor Vasarely Untitled (Mur de brique), 1939 Tempera and collage on paper
40.9 x 58.5 cm
Galerie Thomas Contact Gallery
Quasar by Victor Vasarely contemporary artwork works on paper
Victor Vasarely Quasar, 1965 Acrylic on paper
63 x 63 cm
Templon Contact Gallery

Victor Vasarely Current Viewing Rooms

5 September–29 October 2022 Group Exhibition Exploring Colour in the Gallery Collection Stern Pissarro Gallery

Victor Vasarely Current & Recent Exhibitions

Victor Vasarely Represented By

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