Victor Vasarely Artist Biography

Hungarian-born French artist, Victor Vasarely was one of the founders of the op art (optical art) movement. His work entitled Zebra, created in the 1930's, is considered by some to be one of the earliest examples of Op-art. Victor Vasarely developed his own geometric form of abstraction, which he varied to create different optical patterns with a kinetic effect. The artist makes a grid in which he arranges geometric forms in brilliant colours in such a way that the eye perceives a fluctuating movement. This was a major contribution to the development of Op Art.

Victor Vasarely was born in the city of Pécs, Hungary in 1906. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Pieštany (then Pöstyén) and later in Budapest. Throughout his early life, he found himself drawn more towards the sciences than the arts, and in 1925 he applied for and was accepted at the University of Budapest’s School of Medicine where he spent two years studying. In 1927, Victor Vasarely made a radical and life changing decision – he decided to suspend his studies in medicine and change direction completely, making the decision to pursue a career in art. These years studying medicine were far from wasted though as the formal scientific training provided him with a strong sense of scientific method and objectivity – something that stood him in good stead throughout his artistic career. He attended the Muhely Academy, the centre of the Bauhaus movement in Budapest. While there, he was profoundly influenced by the work of colour theorist and artist Josef Albers, as well as the Constructivist methods promoted by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky.

Victor Vasarely’s excellence in drawing was quickly noticed. In 1929 he painted his Blue Study and Green Study. In Budapest, he became a graphics designer and a poster artist during the 1930’s who combined patterns and organic images with each other. In 1930, Victor Vasarely emigrated to Paris where he developed his particular vision which stems from the idea of democratizing the art object. Influenced greatly by the problems of the world's cities, he feels his work offers a solution by presenting a clear view of the "colour-surface-perception" relationship.

Victor Vasarely left Hungary and settled in Paris in 1930 working 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 played with the idea of opening up an institution modelled after Sándor Bortnyik Műhely’s and developed some teaching material for it. Over the next three decades, he developed his style of geometric abstract art, working in various materials but using a minimal number of forms and colours. During the 1950's and 1960's, his work became more focused on the optical potential of the two-dimensional surface. He began to use complex and colourful patterns to actively engage the viewer’s eye, and to convey a sense of kinetic energy across the two-dimensional surface. His optical images became part of the popular culture, having a deep impact on architecture, computer science and fashion. The official spiral-shaped logo of the 20th Olympic games in Munich was designed by Victor Vasarely.

Victor Vasarely is represented in major museums all over the world and has received many artistic and honorary awards. Among these distinctions are the French Legion of Honour, the Guggenheim Prize, and the Gold Medal of the Triennale in Milan.

He died in Paris on 15 March 1997. “The art of tomorrow will be a collective treasure or it will not be art at all” Victor Vasarely

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