Victor Vasarely was born on April 9, 1906, in Pécs, Hungary. After studying medicine at the University of Budapest for two years, he left school in 1927 to devote himself to art. In 1929 he enrolled at Mühely, a school founded by Alexandre Bortnyik and based on the principles of the Dessau Bauhaus. It was during this time that he first came into contact with Constructivism and abstract art. In 1930 he left Hungary and moved to Paris, where he started work as a graphic designer. During his first graphic period, between 1929 and 1946 Vasarely laid the foundations for his future artistic practice, experimenting with themes that he would develop later.

Between 1935 and 1947 the artist rediscovered painting. Influenced by Cubism and Surrealism, he focused on portraiture, landscape, and still life. His works dating from the “Belle-Isle” period (1947–1958), so named because they were inspired by a visit to Belle-Isle, marked his passage into abstraction through the use of natural materials. The “Denfert” period (1951-1958) gave rise to strange designs inspired by the walls of the Denfert-Rochereau Métro station in Paris. Works from the “Cristal-Gordes” period (1948–1958) were characterized by a juxtaposition of contrasting, brightly colored shapes, while in his work from the “Black and White” period (1950-1965), Vasarely revisited his former graphic tendencies. In 1955 he exhibited with several other representatives of the Kinetic Art movement at the Denise René Gallery in Paris and the same year published his Manifeste Jaune.

In 1965 he took part in Responsive Eye, an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, dedicated to Optical Art. He continued to explore movement and perception, and in his so-called “Vonal” period (1964–1970) he went back to drawing, combining the linear and graphic themes of his “Black and White” period with a new exploration of color. His “Vega” period began in 1968, at which time he deformed compositional elements in order to create the optical illusion of a bloated painting surface. In 1976 he founded the Vasarely Foundation in Aix-en-Provence, affirming his belief that art should be linked to its social context and environment. The artist died in Paris on March 15, 1997.


Victor Vasarely



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