Vasarely’s bio

1906 Born on 9 April in Pécs, as Győző Csiszár. His mother, Anna Csiszár, originated in Trnava (Slovakia), his father, Győző (Viktor) Lajos Vásárhelyi, moved to Budapest from Timişoara (Romania) and worked as headwaiter. Vasarely spends some of his childhood in Piešťany (Slovakia).

1908 The family moves to Budapest. He is given his father’s surname: from that time forward he is named Győző Vásárhelyi. He lives in a milieu of catering and theatre: his aunt, Vilma Vásárhelyi is an actress.

1921−1925 Vásárhelyi earns a qualification in French and German business correspondence at a high school for commerce.

1922 Takes evening nude drawing classes at Artúr Podolini-Volkmann’s Free School of Drawing and Painting, where he learns to prepare paint and frames, and to prime canvas.

1925 Works as an assistant accountant at the “Labor” Pharmaceutical and Chemical Works; this is where he receives his first graphic design commission. Takes an interest in medical science.

1929−1930 Enrols at the Műhely (Workshop), a school in Budapest modelled on the Bauhaus, established in 1928 by painters, architects and technology experts (among them Sándor Bortnyik and Farkas Molnár), who had previously taken part in the founding of the Új Építők Társasága (New Architects’ Society). In the autumn of 1929, Vásárhelyi joins Sándor Bortnyik’s own Workshop of graphic design. He studies graphic design, typography, modern design, film and stage design. This is where he meets graphic designer Klára Spinner (1909–1991), his future wife.

1929−1931 Publishes his first graphic designs.

1930 Exhibits, with Sándor Bortnyik’s school, at the Museum of Applied Arts’ Exhibition of Book and Advertising Design. The show features László MoholyNagy and Marcell Breuer, among others. Vasarely and Klára Spinner exhibit graphic designs at the gallery of Ákos Kovács.

1930 Vasarely moves to Paris. Marries Klára Spinner, who gives birth to their two sons, André (1931) and Jean-Pierre, called by the pseudonym Yvaral (1934–2002). Works for French printing houses (Draeger, Devambez, Agence Havas).

1933 Exhibits the designs he made in France in the Ernst Museum, Budapest.

1935 Starts making advertising supplements for medical publications at Roger Bessard’s publishing house. Bessard later takes Vasarely as a partner, which brings the artist financial security. He considers establishing a free school of artistic graphic design, but the plan is never realised.

1939 At the Parisian Café Flore he meets Denise René (maiden name Denise Bleibtreu, 1913–2012), who runs a fashion house.

1942−1943 His illogical juxtaposition of trompe-l’œil and figural elements in his visual art works finds interest with the surrealist André Breton.

1944 The Galerie Denise René opens on 13 February. Its first exhibition is Vasarely’s Drawings and Graphic Compositions. Vasarely goes on to contribute to the artistic programme of the gallery. He later described his work between 1929–1939/1945 as his Graphic Period, and his figurative and gestural paintings, despite his successes, as The Wrong Roads.

1946−1951 Following the exhibitions Abstract Paintings (Peintures abstrait), 1st Salon of New Realities (Ier Salon des Réalités Nouvelles), and KlarForm (1951), the programme of the Gallerie Denise René shifts towards the exclusive representation of geometric abstract art, and later kinetic art. Vasarely plays a key role in this turn.

1947−1954 His experiences of reflected lights on the coasts of Belle Isle and later in Gordes (La Vaucluse) inspire optical studies in his abstract paintings of the Belle-Isle and Crystal periods. The hairline cracks he observed on the wall tiles of the Paris metro inspired the works of the Denfert period. He starts to study stereoscopic vision and depth perception. His work develops parallel with modern research into vision.

1951−1954 Moves to Arcueil. The Black–White period leads him to the principles of his distinctive kinetic art. Makes photographic enlargements of some of his black-and-white drawings, calling them Photographismes. Produces silk screen prints and creates his first “kinetic deep reliefs.” In 1954, he uses his piece Hommage à Malevich for his first architectural work, a ceramic wall at the Central University of Venezuela, Caracas, invited by Carlos Raúl Villanueva.

1955 The Movement (Le Mouvement), the first major international exhibition of kinetic art opens at Galerie Denise René. In the catalogue Vasarely publishes his so-called Yellow Manifesto, which gains its name from the colour of the sheet.

1959−1961 Obtains a patent for the invention he calls plastic unity, which is based on the unity of colour and form, and becomes the foundation of his Plastic Alphabet. The idea of democratic multiplication informs the series Planetary Folklore.

1960 Denise René and Vasarely stage two exhibitions for Lajos Kassák (1887–1967), and publish an album of silk screen prints titled Kassák–V. Vasarely (1960).

1961 Moves to Annet-sur-Marne

1965 He is one of the stars of the exhibition The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

1967 Carries out his Gestalt experiments, modelling the uncertainty of vision, optical illusions, and apparent movement in images.

1967−1981 Publishes his utopian ideas on the architecture of a “colourful city” in the volume Plasti-Cité (1970). He donates public statues to Hungary, in cooperation with the Zsolnay Porcelain Works of Pécs (Southern Railway Terminal, Budapest: mural work, 1976; glazed ceramic sculpture, 1977).

1968 Donates 123 silk screen prints to the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Visits Budapest for the first time in 35 years.

1969 Vasarely’s retrospective exhibition at the Hall of Arts, Budapest. The artist and his wife attend the opening, along with Denise René, and members of her family who have a stake in the Galerie Denise René. He visits Sándor Bortnyik.

1969−1977 He donates 26 geometric abstract and kinetic works by internationally recognized artists (including Josef Albers, Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay and Le Corbusier) to the Janus Pannonius Museum, Pécs and the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. He donates three of his paintings to the Museum of Fine Arts, which are shown at the exhibition 20th-century International Artists of Hungarian Origin in the Hall of Arts.

1970 The Musée didactique Vasarely opens in Gordes. It closes in 1996, after 26 years of operation.

1976 The Fondation Vasarely – Centre Architectonique is built in Aix-enProvence, after the artist’s plans. The Vasarely Museum is opened in Pécs on 14 July.

1981 On 24 September the artist signs the deed of gift for the benefit of a Vasarely Museum to be opened in Budapest.

1983 The first exhibition displaying the holdings of the Budapest Vasarely Museum opens at the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, where the artist speaks about the concept of his foundation.

1987 On 8 May, the Vasarely Museum is opened in the presence of the artist. Its collection contains 411 artworks and 92 publications.

1989 The Vasarely Foundation is registered in Budapest. It used to run a print workshop, sells silk screen prints, and documents Hungarian artists living in emigration in the West.

1997 Victor Vasarely dies in Paris, on 15 March, at the age of 91

Recommended exhibitions