Father and leading figure of Op Art, Victor Vasarely is certainly one of the most significant art figures of the 20th century. Drawn to arts and interested in abstraction from an early age, he continued to explore the realm of optics in art, thus inciting one of the short-lived, but ultimately an influential movement in modern art.
Born in 1908 as Győző Vásárhelyi in Pecs, Hungary, he started studying painting at the age of 19. Soon, he transferred to the renowned Mühely academy in Budapest, where he was trained in Bauhaus tradition. Graphism was always an interest in his work, and also admired Constructivism and Suprematism, while one of his artistic heroes was Kazimir Malevich. He started out as a commercial graphic and poster designer, adding an applied note to his work that will remain visible even later.
In 1930, Vasarely left Budapest for Paris, where he could explore and develop his own idea. Still, he continued to work in graphic arts, reaching success as an artist right after the World War II. In 1944 and exhibition at Galerie Denise René in Paris brought the fresh idea of clean abstraction influenced by optical science that will become Vasarely’s signature style. Having found his visual language, this innovative artist spent his career exploring the realm of geometric abstraction he liked to call optical art - Op Art. In the early 1950s, he experimented with kinetic images, photography, and something he called ‘serial art’, rendering numerous variations of geometric form and color juxtapositions on canvas or objects. The main characteristic of his work remained the optical illusion, achieved through meticulously subtle color variations and scaling of pictorial elements.
In his lifetime, Victor Vasarely received a number of awards, including the eminent Guggenheim Prize, the French Chevalier de L'Ordre de la Légion d'honneur, Gold Medal at the Milan Triennale and Grand Prix de la gravure in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to name only a few. In 1970, he opened the first museum dedicated to his work in Gordes Palace, Vaucluse in France, but the institution closed in 1996. Still, three working museums bearing Vasarely remain open to date: Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence, Vasarely Museum, Pécs (both opened in 1976) and Vasarely Museum in Budapest, founded in 1987. To this day, Vasarely’s art stands for a unique visual spectacle, alluring art lovers and curious observers to ponder over a piece of purely abstract art.
Victor Vasarely died at the age of 90 in Paris, in 1997.