top of page

Victor Vasarely (FRENCH/HUNGARIAN, 1906-1997)

Ter G2, 1969

Acrylic on wood

15 x 12 x 3 cm

Untitled, 1970
Signed and numbered

74 x 74 cm

Vasarely was born in Pécs and grew up in Piešťany and Budapest, where he took up medical studies in 1925. In 1927, he abandoned medicine to learn painting at the Podolini-Volkmann Academy. In 1928, he enrolled at Sándor Bortnyik's műhely, then widely recognized as Budapest's centre of Bauhaus studies.

In 1929, Vasarely painted his Blue Study and Green Study. In 1930, he married his fellow student Claire Spinner. In Budapest, he worked for a ball-bearings company in accounting and designing advertising posters.

Vasarely settled in Paris in 1930. He worked as a graphic artist and as a creative consultant at advertising agencies. He settled in 1942 in Saint-Céré in the Lot département. After the war, he opened an atelier in Arcueil. In 1961, he finally settled in Annet-sur-Marne.

Over the next 3 decades, he developed his style of geometric abstract art, working in various materials but using a minimal number of forms and colours, and produced art using optical illusion.

1929-1944: Early graphics: Vasarely experimented with textural effects, perspective, shadow and light.

1944-1947: Les Fausses Routes - On the wrong track: During this period, Vasarely experimented with cubistic, futuristic, expressionistic, symbolistic and surrealistic paintings without developing a unique style. Afterwards, he said he was on the wrong track. He exhibited his works in the gallery of Denise René (1946) and the gallery René Breteau (1947).

1947-1951: Developing geometric abstract art (optical art): Finally, Vasarely found his own style.

Since 1948, Vasarely usually spent his summer months in Gordes in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. There, the cubic houses led him to the composition of the group of works labelled Gordes/Cristal. He worked on the problem of empty and filled spaces on a flat surface as well as the stereoscopic view.

1951-1955: Kinetic images, black-white photographies: From his Gordes works he developed his kinematic images, superimposed acrylic glass panes create dynamic, moving impressions depending on the viewpoint. In the black-white period he combined the frames into a single pane by transposing photographies in two colours. Kinetic art flourished and works by Vasarely, Calder, Duchamp, Man Ray, Soto, Tinguely were exhibited at the Denise René gallery under the title Le Mouvement (the motion). Vasarely published his Yellow Manifest. Building on the research of constructivist and Bauhaus pioneers, he postulated that visual kinetics (plastique cinétique) relied on the perception of the viewer who is considered the sole creator, playing with optical illusions.

1955-1965: Folklore planétaire, permutations and serial art: On 2 March 1959, Vasarely patented his method of unités plastiques. Permutations of geometric forms are cut out of a coloured square and rearranged. He worked with a strictly defined palette of colours and forms, which he later enlarged and numbered. Out of this plastic alphabet, he started serial art, an endless permutation of forms and colours worked out by his assistants.

1965-: Hommage à l'hexagone, Vega: The Tribute to the hexagon series consists of endless transformations of indentations and relief adding color variations, creating a perpetual mobile of optical illusion.

He died age 90 in Paris on 15 March 1997.

bottom of page