Victor Vasarely (1906 - 1997)


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Acrylic on canvas
130.6 x 92.1 cm (51³/₈ x 36¹/₄ inches)
Signed, titled, dated 1963 (HH) and inscribed 2621 on the reverse
Conceived in 1963 and executed circa 1973

+44 (0)20 7629 6662
  • Provenance

    Private collection, France
    Private collection, Portugal, acquired from the above circa 1995

  • Description

    This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Pierre Vasarely, and will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné de l'Oeuvre Peint de Victor Vasarely.

    Hungarian artist, Victor Vasarely has long been hailed the founding father of Optical Art and one of the pioneers of Kinetic abstraction. The present work, executed between 1963 and 1973, illustrates these two titles particularly effectively, demonstrating the artist’s near-scientific approach to form and colour. His meticulous study of colour theory and adoption of complementary colours is used to great effect in the present work, giving the canvas a jewel-like appearance. Farbwelt is a typically Op Art work. Its psychedelic colours excite the retina and its geometrically precise shapes pulsate with movement. Vasarely’s distinctive style was influenced by his early work as a graphic designer in Paris for an advertising firm as well as developments cinema and space travel, which excited his interest in movement, mathematics and optical principles. He sought to free the image from its static form, coining the term ‘plastic space’ to describe the inner movement and multisensory nature of his works. He used his work to rationalise the complex physics of the universe, stating, ‘I cannot stop myself from perceiving an uncanny analogy between my “kinetic plasticity” and the combination of the micro and macro cosmos. Everything is there: Space, Persistence, Corpuscles and Waves, Relations and Field. My art transfers Nature once again, this time that of pure physics, in such a way as to enable a physical understanding of the world.’ Last year, Vasarely was celebrated with a major exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, his first retrospective in France in fifty years. 

Artist's Biography

Vásárhelyi Győző, or Victor Vasarely as he is better known, was born in Pecs, Hungary. He is regarded as the 'grandfather' of the Op art movement of the early twentieth century, a brief style of painting which concentrated on creating effects of optical illusion.

Vasarely first enrolled at Budapest University in 1925 to read medicine, but he abandoned this pursuit after two years to receive instruction in traditional academic painting at the Podolini-Volkmann Academy. In 1928, he moved to the Mulhely Academy, the centre for Bauhaus studies in Budapest, where he studied with Sándor Bortnyik. It is perhaps here that Vasarely first took an interest in the issue of form, an interest which would continue throughout his life.

In 1930, Vasarely left Hungary to settle in Paris, where he worked as a graphic artist at various advertising firms in the city. After the Second World War, Vasarely pursued his artistic ambitions and he established an atelier in Arcueil, a suburb of Paris. Following this, he went on to produce artworks in a geometric abstract style, with a minimalist approach to form and colour. Initially, he worked in oils in the techniques of many of the avant-garde art movements of the time, producing compositions in the styles of Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism and Expressionism. His first exhibition of these works took place at the Galerie Denise René, which soon became celebrated as a temple to the new forms of Kinetic and Op art.

By 1947, however, Vasarely finally discovered his own idiosyncratic style of abstract art. The artist was significantly influenced by his experience on holiday on Belle Île, off the coast of Brittany. In the ellipsoid shape of pebbles on the beach there, Vasarely discovered what he called an "internal geometry", which could be seen to underlie the surface of the universe. In the mind of the artist, colour and form were indivisible - "Every form is a base for colour, every colour is the attribute of form." This experience characterised Vasarely's oeuvre, and its emphasis on shape, for the rest of his career.

In 1954, Kinetic art, represented by artists such as Vasarely, Calder, Duchamp and Soto, blossomed. Many works were showcased by the Galerie Denise René in an exhibition called Le Mouvement.

The first museum dedicated to Vasarely opened at the Renaissance palace in Gordes in the south of France, containing five hundred works by the artist. In 1976, a second enterprise, the Foundation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence, was inaugurated by President Georges Pompidou, housed in a building designed by Vasarely himself.

Vasarely died on 15th March 1997, at the age of 90.

Victor Vasarely Victor Vasarely (1908 - 1997)