Victor Vasarely

Biography of Victor Vasarely

Victor Vasarely was a Hungarian-French artist commonly referred to as the father of the Op Art movement. Throughout a career that spanned over five decades he created optically complex and illusionistic paintings and sculptures based his own engaging visual language.


Born in 1906 in Pécs in Hungary, Victor Vasarely briefly studied medicine at university but decided after two years that he wanted to dedicate himself to painting. In the late 1920s he enrolled at the Muhely Academy in Budapest. The syllabus at the Muhley Academy was largely taken from the lessons taught at Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus school in Germany, exposing Victor Vasarely to notions of geometricity and the principles of form. After meeting his wife, fellow student Claire Spinner, he relocated to Paris and worked as a successful commercial graphic designer throughout the 1930s and 40s. During his time in Paris he explored fields such as astrophysics, relativity and quantum mechanics.


Victor Vasarely’s 1937 work Zebra, is widely considered to be one of the earliest examples of Op Art and demonstrates the artist’s growing obsession with creating kinetic art that did not move. Using an abstract, black and white pattern and high contrast, this work embraces a new aesthetic idea, tricking the eye that there exists a boundary between the two overlapping zebra figures. It was the first work by Victor Vasarely that made use of geometric shapes to create an illusion of depth, movement and three-dimensionality, a technique that would dominate his career and the Op Art movement to follow.  


Combining a technical precision as well as his scientific awareness of optical and geometrical effects, Victor Vasarely’s work came to symbolize the psychedelic mood of the 1960s. His background in medicine meant his practice often overlapped the fields of art and science and structured his work in a process of constant experimentation. In 1965 Victor Vasarely was included in the exhibition The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which gained him widespread recognition. His work has also been show at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Maddox Arts, London, Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York and the Grand Palais, Paris.

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