The real name of the man commonly known as the Father of Op Art (or Optical Art) was in fact Győző Vásárhelyi. Hungarian-born Victor Vasarely took French nationality in 1961 and single-handedly revolutionized the history of art in the 20th century. Here, we take a look at Vasarely’s ten most memorable artworks!
Born in Pécs, Hungary in 1906, Victor Vasarely began studying medicine at an early age. After two years, however, he abandoned the discipline and instead enrolled at the Muhely art school, also known as the Bauhaus of Budapest. During this period, the young artist discovered Abstract Art and Russian Constructivism. It was just the inspiration he needed and led him to dedicate his life to creating art based on science.
With the simple motto, “art for all”, the Father of Op Art decided his native lands did not have enough to offer for his creative pursuits. He needed a more stimulating environment and so moved to Paris, the City of Light, in 1930.
#1 Zebras, 1937
Zebras was Vasarely’s first major foray into Optical Art. More than just a work of art, it was considered a work of science.
#2 Tigers, 1938
Contrary to what one might think, Vasarely’s work was not limited to Abstraction. In the 1930s and 1940s, he was interested in more figurative subjects, such as portraits, landscapes and still life.
After studying traditional painting for several years, he gradually reached the conclusion that the sciences—in which he started out—had reached their limits and it was only through art that they could be understood: visually.
#3 Vega, 1957
Named after the brightest star in the Lyra constellation, Vega marked the start of a very intense period for Vasarely, his black and white period. The huge, checked pattern is extremely disorientating! The geometric symmetry seems to be turned inside out by curved lines, and the field of the composition seems to undulate under the effect of expansion and contraction, as though the surface has been deformed. Through this work, Vasarely laid the foundations for a very precise technique.
1955 saw another turning point in the artist’s career. Now aged almost 50, he wrote the Yellow Manifesto, in which he carefully set out a definition of Kinetic Art. His style was imposing and easily recognizable. His paintings seemed to move, and this was his true genius, the ability to bring life to optical illusions!
#4 Alphabet VR, 1960
Vasarely’s art is somewhat cellular. In his first artistic period, he developed a plastic alphabet that could be infinitely combined. His artworks are also cerebral and leave nothing to chance. To create them, he even used a grid that established modular relationships between shapes and colors.
#5 Keiho-C1, 1963
In the 1950s, Vasarely began using preliminary sketches for his designs. He also created a program to develop his own system of colors. In 1965, he began using assistants to produce the majority of his works.
#6 Zoeld V, 1967
Vasarely was always ahead of his time and deeply fascinated by technology. The emergence of the first computers had a huge impact on his artistic career. He even insisted one be installed at the Foundation he set up in 1966 in Aix-en-Provence.
#7 Vega 200, 1968
The artist’s geometric patterns never fail to catch the eye. The repeated shapes cause a sense of intense energy to surge from the two-dimensional surfaces. An energy that could even be described as kinetic!
#8 Orion Gris, 1969
Although his compositions could be mistaken for being simplistic, unelaborate or easy-to-create, they are in fact the result of in-depth reflection over the combination of shapes and colors. Each different element intersects, interlocks, or fits together.
#9 Tekers-MC, 1981
Vasarely not only introduced Optical Art to the modern art movement but was also a renowned graphic designer and worked for leading advertising agencies such as Havas and Draeger. He was even responsible for creating the updated version of Renault’s logo in 1972. The artist’s transformation of the famous rhombus stunningly met the challenge of breathing new life into an emblem that was over 70 years old!
#10 Optical Cube, 1997
Victor Vasarely died in 1997, just before his 91st birthday. His legacy included two further museums in Pécs and Budapest, and, more generally, a truly avant-garde approach to art.
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