Happy Birthday, Victor Vasarely!

April 9, 2020

The 1960s were an extraordinary period marked by an increasing number of social and political shifts that certainly had an enormous impact on the art currents. Alongside Pop art and Fluxus, there was another significant movement that developed around the same time - Optical art, or Op art, the phenomenon that swept most of Europe and the United States off its feet and was rooted in avant-garde practices of the 1920s and 1930s (mostly Constructivism and Bauhaus) that explored the connection between art and science.

The leading figure behind the movement, or to be more precise its founding father was none other than Victor Vasarely. Under the influence of the optical experiments conducted by his avant-garde predecessors, various psychological doctrines, and latest technological innovations, this Hungarian-born master created an impeccable body of work centered primarily on the exploration of perception and movement.

Vasarely studied medicine, but in 1927 he started attending traditional academic painting at the private academy in Hungary. He then switched to another private art school that operated as a modest center of Bauhaus studies in Budapest, at the time focused on applied graphic art and typographical design. In the 1930s Vasarely became a graphic designer and a poster artist, moved to Paris and made a work called Zebra, considered as one of the earliest examples of Op art.

Vasarely eventually developed his approach by engaging with the optical illusion throughout the decades his style matured from early graphics where he experimented with perspective, shadow and light; exploration of Expressionist, Cubist, and Futuristic domains; establishment of Optical art in the 1950s; kinetic images to folklore imagery and serial art. In brief, Vasarely’s entire practice is characterized by repletion, seriality, patterns, and colors.

On this April 9, Victor Vasarely would have been 104 years old if he hadn’t died in 2007, and to honor his birthday we decided to feature ten prints that you can add to your collection while reading the text below.

Featured image: Victor Vasarely - Untitled 6 from Progressions, 1973. All images courtesy of their respective galleries.

Untitled 60

The first Vasarely artwork on our top list is simply called Untitled 60. It depicts four replicated circles in pale blue and pink soaked in a gridded whirl. This artwork perfectly illustrates the mature phase of Vasarely’s unique signature style.

Buy the work here.

Antares

This minimalist, black and white artwork entitled Antares perfectly embodies the artist’s avant-garde influences, especially the principles of the Bauhaus. Clean lines, repetition of forms and compositional gradation make this screen-print on paper a unique work worth of owning.

Buy the work here.

Chessboard

Made in 1975, Chessboard is probably the variation on the theme found in the work of the same title Vasarely produced in 1935. The initial piece was a depiction of an infinite chessboard with chess figurines scattered all around the surface of the board, while this 1979 work presents a more subtle Op Art composition based on the cruciform base.

Buy the work here.

Harlequin Sportif

This particular work was made by Vasarely in 1988, and it reflects his mature style, and furthermore encapsulates the aesthetic of that time found in computer graphics and popular culture. It shows that the artist was in tune with the current moment, suggesting he tracked down the latest technological advancements which must have dazzled him.

Buy the work here.

Fondau

Coming up is the serigraph in colors on wove paper titled Fondau made by Victor Vasarely around 1979. Unlike other works on this top list, this one seems rendered, appearing like a tapestry consisting of pure geometric shapes in red, green, and blue colors.

Buy the work here.

Untitled 6 from Progressions

A print on glossy stock from the Progressions series made by the artist in 1973, this smooth, futuristic work centered on the optical effects centered within the cross form evokes Vasarely’s considerations of the concepts such as time and space.

Buy the work here.

Les Années 50

Next on our top list are three exquisite silkscreens in color made by Victor Vasarely in 1989. They belong to the series Les Années 50 and form a set profoundly inspired by Cubism on one side, and Expressionism on the other.

Buy the works here, here, and here.

File Fleur

The last artwork on our list distinctly differs from the others since it is the most figurative Vasarely piece. Although bolder and cartoon alike, Fille Fleur as it was titled, kept the artist’s signature style but presented in a more subtle and relaxed manner.

Buy the work here.

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