Victor Vasarely is one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. His work has influenced various art movements, and his legacy continues to inspire artists and collectors alike. Below are ten lesser-known and interesting facts about Vasarely.
Born in Pécs, Hungary in 1906, Vasarely initially pursued a career in medicine, but soon switched to art, studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. He later moved to Paris, where he culminated his status as a leading figure in the Op Art movement of the 1960s. Vasarely's bold and colourful works challenged traditional notions of perspective and perception, and his legacy continues to influence contemporary art and design to this day.
Victor Vasarely was influenced by M.C. Escher’s use of mathematical principles, optical illusions and impossible perspectives inspired Vasarely’s own experiments with geometric forms and visual perception.
In the early 1930s, Vasarely began creating abstract geometric paintings that explored the effects of colour, line, and form on the viewer's perceptual experience. His early works were characterised by a focus on pattern and repetition, as well as a fascination with the way that shapes and colours create optical illusions of depth and movement.
Victor Vasarely's "Yellow Manifesto" was a seminal text in the development of Op Art, a movement that emerged in the 1960s and explored the use of optical illusions and geometric forms to create a sense of movement and depth. In the manifesto, Vasarely laid out the principles of his new aesthetic, which he called “kineticism.’’ He argued that art should be based on scientific principles and should aim to create a sense of dynamism and energy, rather than simply reproducing the visible world.
The manifesto was widely read and influential, and helped to establish Vasarely as one of the leading figures in the Op Art. The ideas laid out in the manifesto continue to influence contemporary artists working in a range of mediums, from painting to sculpture and digital media.
Victor Vasarely's contributions to the field of Op Art have been widely recognised in his home country of Hungary and throughout the world. In recognition of his achievements, Vasarely's artwork has been featured on postage stamps in both Hungary and France, two countries that played important roles in his life and career. In 1978, Hungary issued a stamp featuring Vasarely's work “Nagyzacskó’’ (“Big Bag’’), which is now considered a classic example of his signature style.
Similarly, in 2017, France issued a series of stamps featuring Vasarely's work, including his iconic “Vega-Nor’’ series of paintings. These stamps serve as a testament to Vasarely's enduring legacy as one of the most innovative and influential artists of the 20th century.
Victor Vasarely's innovative use of geometric shapes and optical illusions led him to be associated with the Op Art movement, which emerged in the 1960s. However, Vasarely himself preferred to refer to his work as ”visual kinetics’’, emphasising the dynamic and interactive nature of his art.
In Vasarely's own words: “My work is a purely visual art that seeks to harness the kinetic and dynamic properties of visual perception. I seek to create an art that is in constant motion, engaging the viewer and challenging their perceptions of space and form.’’
Many of Vasarely's works were based on a grid-like structure, which he used to create intricate patterns that seemed to expand and contract as the viewer's gaze moves across the surface. He also experimented with the use of colour, using bold, contrasting hues to create a sense of vibrancy and energy in his works.
Vasarely's interest in the relationship between art and science led him to develop a theory of “plastic alphabet,’’ which sought to identify a set of universal forms and shapes that could be used to create a new visual language. This idea had a profound impact on the development of Op Art.
Victor Vasarely's art has been widely celebrated and recognised through numerous solo exhibitions held in prestigious worldwide institutions. Some of the most notable exhibitions of Vasarely's works include the major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1965, the first-ever solo exhibition celebrating Op Art; the major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2019, which attracted 300,000+ visitors; and a travelling exhibition organised by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2018, which toured across Asia, showcasing Vasarely's important contributions to geometric abstraction and Op Art. These exhibitions have further cemented Vasarely's status as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
Victor Vasarely's unique style of Op Art has made his works highly sought after for use in film and television. One of the most notable examples is the opening credits sequence of the iconic 1960s TV show “The Prisoner,’’ which features a series of Vasarely's distinctive black-and-white geometric patterns. The sequence, which was created by graphic designer Bernie Lodge, has since become a classic example of Op Art in popular culture.
Vasarely's work has also been used in the opening credits of other TV shows, including the spy thriller “Alias,’’ which features a sequence of swirling geometric shapes that were created by Vasarely's son, Yvaral Vasarely. In addition, Vasarely's art has been used in films such as “Barbarella’’ and “Enter the Dragon,’’ where his bold and colourful compositions add futuristic and otherworldly elementsto the on-screen action.
Victor Vasarely's influence on popular culture extended beyond the art world and into music. The legendary musician David Bowie was a spoken fan of Vasarely's work and owned several of his prints. Additionaly, Bowie's own artistic experiments with colour and form featured on his album covers and in his stage shows were heavily influenced by Vasarely's Op Art style. Bowie's collection of Vasarely's work was so extensive that he used one of his prints, “Serial S4’’ as a backdrop for his 1974 Diamond Dogs tour. Vasarely's legacy as a pioneering artist and innovator continues to inspire and captivate audiences across a wide range of creative fields, and his influence on Bowie's art and music remains a testament to his enduring relevance and appeal.
Victor Vasarely was deeply inspired by the Bauhaus, revolutionary art and design school in Germany that operated from 1919 to 1933. The Bauhaus movement emphasised the integration of art and technology, and its artists sought to create functional and aesthetically pleasing designs for mass production. Vasarely was particularly drawn to the Bauhaus's use of geometric forms, which he believed could be used to create an entirely new visual language. Vasarely's early works, such as the Zebra series, were heavily influenced by the Bauhaus's principles of simplicity, clarity, and precision. Later in his career, Vasarely's embrace of technological processes, such as computer-generated art, reflected his continued fascination with the Bauhaus's legacy and its ongoing relevance to contemporary art and design.
Victor Vasarely was a revolutionary artist who pushed the boundaries of perception and design. His innovative use of geometric shapes and optical illusions helped to define the Op Art movement of the 1960s, and his works continue to inspire artists and designers to this day. From his early experiments with the Bauhaus aesthetic to his later forays into computer-generated art, Vasarely remained committed to exploring the relationship between art and technology. His legacy as a visionary artist and thinker has left an indelible mark on the world of contemporary art, and his influence will be felt for generations to come.