Victor Vasarely is a unique artist in the history of twentieth century art. Famous during his lifetime, he distinguished himself from contemporary art with the creation of a new movement: optical art. The evolution of his life of work is inherently coherent, progressing from graphic art to the artist’s determination to promote a social art that is accessible to all.
Victor Vasarely was born in Pécs, Hungary in 1906. In 1925, after graduating from secondary school, he studied medicine briefly at the University of Budapest. Even though he did not pursue these medical studies past two years, Vasarely acquired a commitment to method, objectivity, science and the thirst for knowledge which would follow him all throughout his life.
In 1929, he enrolled in Muhely, known as the Bauhaus of Budapest. This school, founded by Alexander Bortnyik and modeled on the Bauhaus of Dessau, Germany taught the lessons of artists such as Walter Gropius, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Josef Albers. The impact of Bauhaus teachings on Vasarely’s lifetime of work would turn out to be considerable. During this period he discovered Abstract art and was introduced to constructivism. This is when he produced his famous “Etude bleue” and “Etude verte” (1929). He also devised and supported theories which promote art that is less individualistic and more collective, art which adapts to the changing modern world and to the world of industry.
Under the pressure of the Hungarian government at the time, numerous avant-garde movements were being associated with the progressive movement that was developing in politics. Like a number of his compatriots, Vasarely left Hungary and settled in Paris in 1930. He began working as a designer/creative artist at the Havas advertising agency and at Draeger's, a renowned printer of the time. His graphic work in these agencies and later in Dewambez, allowed him to approach the world of design and aesthetics “while playing (his) role as a plastic artist.”