The Influence of Victor Vasarely

Posted on by

The Pompidou Centre in Paris recently celebrated the life and work of Victor Vasarely, the Grandfather of Op-Art, with an exhibit than spanned the more than five decades of  his work.

Born in Hungary in 1906, Vasarely dropped out of medical school, at age 23, to study with avant-garde artist, Sándor Bortnyik.  Bortnyik was a proponent of the Bahuas philosophy, which emphasized the relationship between art, society, and technology.

Vasarely moved to Paris in 1930. For nearly twenty years he supported himself, and his wife and two sons, with a successful career in commercial art. In his free time Vasarely worked on his own art, experimenting with the use of physics, color optics and quantum mechanics. The work he created during the mid-to-late-1930s, many using black and white patterns, are often considered the first works of Op-Art.

In 1955, Vasarely exhibited his work, alongside that of Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder and others, at The Galerie Denise René, of which he was co-founder. By the time the psychedelic ’60s rolled around, Vasarely’s work was known throughout the world, and influenced many aspects of popular culture, like fashion, music, advertisements and architecture.

Fashion designer, Giovanni Versace, was not just an avid collector, but also created textile design based on Vasarely’s work.

Vasarely also developed his Alphabet Plastique, a system in which each letter of the alphabet corresponds to a specific color, geometrical form and musical notes. He thought of it as Esperanto for the arts, which would act as a universal artistic language and make the world a better place. Many of the works that grew from this idea were methodical, analytical pieces like Dyok Positif and Collage Vert both for sale at VFA.

Throughout his life, Vasarely continued to be fascinated by the melding of art and science. He experimented with Poly(methyl methacrylate), or acrylic, which was used mainly for military applications until after World War ll. The acrylic sculpture, Holid, Moire Tower, available at VFA, is an example of Vasarely’s ability to combine form and design.

The orderly, organized and logical way in which Victor Vasarely approached his work was similar to the computer programming that we use today. Vasarely was so fascinated by computers, even in their early stage, that he insisted they be installed at the Vasarely Foundation.

The Works of Victor Vasarely at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about Dyok Positif, Collage Vert, Holid, Moire Tower or any of the other fine work at VFA.

See More Victor Vasarely Work for Sale

Kelly Grovier. Victor Vasarely: The art that tricks the eye. BBC Culture. March 5, 2019.
Sarah Belmont. Au Centre Pompidou, Victor Vasarely nous berce d’illusions. LeParisian. April 30, 2019.

Victor Vasarely and the Chess Board

Victor Vasarely studied medicine before he studied art. His initial art education, in Budapest, was very traditional, but his scientific mind led him to experiment with colors and optics. Vasarely moved to Paris in 1930, and worked as a talented and successful graphic designer. He credited the intense light of southern France, and the way it affected his vision, with his development of Op Art.

The Chess Board

In order to create the optical patterns he imagined, Vasarely used perpendicular lines for the foundation of his designs. His first Op Art painting, L’Echequier, or Chess Board, was done in 1935. L’Echequier is a painting of an infinite chess board, with chess pieces scattered within the board. The chess board continued to appear in his work, and not just as the underpinning. In 1979, Vasarely created a square chess board with an Op Art screenprinted playing surface, raised on cruciform base, with set of clear and frosted acrylic chess pieces. The set was reproduced in limited edition.

One of the Vasarely chess sets is on display, along with other works that exemplify his use of the chess board, at the World Chess Hall of Fame is St. Louis. The exhibit, called Victor Vasarely: Calculated Compositions will be on exhibit through March 25, 2018.

The Vasarely Foundation Museum is Open and Revitalized…Finally

Victor Vasarely wanted art to be accessible to everyone and, to that end, he decided to start a foundation and build a museum to showcase his art and the works of others. The city of Aix-en-Provence donated the land, and Vasarely built the museum. For decades, the Foundation was plagued by a series of unfortunate events, including embezzlement, fraud, bankruptcy and family feuds over the estate.

Vasarely’s grandson, Pierre Vasarely, was finally named the universal legatee of the Foundation, and he has managed to rebuild the Foundation and revive the museum, which opened in September. The museum is made up of sixteen hexagons, constructed to form seven rooms, to display 42 of Vasarely’s pieces.

There is a Kinetics Room, a Tapestries Room and others, each room exhibiting a theme. Many of the works are huge…as large as 25 feet high and tweet feet wide. The building also has a conference room and an auditorium, where classes, concerts and lectures are held.

Victor Vasarely at VFA

Please contact us for information about the works by Victor Vasarely available at VFA, including Holid, Moire Tower and Dyok Positif. 

See More Victor Vasarely Artwork for Sale

Victor Vasarely in Istanbul

Victor Vasarely, who believed that, “The art of tomorrow will be a collective treasure or it will not be art at all” would have been delighted by the current exhibits of his work in Turkey.

Turkey has been hit hard by political unrest and terrorist attacks recently, but the country has managed to continue to focus on its support of the arts.

A retrospective of Victor Vasarely’s work is on exhibit at the Tophane-i Amire the Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts (MSGSU) in Istanbul through March 31 and then moves to the Arkas Art Center, in the city of Izmir, in April.

In addition to large scale paintings from the Arkas Collection, which are on exhibit for the first time, there are sculptures, carpets, banners and architectural designs from the Pécs Victor Vasarely Museum, the Budapest Fine Arts Museum and the Renault Corporate Collection.

Victor Vasarely’s Universal Appeal

Turkish painter and educator, Professor Yalçın Karayağız of MSGSU, said that Vasarely became well known in Turkey’s academic circles in the 1980s. “Methods that he used require serious mathematical solutions. And you unite it with physics and optical illusion. I mean everything you see as a circle is actually made up of cubes,” Karayağız said.

The current retrospective of his work in Turkey would have thrilled his grandfather, said Pierre Vasarely, grandson of the artist and President of the Vasarely Foundation, who traveled to Istanbul to help curate the exhibits. He said that the goal of the retrospective is to introduce his grandfather’s work, as well as the work of artists his grandfather supported, to art lovers in Turkey.

Vasarely, who was interested in both art and science, established the Alphabet Plastique in the 1950s, which combined basic geometry, using the square, circle and triangle with color scales of twenty hues. He was a mid-century visionary who understood that technology would change the world and devised a computer program for the designing of his art, as well as a do-it-yourself kit for making Op Art paintings.

The Grandfather of Op Art at VFA

During his career, which spanned more than sixty years, Victor Vasarely worked in many media. The Vasarely work for sale at VFA represents a wide range of forms and styles. Please come by or contact us for more information about the works of Victor Vasarely in our gallery.

Victor Vasarely’s Alphabet Plastique

The French Institute in Budapest is exhibiting the works of Victor Vasarely through June. Born in Hungary, Vasarely moved to Paris in 1930 and became a French citizen in 1959. There was a time, just before and after World War ll, when the work of Vasarely and other abstract artists was banned in Hungary.

Vasarely studied medicine before turning his scientific mind to his art. Back in the 1950s, way before the digital age, Vasarely used what he called programmations to create his artwork.

Vlag and Pava are two serigraphs, for sale at Vertu, that are fine examples of the artwork that Vasarely produced from his programmations.

Art must become generous and totally diffusible… art must be truly contemporary and not posthumous. From now on, the new technologies are here to diffuse art instantaneously to the masses.
—Victor Vasarely

Vasarely was influenced by early to mid-twentieth century French painter, Auguste Herbin, who created an Alphabet Plastique in 1942. Herbin’s Alphabet Plastique is a system in which each letter of the alphabet corresponds to a specific color, geometrical form and musical notes.

Herbin’s paintings became increasingly abstract as he experimented with form and color using his Alphabet Plastique.

During the 1950s and early 60s, Vasarely worked primarily in black and white. Around 1960, Vasarely created his own Alphabet Plastique, a grid-based system which used the circle, square and triangle, and differing color scales, to create a infinite number of “units”. The Alphabet Plastique was the human equivalent of a computer art program.

Vasarely used the Alphabet Plastique to create the depth and optical design that is the signature of his artworks. At Vertu we have, for sale, two unique pieces that use the Alphabet Plastique with unusual mediums:

Dyok Positif is acrylic on wood, in which each unit is defined by the shapes and shadows created by the medium itself.

Collage Vert also uses the Alphabet Plastique, but for this unique piece Vasarely used paper, rather than paint, to create each unit.

Please contact us if you are interested in works by Victor Vasarely, the “grandfather of Op Art” or if you are interested in any of the other works for sale at Vertu.

Richard Anuszkiewicz Primary Hue

Richard Anuszkiewicz: Collecting Op Art

Europeans have been collecting Op Art since the mid-20th century, after the Le Mouvement exhibit in Paris in 1955, which introduced the public to Optical and Kinetic artists like Victor Vasarely, Jean Arp and Alexander Calder.

A decade later, in New York, MoMA hosted an exhibition called The Responsive Eye, which included the greatest European Optical Artists and their American counterparts. Works by Victor Vasarely, Yvaral and Bridget Riley were hung alongside the works of Frank Stella, Josef Albers and Richard Anuszkiewicz.

The art and science of Op Art goes back to the 19th century, when French scientist, Eugene Chevreul, and others, were studying the effects of color on visual perception in art and science.

Some of the greatest artists of the time, like Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Charles Angrand visited Chevreul and used his principles to create their paintings.

Chevruel’s influence on the art world began when he became the director of the Gobelins Manufactory company in Paris. The company dyed yarns for tapestries and carpets. When the company’s weavers complained about the black color of some of the wool, Chevruel’s testing led him to the realization that the dyes were not the problem. He began to understand that the visual perception of color was influenced by how the colors were placed alongside one another.

Here’s how Chevruel explained his Law of Simultaneous Contrast :                                          

If we look simultaneously upon two stripes of different tones of the same colours, or upon two stripes of the same tone of different colours placed side by side, if the stripes are not too wide, the eye perceives certain modifications which in the first place influence the intensity of colour, and in the second, the optical composition of the two juxtaposed colours respectively.  Now as these modifications make the stripes appear different from what they really are, I give to them the name of simultaneous contrast of colours; and I call contrast of tone the modification in intensity of colour, and contrast of colour that which affects the optical composition of each juxtaposed colour.” —Eugene Chevreul

As the work of the Impressionists evolved, the use of color evolved, as well, and artists began to use color, shape and style in ways never seen before, in a more abstract and emotional way.

The Bauhaus, in Germany, had a great influence on the art of the early 20th century, but was closed by the Nazis in 1933. Great artists and teachers, like Josef Albers, emigrated from Germany to the United States. Albers taught at Yale, and passed his interest in color interactions on to his students. He published Interaction of Color in 1963 and used the principles he taught in his own works.

One of Albers’ most successful students was Richard Anuszkiewicz, who has spent his life exploring the visual effects of color in his work.

Chinese artist, Wayne Guangle, is one of the few young painters today who is focused on the visual possibilities of Op Art, which makes artists like Vasarely, Yvaral and Anuszkiewicz very collectable.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the work of Richard Anuszkiewicz or the other Op Artists in our gallery.


Victor Vasarely Artwork and Visual Perception

We don’t always see what we think we see.

Artists have been translating their visual perceptions of the three-dimensional world onto flat surfaces for about 40,000 years, the time of the earliest cave paintings.
Most of us are used to viewing our world in a linear fashion. In America, and other industrialized countries, we build rectangle-shaped houses, with rectangular rooms and rectangular gardens. We have some winding highways, but the roads of our cities and towns are usually formed by grids.

When Americans are shown the Mueller-Lyer Illusion, made up of two parallel lines, one with fins facing inward, the other with fins facing out, most Americans say that the line with the outward facing fins is larger that the other line.

The two creative expressions of man, art and science, meet again to form an imaginary construct that is in accord with our sensibility and contemporary knowledge.”
—Victor Vasarely

When the same illusion is shown to people who live in more remote places, like the Kalahari Desert, whose homes are rondavels, and who travel on paths cut through the brush, they see the lines as they are…the same length.
When we walk into a room, we expect the walls to be parallel, the floor to be level and parallel to the ceiling. One of the best examples of what happens when our expectations and our perceptions collide, is the Ames Room, invented by ophthalmologist, Adelbert Ames, Jr. in 1934.

The Ames Room is a trapezoid, with slanting floor and ceiling. When viewed through a hole in the front wall, it appears to be an ordinary room. One of the amazing things about this illusion is that, even when we know how it works, once we see it, we can’t go back and un-see it.

The fact that our visual illusions are caused either by our optical perceptions or our learned world view, has been studied by scientists, like the Greek polymath, Ptolemy, in 100 A.D. and the Egyptian scholar, Alhazen around 1000 A.D.

One of the scientists who pushed forward the study of optics and visual perception, was Hermann von Helmholtz, a German physician and physicist who published The Handbook of Physiological Optics or Treatise on Physiological Optics in 1867. Helmholtz described the way in which we perceive things with what he termed unconscious inference. An example he gave is watching a young actor we know play the part of an old man. We know we are watching a young actor, but we allow ourselves to view him as an old man and even invest our emotions in his performance. We do the same thing with optical illusions.

The German physiologist, Ewald Hering, did research on optical perception and discovered the Hering Illusion. Hering found that when two straight and parallel lines are placed in front of a radial background, the lines appear to bow outwards.

While scientists were studying visual perception, philosophers and psychologists were studying the psychology of perception. The idea of Gestalt psychology, which took hold in the early 20th century, is that we look at the world and our minds organize what we see within the framework of our own reality.

Victor Vasarley was a young medical student in Hungary in 1925. After two years of study, Vasarely left medical school to study art at the the Podolini-Volkmann Academy and then at the Bauhaus.

Although trained in traditional painting, Vasarely continued to read scientific materials and combined his knowledge of both. “The two creative expressions of man, art and science,” he said, “meet again to form an imaginary construct that is in accord with our sensibility and contemporary knowledge.”

By combining art and science in his work, exploring depth and movement, Vasarely became the father of “Op Art”.

We have some of fine examples of Victor Vasarely’s artwork work in our gallery, including several that are based on his “Alphabet Plastique” which combined variations of the circle, square and triangle with 20 hues from different color scales.

Victor Vasarely

Victor Vasarely Work for Sale at VFA

Dyok Positif

Wonderful film footage exists of Victor Vasarely’s 1969 politically charged exhibit in Budapest. Almost 90,000 visitors showed up to see the work of Vasarely, who had left Hungary to live and work in Paris.

As the camera pans across the large gallery, the acrylic on wood piece, Dyok Positif, one of the works in our gallery, pops into the foreground.

The exhibit was put together at a time when Hungarian artists had to ask permission from the government to show their work, which could be destroyed if it didn’t meet government standards.

During the exhibition, Hungarian artist, Janos Major, carried a small sign in his pocket, reading, “Vasarely Go Home.” which he showed only to people he knew. In the film, Vasarely Go Home, artist and filmmaker, Andreas Fogarasi explores the political and cultural impact of the Vasarely exhibit and the meaning of Major’s protest.

Vasarely was called The Warhol of Europe, not because of the content of his work, but because of his enormous, international popularity.

Saying that Vasarely was way ahead on his time is an understatement. He was creating optical patterns in the 1930s, making him the grandfather of op-art. In Paris he studied science, optics and color and worked as a successful graphic designer.

Vilag and Pava, both done in 1978, are wonderful examples of Vasarely’s kinetic art and his interest in the nuances of color and geometrical patterns.

Vasarely was also interested in the order, patterns and regularity found in nature and music.

He continued exploring these themes and, in 1990, created a collage on paper, a unique work in the oeuvre of Vasarely, called Collage Vert, which is in our gallery.

Vasarely died in Paris in 1990, at the age of 90. He was survived by his sons, Andre and Jean-Pierre. Jean-Pierre followed in his father’s footsteps and created geometric paintings, signed Yvaral. Some examples of Yvaral’s work are also in our gallery.

We welcome you to view the amazing works of Victor Vasarely, Yvaral and other fine artists at Vertu.

Victor Vasarely Paintings

Vasarely’s Inspired Optical Art Painting

Posted on by

Every major art movement has one or more iconic artists whose style is foremost in our minds when we define the genre. In the case of American Pop Art, names like Warhol, Lichtenstein and Johns immediately come to mind. When contemplating Optical Art, or Op Art, no one artist is more closely tied to breathing life into the movement than Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely. As early as the 1930’s, it was Vasarely’s explorations of contrast and lines that lead the eye to draw its own conclusions that set the stage for many decades of prolific productions.

The art of tomorrow will be a collective treasure or it will not be ART at all.
-Victor Vasarely, 1953

Victor Vasarely’s paintings, sculptures and prints would not only introduce the world to the Optical Art movement, his body of work would forever inspire new artists to build upon his accomplishments. In the world of art that manipulates the mind’s eye, Vasarely simply set the bar and raised it, time and again, throughout his life. The artist forever changed the possibilities of perceptual dimensions, primarily those that could be rendered within the physical constrains of two dimensional art.

As Warhol had his soup cans, Vasarely had his zebras, the iconic works that would become emblematic of artist’s contributions and the Optical Art movement. Vasarely’s Zebras – which he would complete in variations over the years – are mesmerizing allusions of movement and dimension. Yet, the logical part of our brains can’t help but to quickly reduce them down to their simple lines and shapes. Viewing Zebras is like watching a magician’s trick go from being a mystery to a decoded, “aha, so that’s how it’s done,” only to revert back to a state of unawareness and equal amazement once again moments later.

Victor Vasarely honed his optical illusion-inducing techniques in black and white, allowing the stark contrast to define most basics themes of depth, with the artist investigating how forms could efficiently enter and leave one another. A computer programmer might consider this period of work as Vasarely’s binary phase – mimicking the most basic and reduced understanding of electronic technology – merely the presence or absence of electricity. With Vasarely’s black and white works, there’s even intense intrigue in this most basic use of color, summarized in endless debate over whether white is on and black is off, or vice versa.

Great artists manifest their expressions and thoughts in a manner that’s consumable and able to be experienced by others. What may go unnoticed is the artist’s uncanny ability to perceive and be inspired by their surroundings − the tide beneath the waves. In the case of Victor Vasarely, a 1947 vacation at the Breton coast Bell-Isle-sur-Mer beaches provided such inspiration, as the artist consumed with appreciation what was literally beneath the receding waves, the pebbles and shells whose shapes were “arranged” in appealing formations. For Victor Vasarely, such a subtle experience would nonetheless provide a subject to be deconstructed and rearranged for years to come.

Of the innumerous ways that Victor Vasarely created rich new lands for Optical Art and artists to flourish, perhaps most important was the creation of the “alphabet plastique” – a systemized code for scientifically composing artistic permutations. In developing this codified approach for arranging a myriad of shape alterations matched to varieties of colors (and hues), Vasarely created more than a technique for blending science and art – he introduced the world to a new fine art language.

Like all things Vasarely, the alphabet plastique is gift of massive significant in layers. Developed to organize his own testing, tracking and evaluation of arrangements, the system also signified the artist’s movement toward scaled production. With such a system in place, the artist could produce and organize the creation of new works, and even enlist help to do so. Throughout history, we see this sentiment reintroduce itself among artists who reach a stage of life where they understand that limited time on the planet equals a finite time to produce. This same mindset also leads Vasarely to be an early adopter of technologies that allow for paintings to also be manifested as print reproductions.

Orbs, Cubes and Triangles

At our Contemporary Art gallery in Boca Raton, Victor Vasarely’s paintings and numbered editions have been a staple of our Optical Art diet from day one. Intrigued by works from every phase of the artist’s life, Vasarely’s Vega series of prints are most certainly among those that particularly stop visitors in their tracks…often for a profound pause. So interesting are these compositions that lend the viewer to observe an object, perhaps an orb, protruding from a flat and stable two-dimensional pattern. Almost impossibly so, as the inquisitive nature of the mind begs the question, “How is this possible?”

How perfect it seems that “Responsive Eye” is the title of the 1965 New York Museum of Modern Art exhibit that helped launch Vasarely’s popularity in America. Never has an artist so beautifully tricked and delighted the imagination of the viewer – with images that swell, move and lead us into new dimensions.

If you’re a Vasarely collector, please drop in to our gallery in Boca Center or drop us a line.

Richard Anuszkiewicz

Richard Anuszkiewicz: Master of Luminosity, Color and Shape

Richard Anuszkiewicz (whose last name is pronounced Ah-nuss-kay-vitch) is an American artist closely tied to the founding of the Optical Art movement. The Op Art master, who is currently 83 years old, is considered to be a living legend of the Contemporary Art world. At Vertu Fine Art, our Boca Raton gallery that’s widely known for our collection of Pop, Abstract Expressionist and Optical Art, Anuszkiewicz is among the Op Artists we find most compelling.

In addition to his studies at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Anuszkiewicz trained with Joseph Albers at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture. Albers, who brought his Bauhaus-inspired teachings from Germany to Black Mountain College and then Yale, is known for his profound influence on artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Ray Johnson. Richard Anuszkiewicz was equally influenced by Joseph Albers, perhaps most importantly by Albers’ theories about color interactions and chromaticity.

At the same time that Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley were creating works that would gain worldwide attention for Op Art in Europe, during the 1960s and 1970s, Richard Anuszkiewicz was experimenting with painting and printmaking that would prove most provocative to the mind’s eye of art collectors − initially here in the U.S.

Hip to Be Square

Much like Joseph Albers, who received much acclaim for his Homage to the Square (1965) series of works, Anuszkiewicz also found a perfect framework for his compositions within the symmetrical friendly square as well. Considering that Optical Art often relies on mathematical calculations to carry out one’s investigations systematically, it’s not uncommon to choose a shape that supports the grid system so substantially.

Critics and Collectors often describe Anuszkiewicz’ works as though the patterns of varying color densities appear to hold back light, periodically and even intermittently allowing said light to seep out from porous areas of the composition.

In Orange Family, an original acrylic on panel currently hanging at VFA in Boca Raton, Richard Anuszkiewicz treats us to another illusory aspect of his works – a warm glow. As if plugged in, or backlit or side lighted, this work is one that often holds the gaze of visitors, who seem to bask in the mysterious control of the artist, able to trap light from the room and return it to our vision as we feel the vibrations of its pulse.

American Primary Hue (1964) is a fine example of an Anuszkiewicz work that creates enhanced Optical illusions for the viewer. Moment by moment, the masterpiece presents a variety of layers and strobe effects, with a solid middle square holding back light that escapes from its corners. In doing so, the white space plays tricks on the mind, apparently revealing square rings of varying depths. Lines move in from the outside of this work as though they seek out the inner box one moment, emanating from the inside out toward us the next.

Over the past seven decades, Op Artist Richard Anuszkiewicz has been the recipient of an impressive number of grants and awards. His exhibits and public collections around the country and internationally continue to stun audiences. Currently, his works can be seen in a number of impressive museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Harvard University’s Fogg Museum and New York’s Guggenheim, MOMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of Art.

If, like us, you enjoy the works of this impressive American Op Art master, visit us and view Anuszkiewicz here at our Boca Raton gallery. If you’re seeking a particular Richard Anuszkiewicz work − contact us and we’ll be glad to help.

Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

We believe that the more you know, the more you will appreciate fine art prints.

In our Ebook you’ll learn:

  • A short history of prints from the earliest woodcut to contemporary processes
  • Which artists most influenced the making of fine art prints
  • What questions to ask when buying prints
  • The fundamentals of print identification
  • Terms and techniques for identifying fine art prints
Learn More