A Hungarian-born, French artist, Victor Vasarely was the highly influential leader of the Op Art movement stylistically defined by bold, graphic patterning and use of optical illusions that were highly influenced by Bauhaus constructivism. It’s telling that one of its first examples was Vasarely’s Zebra works, which feature two of the eponymous animals’ graphic black and white stripes interchanging and interlocking in a near optical illusion; Vasarely studied at the Műhely (“Workshop") Academy, known colloquially as the Budapest Bauhaus.
Born in Pécs, Hungary, Vasarely grew up in Piešťany (then Pöstyén) and Budapest, where he took up medical studies at Budapest University in 1925. Several years later, he changed professions, deciding to learn traditional, academic painting in lieu of medicine. He enrolled in the Podolini-Volkmann Academy before transferring, in 1928, to the Muhely Academy, also known as the Budapest Bauhaus, where he studied with Alexander Bortnijik. At the Academy, he became familiar with research at the time into color and optics by Jaohannes Itten, Josef Albers, and the Constructivists Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky.After his first one-man show in 1930, at the Kovacs Akos Gallery in Budapest, Vasarely moved to Paris, where for the next thirteen years he devoted himself to graphic studies. His lifelong fascination with linear patterning led him to draw figurative and abstract patterned subjects throughout the 1940s, such as his series of harlequins, checkers, tigers, and zebras, most of which were exclusively colored in black and white. These were influenced by his experiences at Belle-Île, Brittany, where he concluded that "internal geometry" could be seen throughout the entire world, and that form and color are inseparable. "Every form is a base for color, every color is the attribute of a form." Forms from nature were thus transposed into purely abstract elements in his paintings. . Henceforth, this ovoid form will signify in all my works of this period, the 'oceanic feeling'...I can no longer admit an inner world and another, an outer world, apart. The within and the without communicate by osmosis, or, one might rather say: the spatial-material universe, energetic-living, feeling-thinking, form a whole, indivisible... The languages of the spirit are but the super-vibrations of the great physical nature."raison d'etreRecognizing the inner geometry of nature, Vasarely wrote, "the ellipsoid form will slowly, but tenaciously, take hold of the surface, and become its , Pol Bury, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Jean Tinguely, among others, in addition to Vasarely’s. Yaacov AgamDuring the 1950s, Vasarely wrote a series of manifestos on the use of optical phenomena while continuing to exhibit work, such as at Galerie Denise Rene in 1995; revolving around Vasarely’s painterly experiments with movement, the gallery organized this first important group exhibition of kinetic art, and included the works of Together with his paintings, Vasarely’s prints and writings were a significant influence on younger practtioners. According to the artist, "in the last analysis, the picture-object in pure composition appears to me as the last link in the family 'paintings,' still possessing by its shining beauty, an end in itself. But it is already more than a painting, the forms and colors which compose it are still situated on the plane, but the plastic event which they trigger fuses in front of and in the plane. It is thereby an end, but also a beginning, a kind of launching pad for future achievements."