Tihámer GyarmathyBorn March 8 1915, Pécs
Died January 9 2005, Budapest
Hungarian painter, graphics, photogram and installation artist. Representative of post-war abstract art in Hungary, member of Európai Iskola (European School, 1945) and founding member of Elvont Művészek Magyarországi Csoportja (Hungarian Group of Abstract Artists) and Galéria a 4 Világtájhoz (Gallery to the 4 Points of the Compass, 1946). Known as an outstanding colourist working with the duality of lyrical abstraction and geometric construction and working in abstract surrealism with works aiming to establish, diversify, make contextual sequences of a cosmic-natural scientific worldview, the reappearing colour and form language, and the kinetic effects are determinative. Gyarmathy’s theoretical writings are also known. After the „Year of Change”, turning his back on the official art politics prohibiting abstract art, he secluded into an inner exile and from the early 1960s he barely participated in the official art world although he kept creating besides his day job. From the early 1960s first abroad, later in Hungary, his work was publicised again, greatly influencing the younger generation as one of the most outstanding representative of the classical Avant-garde.
painting, experimental movies, photograms, avant-garde, abstract art, nonfigurative art, graphics, Not in map
Gyarmathy started taking lessons at the drawing school of Gebauer Ernő and Ferenc Martyn in Pécs.
Gyarmathy exhibited at the jubilee exhibition of Pécsi Képzőművészek és Műbarátok Társasága (Society of Artists of Pécs) at Pécsi Vigadó. He won the poster and advertisement graphics application of Factory Müller. Gyarmathy exhibited at the talent show of Pécsi Képzőművészek és Műbarátok Társasága at Pécsi Vigadó. He started the College of Fine Arts in Budapest. His master teacher was the open-minded, well-travelled painter János Vaszary. After the removal of Vaszary from the school, Gyarmathy’s master teacher became László Kandó who had little impact on his art. During his years at the Fine Arts College, he became friends with artist István Cserepes who introduced him to leftish, socially engaged artist Gyula Derkovits. Many of Gyarmathy’s early paintings re-echo the impact of Derkovits like Bányász-anya (Miner-mother, 1935), Anya a hídon (Mother on bridge, 1935). Gyarmathy was also familiar with postimpressionist (’post-Nagybánya’) art and the Novecento-influenced classical style of the School of Rome (Római Iskola).
Study tour in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland. He studied Reneissance art and architecture in Italy. His studies on central perspective became crucial in his understanding ofspace led him to a non-eucledian geometry, examining the possible alterations of space. He got acquinted with the art of Paul Klee and Fernand H. Léger in Italy. He met Hans Arp in Zürich and Andre Breton, István (Étienne) Beöthy in Paris. He visited the studio of Mondrian and studied the art of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. While in Switzerland in 1938, he worked on one of the pavilions of the World Exhibitions and thus met Max Bill. He held exhibitions in Zürich and Paris.Upon his return to Hungary, he took Max Bill’s letter and folder of new works to Ernő Kállai art critic, organiser, propagator of Avant-garde art, former editor for Bauhaus. Their fruitful collaboration and friendship lasted until the death of Kállai in 1954. Also in 1939, Kállai introduced Gyarmathy to Avant-garde artist and poet, editor and organiser Lajos Kassák. Gyarmathy also get acquinted with prominent avatgarde artists Dezső Korniss, Lajos Vajda, Imre Ámos after his return to Hungary.
According to one of his analyst Endre Aszalós, Gyarmathy’s works in the 1940s can be defined with their relationships with nature. In the first group the works have immediate connection to natural motifs. In the second group the motifs are reduced to suggestions. (Fruits, 1941) The works of the third group these elements are abstracted to marks. From the surviving works from the early 1940s there are three non figurative paintings among the figurative works (Compoisition, 1940, Fata Morgana, 1942, Rhythmical Form, 1944) showing that at this time finding a way between the traditional painting manner and the opposing depictions characterize Gyarmathy’s work. He marries in 1940, his wife Éva Gobbi assists him and is also a creative partner.
Bomb raid on his studio in Budapest. Many of his works, especially from the first half of the 1940s, got destroyed.
On 13 October, several artists and intellectuals (Pál Gegesi Kiss, Árpád Mezei, Imre Pán, Lajos Kassák, Ernő Kállai) founded the Európai Iskola (European School) of which Gyarmathy became a member. The group’s birth is the phenomenon of the optimistic atmosphere of rebuilding Hungary after the end of the 2nd World War. Their aim was to establish the flourishing, progressive cultural life in Hungary based on plurality and interdisciplinarity including art, psychology, medical sciences, education, literature, philosophy. The group often held discussions, talks, lectures and exhibitions. Lecturers included writer Miklós Szentkuthy and philosopher-writer Béla Hamvas. From the fine art perspective the main source came from „constructive surrealism” developed and dispersed by Lajos Vajda, decised in 1941, and his contemporary Dezső Korniss from the Avant-garde tradition, but essentially pluralism characterized the group. Gyarmathy took active part organizing the Workers Cultural Association’s activity (Gyarmaty reports about its founding in the Dunantúli Népszava, 13 September 1945).In his art he ventures to create the abstract natural scientific universal worldview, which became more exclusive in the following decades. Dividing the universe in three ways to micro-, macro, and middle word became the main focus of his thinking.The grid structure between the curved, interwoven, organic forms appears in this early period and becomes decisive from the late 1950s and early 1960s, which claims the need to construct the universe into order: horizontals and verticals appear in the picture as a system coordinating man and picture. The duality between the approaches (visions opposed to rationality, surrealism opposed to abstraction) the abstract depiction and the sensuality of colours, structures, the construction dominated by emotions the indirect geometry remain prominent in his life work making dating problematic. The fourth dimension, the problem of time and the sensitivity to kinetic actions prominent in the later life work, already appear in his way of thinking in the 1940s.
Gyarmathy took part in initiatives intended to propagate abstraction in art: the Dunavölgyi Avantgárdok (The Danube Valley Avant-garde Group) was formed at his appartment. Konkrét Művészek Magyarországi Csoportja (Hungarian Group of Concrete Artists) was the other initiative on abstraction. Both groups intended to form groups solely dedicated to abstract art, wished to isolate themselves from the plurality represented by the European School (Európai Iskola).
The Galéria a 4 Világtájhoz (Gallery to the 4 Points of the Compass)- exhibition space was formed in the Misztófalusi Bookshop by the separation of the abstract artists linked to the European school (Béla Nagy Fekete, József Jakovits, Tihamér Gyarmathy, Tamás Lossonczy, Smeer Makarius, Gyula Marosán, János Martinszky, Ferenc Martyn, Magda Zemplényi.)Their first exhibition Új világkép (New Wordview) illustrates the writing A természet rejtett arca (The Hidden Face of Nature) by Kállai to unfold the immaterial and formal relationships between natural sciences and fine art. By the study of the crystal structures and biological microstructures Kállai points out that the seemingly abstract and surrealistic art in fact shows the hidden side of nature it bearing the ‘biological protomarks’ in the effort to visually digest the natural image. This approach deeply influenced Gyarmathy and his generation. It became the main program for the Hungarian nonfigurative surrealist movement. Gyarmathy’s works from the late 1940s, impacting his works later in his career, are often influenced by the intellectual change of bioromantical-theory (biomorphic abstraction) peaking in Ernő Kállai’s Új világkép (New Worldview) composed in 1932. This lead to the abstract surrealist interpretation noted by Klee, Kandinsky and Miró. At the same time some of his analysts phrase his works not only as abstract surrealism but also as lyrical constructivism, placing the affinity to the biomorphic approach to the late 1950s and early 1960s. Anthropomorphic elements also feature in his works from around 1947, making form-associations in the form of grotesque images of hiding mythic references.
Years of ’inner emigration’. Gyarmathy did not participate in the art life limited by socialist realism and dictatorial ideology with the exception of the Spring Exhibition at Műcsarnok (Budapest, 1957. He was even a member of the jury for Abstract Art.) and in Pécs (1959). Some of his works were exhibited abroad (Pictores Hungaros contemporaneos: collecion Sameer Makarius, Krayd Galeria, Buenos Aires, 1954 and Artistas europeos contemporaneos, Museo de Artes Plasticas, Buenos Aires, 1957). He wrote a teoretical essay in 1949. His art has matured in the 1950s’ isolated climate and although he did not show his works in public and took physical and later technical jobs for living, he remained faithful to abstraction banned by official ideology.His art shows a mature unity of colour, form and construction and was intensified with experimental components that were subjects of great interest at the time of the rediscovery of his art: his medial experiments, photograms and sculptures witness this along with the numerous black and white art works of this period. He produced an autonomous class of art with his smaller works on zinc plates and he was occupied with the ’decalcomania’ technique typical of the 1950s. He also created applied building decorations: the column mosaics of the Hotel EMKE (1959), the Tárogató Road Pulmonary Hospital. He experimented with ceramics and enamels (1968). He also worked on stage designs and commercial design. The forms of his photograms that were born of the ’bioromantics’ deal with the problems also found in his graphical work and with the concept of the ’imaginary place’. He created his photograms by putting together two glassplates with transparent, textural objects, often directly picked from nature, between them. He then lit these collages and thus created the photograms. These works even often included movements, i.e. rotating one of the plates and giving light to the result. In the beginning of the 1950s, he illegaly (since owning a camera was banned since 1949) made an (since lost) experimental film with film collector Attila Szilágyi.The film and photograms bear witness to the nexus between the bioromantics and the constructivism.
Gyarmathy returned to international art life.With artform expanding into cosmic perspectives by the 1960s, he started to address comprehensive ideological propositions to produce a coherent symbolism of clean forms and professed opinions in a number of theoretical matters. In the 1960s and 1970s the creation of the reflective space was put forward in his works. He was absorbed with the connection of music and painting while pursued the cosmic space and its coherences, often the presentation of opposing forces which testify to the interest in the contemporary discoveries in natural sciences. The art works of the 1960s were also influenced by the modern technological culture. In 1962, his works were shown at an important group exhibition breaking the silence on Avant-garde (A modern építészet és képzőművészet kapcsolatai/Relations of Modern Architecture and Fine Arts, Budapest)thus his works started to slowly become presented and discussed again. One of the exhibition’s curators, Stefánia Mándy, once very close to Európai Iskola, presented conferences on Gyarmathy’s art in 1965.
Invitation to the First Pleain Air Symposium Osieki, Koszalin (Poland). He met significant figures of Polish Avantgarde (Henryk Stazewski, Andrzej Matuszewski, Zbignew Makowski) and numerous Czech artists. Presentation about space molding at the Polish Radio and in the Architects’ House in Budapest.
Gyarmathy returned to national art life.
Marian Bogusz invited him to participate in the First Biennial of Spatial/Installation Art in Elblang, Poland. His sculpture of iron got erected in public in the town. Jerzy Afanaszjev made a film about the process for the TV in Warsaw.