Victor Vasarely: The Maestro of Op Art

Outdoor Vasarely artwork at the church of Pálos in Pécs Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) was a Hungarian-French artist and is widely recognized as the "grandfather" and leader of the Op art movement. His innovative work, such...

Victor Vasarely Outdoor Vasarely artwork at the church of Pálos in Pécs

Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) was a Hungarian-French artist and is widely recognized as the "grandfather" and leader of the Op art movement. His innovative work, such as the famous "Zebra" created in the 1930s, is considered one of the earliest examples of Op art. Through his remarkable creations, Vasarely explored the interplay between geometric forms, colors, and optical illusions.

Life and Work

Vasarely was born in Pécs, Hungary, and grew up in Piešťany and Budapest. Initially, he pursued medical studies but soon switched to traditional academic painting at the renowned Műhely art school in Budapest. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for graphic art and typographical design, which later influenced his artistic style.

Victor Vasarely Victor Vasarely's artwork at the church of Pálos in Pécs

In 1930, Vasarely settled in Paris and worked as a graphic artist and creative consultant for advertising agencies. His early experiences were solitary, and he dreamt of establishing an institution similar to the Műhely art school. Over time, Vasarely developed his distinct style of geometric abstract art, emphasizing minimal forms and colors.

The Evolution of Vasarely's Art

Throughout his career, Vasarely experimented with various artistic techniques and themes. His journey can be categorized into different periods:

  • Early Graphics (1929-1944): Vasarely explored textural effects, perspective, and light to create works like "Zebras," "Chess Board," and "Girl-power."
  • Les Fausses Routes - On the Wrong Track (1944-1947): In this phase, Vasarely experimented with different styles, including cubism, futuristic, and symbolistic paintings. He later classified this period as being on the "wrong track."
  • Developing Geometric Abstract Art (Optical Art) (1947-1951): Vasarely found his own style inspired by the white tiled walls of the Paris Denfert - Rochereau metro station and the natural forms found during a vacation. His works reflected these influences, and he began exploring empty and filled spaces on a flat surface, as well as the stereoscopic view.
  • Kinetic Images, Black-White Photographies (1951-1955): Vasarely developed kinetic images that created dynamic, moving impressions using superimposed acrylic glass panes. He also experimented with black and white photography, combining frames into a single pane.
  • Folklore Planétaire, Permutations, and Serial Art (1965-): Vasarely patented his method of "unités plastiques" in 1959. He used a strictly defined palette of colors and forms to create endless permutations, working with assistants and standardized tools to challenge the uniqueness of art.
  • Hommage à l'Hexagone, Vega: Vasarely's "Tribute to the Hexagon" series showcased perpetual transformations of indentations and relief, creating optical illusions of volume.

Legacy and Recognition

Victor Vasarely Tribute to Malevitch (1954), Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas

Vasarely's impact on the art world is undeniable. His work has been exhibited worldwide, and he has received numerous awards and recognition. In 1976, the Foundation Vasarely was inaugurated in Aix-en-Provence, France, designed by Vasarely himself. However, the museum is currently in disrepair, as water leakage has damaged some of the exhibited pieces.

Vasarely's contributions to art were not limited to galleries and museums. He collaborated with renowned figures, such as designing the cover art for David Bowie's second album. His influence continues to inspire contemporary artists exploring the possibilities of optical illusions and geometric abstraction.


Victor Vasarely was not only an artistic pioneer but also a visionary who pushed the boundaries of perception and visual kinetics. His geometric abstract art and optical illusions have left an indelible mark on the art world. Although he passed away in 1997, his legacy lives on in museums, exhibitions, and the hearts of art enthusiasts worldwide.