Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rediscovering Albert Varadi

I first came across the Hungarian artist Albert Váradi in the Parisian art revue Byblis. In 1924 he contributed a wonderfully raffish and dandified etched portrait of the editor of Byblis, Pierre Gusman (himself a distinguished printmaker). There was an accompanying essay on Váradi by Loÿs Delteil, and a catalogue raisonné of his etchings to date. Starting in 1920, Váradi had produced 64 etchings and drypoints by summer 1924, plus a further 15 etchings that appeared in two books, Boccaccio's Das Liebeslabyrinth and Heine's Die Harzreise. As both of these books were published in Germany, it would appear that Váradi was one of many displaced artists from Eastern and Central Europe who settled in the West after WWI, usually gravitating to Paris, but often via some other country first. I was intrigued, and decided to find out what I could about this talented artist. As it turns out, the Byblis article by Delteil and the accompanying catalogue seem to be the best information available, though there is also a substantial entry on Váradi in Marcus Osterwalder, Dictionnaire des Illustrateurs 1905-1965.

Albert Váradi, Portrait de Pierre Gusman
Etching, 1924

Albert Váradi was born in Nagyvárad in Transylvania on 16 October 1896; his birthplace, then in Hungary, is today known as Oradea and is now in Romania, so both Hungary and Romania may lay claim to him. Váradi started his studies at the Budapest Academy and then continued at the Budapest School of Decorative Art. Drawn to printmaking after five years concentrating on sculpture, Váradi went to Munich in 1920 (or late 1919) to learn the art of etching under Peter Halm. That he showed immediate promise in this new field is evidenced by the fact that his etchings for Boccaccio were published in an edition of 250 copies by Hesperos Verlag in 1921, and those for Heine in an edition of 350 copies by Paul Stangl Verlag the following year. My copies of the Heine etchings are, rather surprisingly, each individually hand-signed by Váradi, presumably for a friend.

Albert Váradi, Title page for Das Liebeslabyrinth
Etching, 1921

Albert Váradi, Etching for Das Liebeslabyrinth
Etching, 1921

Albert Váradi, Etching for Das Liebeslabyrinth
Etching, 1921

Albert Váradi, Etching for Das Liebeslabyrinth
Etching, 1921

In April 1923 Váradi moved to Paris, where he first exhibited in that year's Salon d'Automne. He produced etchings of Paris street scenes, beaches in Normandy, and portraits, which Loÿs Delteil thought his strongest work. Váradi did not make preparatory drawings, but drew directly onto the copperplate, like Paul Helleu and Marcellin Desboutin. Most of Albert Váradi's etchings were issued in tiny editions 10 or 30 copies, though two were more widely distributed: his portrait of Eugène Delâtre appeared in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts (c.1500 copies), and his portrait of Pierre Gusman was published in Byblis, Miroir des Arts du Livre et de l'Estampe (700 copies).

Albert Váradi, Title page for Die Harzreise
Etching, 1922

Albert Váradi, Etching for Die Harzreise
Etching, 1922

Albert Váradi, Etching for Die Harzreise
Etching, 1922

Albert Váradi, Etching for Die Harzreise
Etching, 1922

Sadly, Albert Váradi died in Paris in 1925, his promising career cut short at the age of just 28, having only been etching for five years. What the final total of his etchings was, I do not know, but the total of individual works, even counting the etchings for Boccaccio and Heine, is almost certainly less than 100.

6 comments:

Atelier Conti said...

I wish I could say I was rediscovering Varadi...but as with most of your posts, it's all wonderfully new to me. His work is so funny and illustrative. His people are sympathetically represented even while debauching. He seems to have had a jolly view of life. What a shame he died so young.

Neil said...

I particularly love the portrait of Gusman - you feel they both had a twinkle in their eye. I don't know what caused Varadi's untimely death, but it certainly cut short a glittering career. Part of the reason he has been forgotten is the rarity of his work, which hardly ever comes up for sale.

Jane Librizzi said...

The Varadi portrait of Gusman (she wrote, knowing nothing about either man) looks very fine and caught my eye immediately. As for the illustrations, I like the contrasts of light and dark that give a sense of movement and definition to the facial expressions in the Boccaccio series. Or maybe debauchery is a more interesting subject

Neil said...

Jane - the Gusman portrait is fantastic, I think. To be honest, looking at Pierre Gusman's art (I have a fair few mostly wood engravings by Gusman on the Idbury Prints site) you would never guess what a dashing moustachioed Bohemian he was. Delteil felt that portraits were Varadi's strongest suit, and (without having seen much more of his work than I display) I suspect he was right.

Susanna Vendel said...

I came accross this blogg searching on the name of Albert Varadi and I am glad to find some more information about his etchings. His real name was Albert Weisz. Varadi is his artist name. He died of pneumonia in Paris. In some way we are related but I don't know yet how. I inherited from my grandfather, also Weisz, a number of etchings. Some of them are like the etching posted , but there are some portraits too. I wonder who these people are? It would be interesting to know who they are

Neil said...

Hi Susanna, Many thanks for this new information. I have acquired another Varadi portrait, of the printmaker and specialist printer Eugène Delâtre, since writing this post. I have a list of all Varadi's etchings, so if you send me photos I can probably try to identify the subjects of your prints. Also, I have been in touch with another of his descendants, whose grandmother was the artist's sister. She says, "My grandmother always thought that Albi died of the Spanish Flu. However, I went to Epinay-Sur-Seine (where he died) in the early 80s, found the cemetery and his grave and found out the address where he died. It was a mental asylum and the archivist I spoke with there told me that most probably he had syphilis." Email me directly and I will put the two of you in touch.