Béla GY. SZABÓ
(Alba Iulia, 1905 – Cluj-Napoca, 1985)
“He gets up early, tries to find pre-classical music on the portable radio; he is keen on Vivaldi’s music, a driving force for work – and he starts engraving. The pleasant woody scent of a polished pear slab makes the often represented, but endlessly engaging natural landscape perceptible.
He immortalizes scenery, people, his contemporaries and his era with the help of a chisel, charcoal and pastels. His works present the world through the eyes of a sensitive artist” (Jenő Murádin).
The initial “Gy” in the name of the world-renowned graphic artist, Béla Gyulafehérvári Szabó, symbolizes his loyalty to his hometown, Gyulafehérvár (today Alba Iulia). In 1932, in Cluj-Napoca, Károly Kós, the starter of Transylvanianism, made a lasting impact on the artist’s career. Throughout his prolific life, he remained true to wood though he also used graphic art and pastels as a medium of self-expression.
Born the seventh child of a railway man, the artist, who began to demonstrate a talent for drawing at a very young age, first distinguished himself in mathematics. While studying in Budapest for a degree in mechanical engineering, he also returned to art and started drawing again. As a result of the economic crisis, unemployment and famine the fresh graduate was lured back to his home town, then to Cluj-Napoca, where he organized his first exhibition: “He exhibited a series of graphic works – charcoal and pastel. He has a good eye for noticing people and skilled hands to portray them. He depicts people he has noticed on the outskirts, around factories, clay pits and garbage dumps. He observed these people and looked deep into their souls, in a way that only an artist can do” (Károly Kós).
Like so many artists, Béla Gy. Szabó matured in his craft under the imbuing Italian sky, lost in the shades of blue of Greece and golden hues of Dalmatia. A long cherished dream came true when he became a student at the College of Fine Arts in Budapest, where his instinctive mastery evolved into a conscious expression. The Harvest, the only work of art by Béla Szabó in the Böhm collection, was made in 1938, during his years of wandering. His favoured theme, the husky man doing hard physical work is infused with invigoratingly fresh colourism. The subtle, blurred pastel creates a mirage of women reaping the harvest in the field.
“Drawings are born from listening, receiving, identifying and total release. It is an almost instinctive activity. All senses are involved. I see colours, lines, shapes; I hear sounds; I can almost perceive the scent of the illustration, its taste, and it feels as if I was touching it…My hands move virtually on their own, led by a natural impulse to grasp and immortalize. Carving, on the other hand, is a more conscious activity. It’s reliving that unique moment which does not come twice. I describe and share experiences in brief sentences. Of course, internal tension is an essential feature here as well. Without this there is no genuine work of art. It’s enough to say how nervous I am before I make the first chisel mark in the wood” (Béla Gy. Szabó).
”Silence reigns in his landscapes. We rarely encounter solitary men, carrying a load on the narrow path crossing the fields. We could say that these are not landscapes, hills, tilled fields, or woods, they are actually self-portraits” (Gyula László).