1896, Szarvas - 1993, Budapest
Although his life was hard, he tried to make it as beautiful as he could.
In Ruzicskay's art, we find echoes of European "isms": avant-garde, expressionism, cubism, futurism. But his diverse work cannot be linked exclusively to any trend. His paintings are rather different formulations about man, the physical-mental struggle, love, and freedom.
Painting from an early age
The painter and graphic artist György Ruzicskay was born in Szarvas, Békés County, in 1896.
He followed his mother's example, who worked in decorative painting, by painting on walls and furniture from an early age. Although his talent was recognized after graduating from primary school, he wasn’t able to continue his studies, due to the sudden impoverishment of the family.
His early artistic approach
During the First World War, when he was doing military service, his comrade-in-arms Ferenc Schwartz took him to Mór Baráth's painting school in Oradea and introduced him to the city's cultural world. There, he met Etelka Horváth, a girl of Jewish origin, with whom he later married. The free school on Vlahuta Street no. 72, in addition to the drawing and painting courses offered, also functioned as a real intellectual workshop, attended by painters from Oradea as well. His approach was influenced by the Plein-air painting from Baia Mare, the allegorical-symbolic vision of the Art Nouveau style, and by the spread of graphic duplication processes.
He studied at the Munich Academy under the guidance of H. Grobler, L. Hertereich, and Dörner. He also attended the art school of Hans Hofmann (Hans Hofmann Schule für Bildende Kunst), which was closer to contemporary trends at the time. The artist also studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris.
Life and drawing cycles
Over time, Ruzicskay systematically thought of drawing cycles, the first of which had a historical (Schwartz Album, History of the Citadel of Oradea, 1921) and mythological theme (Amon Hertvebecht, with an ancient Egyptian theme, 1922–1924). Later he designed a 112-sheet graphic cycle entitled "The Love Seeker". Conceived in Oradea and made in Budapest, it is an illustration of a visionary story in which the active social role of the modern hero unites with the cosmic content of love. The cycle was published in color in both Romanian and Hungarian by the Sonnenfeld Printing House in Oradea in 1935, using the technique of color allography.
The central themes of his works from the 1930s were the relationship and interaction between machine and man, the result of the capitalist civilization. After the global economic crisis, Ruzicskay visited factories, so his main source of inspiration came from the working class and their relationship with machines, their speed, and the passing of time in one’s hectic life.
His attic was a workshop...and a shelter
During the Second World War, he left Oradea for good and settled in Budapest, where together with his wife hid dozens of refugees in the attic of his workshop. One of them was the painter Imre Révész. They provided food and false documents to facilitate their rescue from deportation. For these deeds, in 1978 Ruzicskay was conferred the title of "Righteous between Peoples" by Yad Vashem in Israel (World Center for Holocaust Remembrance).
One of the main motives in drawing cycles has become, since the early 1950s, traveling (Strange Journey, 1952–1957 and Fantastic Journey, 1978–1983), inspired by his study trips to Paris, the Netherlands, and the United States.
Developing a specific theory and technique
Starting with 1961, he received a studio in his hometown, so he traveled between Szarvas and Paris. The beauty and naturalness of the Elisabeta garden in Szarvas ("Pepi's Garden") inspired him to develop "bio painting”, a specific theory and a technique that involved the use of plants in a composition similar to collage.
During his career, he was awarded numerous prizes: he received twice the Grand Prize in Paris (1959, 1961), he was awarded the Munkácsy Prize (in 1973), the Emeritus Artist Prize ( in 1976), the Master of Art Prize (in 1982), and the Order of the Flag (in 1983). His paintings were very successful both in the domestic public and the foreign one. The walls of Klára Rothschild’s clothing salon and house were also decorated with Ruzicskay paintings, in the 1960s.