Outside Hungary, Kádár Béla is probably the most famous member of the early twentieth-century Hungarian avant-garde.
He was born in Budapest in 1877 to a working-class Jewish family, his birth name is Klug Béla. Around the age of 20 he left his job as wood-turner to wander (on foot…) through Europe, visiting big cities that bustled with contemporary art life. On this journey he decided that he wanted to be a painter, so when returning to Budapest in 1902 he started to study art.
From 1906 on his drawings and pastels were shown on group exhibitions in the National Saloon and the National Gallery, he win the Kohner prize in 1910. He used it to travel to Belgium, Holland and Paris, where he met and befriended Picasso and Marc Chagall.
He was close friends with painter Scheiber Hugó as well, they both had their first major international success on the same exhibition in Vienna in 1922, where they met Herwath Walden (owner and publisher of the influential art journal Der Sturm) who from then on supported the career of both artists. They had several exhibitions in Berlin where they met Katherine Dreier who invited them to the US. Dreier’s Societe Anonyme was instrumental in bringing the work of European avant-garde artists to New York, Kádár had two exhibitions in Brooklyn with huge international success.
Kádár’s early painting style was influenced by the Art Nouveau movement and the Nabis, in the 1920s his interest turned to Expressionism, and in his Berliner years his style began to incorporate and synthesize Cubist, Constructivist and Neo-Primitive elements . He worked with watercolor and gouache, he created a series of narrative compositions based on traditional Hungarian village life and folklore – this period of his work is strongly reminiscent of Naiv painters.
Around 1930 his style changed once again, the influence of the Art Deco and the Italian Novecento merged into the playful style Kádár today is best known for. Grey-silver tones complemented with bright, vivid colors, compositions of portraits, nudes, still lifes, horses, cats and dogs, enriched with neoclassical forms are the distinctive characteristics of his paintings.
Half of his family – his wife and his two sons – died in WW II and in the ghetto. After the war the new communist regime declared his art ‘undesirable’, and while his paintings were selling for higher and higher prices on auctions in the Western countries he was living in poverty until his death in 1956.
His paintings – digitally cleaned and colors restored – are available as print in my store.