Ilka Gedo 1921-1985, in association with ‘Hungarian Arts in Glasgow, 1985’

05-10-1985 - 09-11-1985

Hungarian painter and draughtswoman Ilka Gedo(26 May 1921, Budapest – 19 June 1985) drew incessantly even as a child. She began her art studies with Viktor Erdei. Prevented from being admitted to the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts because of the anti-Jewish laws enacted in 1938, she enrolled in the private drawing schools of Tibor Gallé and István Örkényi-Strasser. While her early mentors became victims of the Holocaust, Gedo miraculously escaped a similar fate, and her 1944 sketchbooks of children and old people from the Budapest Ghetto comprise a moving and powerful pictorial diary. By 1945, when she was eventually admitted to the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Gedo was already a mature artist with a pictorial language of her own. She, therefore, left the Academy within a year and by 1949 created a suite of exquisite series of works on paper. (The number of Ilka Gedo’s works on paper is about 5,000 out of which about 1,700 are juvenilia drawings, while about 700 were created in the period spanning from 1945 to 1949.)

Ilka Gedo responded to the onset of the Communist dictatorship in 1949 by stopping making art for fifteen years, during which, however, she intensively studied art history and colour theory, making extensive notes and translations of her readings. In 1965, following a studio exhibition of her drawings, Gedo started to work again, initially using pastel, then oil on canvas. The year she spent painting in Paris (1969 – 1970) gave further impetus to her work, and during her second creative period, Gedo completed one-hundred-and-fifty paintings.

Gedo died at the age of 64, a few months before her discovery abroad. The scene of the breakthrough was Glasgow where the Compass Gallery presented her paintings and drawings in 1985. This was followed by a major retrospective in Glasgow (Third Eye Centre, 1989-1990).

Ilka Gedo’s thematic series (Ghetto Drawings, Ganz Factory Drawings, Self-Portraits, Pregnant Self-Portraits, and Tables) won her worldwide renown and her work can now be found in major museums throughout the world: Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest; Albertina, Vienna; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf; Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin; Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig; Israel Museum, Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem; British Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jewish Museum, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Cleveland Museum of Arts and the MoMA, New York and the Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.

In Hungary, she is represented at the King St. Stephen Museum, Székesfehérvár, which had the distinction of mounting the first survey of her work in 1980; the Jewish Museum, Budapest, which showed a large selection of the Ghetto Drawings in 1995; and the Hungarian National Gallery, which held a retrospective exhibition of the oeuvre in 2004 and a centenary chamber exhibition in 2021 showing works on paper by Gedo.