1924–1946: Early Life in Hungary

“Though she used only traditional artists’ tools before working with an electronic computer in 1968, Vera remembers inventing systematic methods for making art from an early age.”
Vera, age 17, at Mátrafüred, Hungary, 1941 (Molnar archives, used with the artist’s permission)
“Here she is at age 17, on vacation in Mátrafüred, Hungary. The photo is black-and-white, but Vera reminds me that her silver hair was once red—her signature colour.”
Images:
Molnar archives
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Vera grew up drawing and painting, so it was no surprise she would end up applying to art school. Here she is at age 17, on vacation in Mátrafüred, Hungary, about 85 kilometers northwest of her hometown Budapest. The photo is black-and-white, but Vera reminds me that her silver hair was once red—her signature color. Here, it’s pulled back in milkmaid braids. She wears a shirtdress covered in thick pinstripes that meet at 90-degree angles on the collar, framing her face in a pattern of concentric squares—her signature motif. Her style remains remarkably consistent to this day—at 98, Vera still dresses like the art she makes.

Teenage Vera flashes a proud smile as she looks up from the sketchpad in her lap. Though she used only traditional artists’ tools—colored pencils, paintbrushes, pastels—before working with an electronic computer in 1968, Vera remembers inventing systematic methods for making art from an early age. Vacationing with her parents in Balatonvilágos at the house they named Veronika after their beloved only child, she came up with a system to draw the sunset over Lake Balaton with a different colored pencil, selected at random, each evening. We can’t see what she’s drawing here, but it’s possible she’s gearing up for the competitive entrance exam for the Magyar Képzőművészeti Főiskola (Hungarian College of Fine Arts). She recalls being one of the weakest students at her preparatory course, but she would pass the exam with flying colours and enrol in fall 1942. She graduated in 1946 with a degree in art education—to appease her father, she’ll tell you—but no one could stop her from heading to Paris the following year to pursue her one true ambition: becoming an abstract painter.

Preparatory painting course, Budapest, Hungary, 1942. Vera is in the back row, fifth from the right.
“She graduated in 1946 with a degree in art education—to appease her father, she’ll tell you—but no one could stop her from heading to Paris the following year to pursue her one true ambition: becoming an abstract painter.”
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