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Desiderius Orban (at 101 years of age)

John Caldwell

mixed media on archival mount board (sheet: 144.8 cm x 94.8 cm, frame: 148.7 cm x 98.6 cm depth 3.7 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Desiderius Orban OBE (1884-1986) taught himself to paint while a student at the university of Budapest. Following compulsory military service with the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1905, he moved to Paris where he briefly studied at the Académie Julian and was a member of a circle of artists that included Matisse and Picasso. He returned to Budapest the following year to become nucleus of a group called Keresők (The Seekers), which evolved into the Eights. The group introduced cubism and fauvism to Hungarians. After war service, Orban exhibited in Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary, and established the Budapest Arts and Crafts Academy. Forced to flee Nazism in 1939, when he was 55, he migrated with his wife and son to Sydney, where he worked as a textile designer and printer before holding his first show in 1943. That year he established an art school, in which he inspired students including Margo Lewers, Judy Cassab and John Olsen. Orban is credited with opening up new avenues of artistic freedom in mid-twentieth century Sydney. The public benefited from his tutelage in summer schools and via ABC radio, and from his books A Layman’s Guide to Creative Art (1968), Understanding Art (1968) and What is Art All About? (1975). In 1975, Orban was awarded his OBE for his services to The Arts and in 1984, while still painting at the age of 100, he received the honorific title: Doctor of Letters (in Art) by the University of New England. His work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and all Australian state galleries.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2017

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

John Caldwell (age 43 in 1985)

Desiderius Orban (age 101 in 1985)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

John Caldwell (2 portraits)

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