Hungarian born Gabor Peterdi (1915-2001) has been known to thousands of printmakers, and is widely considered one of the great innovators of the print medium in the 20thc. Born in Pestujhely, Peterdi's parent sent him to study art at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 15. He won a Prix de Rome and studied there a year before heading to Paris and studying at the Academie Julian. He then spent six years studying engraving with the American-born master printmaker Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17 before emigrating to New York City in 1939.
Once Peterdi came to the US, he served in the Army in Europe during World War II, and then came back to New York work with Hayter, who had since moved there. He went on to teach at the Honolulu Academy of Art, the Brooklyn Museum School of Art, Hunter College, and at the prestigious Yale School of Art. His book on printmaking, ''Printmaking: Methods Old and New,'' has been used worldwide as the definitive textbook for printmaking courses.
Although Peterdi was in New York when Abstract Expressionism reigned supreme, he chose to emphasize his love for nature.The majority of his work is abstracted, but his themes revolve around man, nature and their interrelationships. This particular group of images selected for this article speak to his interest in natural forms, and the coloration reminds one of flowers,birds, bushes and an infusion of light streaming through trees. The image above calls to some horizon where the sun never stops shining,while the last image can be seen as a stalk or stem, or even an abstracted vertebrae of some animal. The areas sourrounding it resemble sediment and excavations of things found when we start to garden; finding the treasured remnants of bones our dogs hope to keep for an afternoon of blissful gnawing. There is a form of abstracted pictographic language going on here; and it's one that if you weren't educated to know it's signs or symbols it wouldn't keep you from enjoying the images that he's placed together. There is synaptic energy going on here, and the viewer's eye moves easily throughout.
While I have certainly known of Peterdi's reputation as a great teacher, I have not seen or really known much about his work. My understanding of him, being from the Midwest and exposed indirectly to the University of Iowa influence of Mauricio Lasansky, was that his friendly Picasso/Matisse-like rivalry with Lasansky helped to establish two major printmaking programs in this country; both of which have trained scores of printmakers, teachers, curator, historians and gallerists. Their collective influence has been felt far and wide, not just in this the United States, but also having trained many printmakers worldwide. Peterdi is one of Printmaking's Elite, and the impact of him as a person, teacher and his work will continue to be felt for a very long time.