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Istvan Sàndorfi | Hyper-Surrealist painter

István Sándorfi (1948-2007) also known as Étienne Sandorfi, was a naturalised French painter of Hungarian origin.
He received his formal art education at École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts and at École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs in Paris.
He mastered what art critics now term hyperrealism. But he did so with his very own blend of Surreal elements. Having been introduced to oil painting at the age of 12, Sandorfi dedicated much of his life to perfecting his painting techniques in order to achieve the photoreal and at the same time pull the carpet away under the viewer by letting part of a person dissappear in thin air.

He worked at night and was reclusive. If he could choose, he saw very few people other than his family. The contact with galleries and collectors was kept to the bare minimum and enough to make ends meet. To begin with he survived on advertising illustrations and portrait commissions.
Sándorfi and his enigmatic portraits of women
By the late eighties the subject matters were now increasingly women mixed in unusual poses with parts secluded or entirely missing. Drapery and runny paint was used as illusionary cue points to his partially disappearing parts.
This never had the character of mutilation of the figures. No rather, what we’re left with is a poetic take fleeting moment of us being a human beings. The pictures are riddles. The studio, the painting medium, and various props are deliberately fused together in compositions of beauty and melancholy. Along with depicting the human, it is almost as much paintings about painting in a way.

Art became his overriding passion to the detriment of his schooling. At the age of 17, while still in secondary school, Sandorfi had his first individual exhibition at a small gallery in Paris.
After his second exhibition, in 1966, he gave up drawing to devote himself exclusively to painting.
In view of the morbid nature of his son's paintings and their lack of commercial success, Sandorfi's father enrolled Istvan at the School of Fine Arts, where he was to gain a degree, and at the School of Decorative Arts.
This, the family thought, would give him a more prestigious status than that of mere "artist". Gradually he achieved financial independence by accepting, along with the occasional sale of paintings, portrait commissions and few advertising illustrations.
In 1973 Sandorfi had his first significant exhibition, at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Exhibitions were to follow in France, Germany, Belgium and finally the United States.
For about fifteen years he painted a series of large-scale self-portraits, aggressive and theatrical in character, which gave him an ambiguous reputation with dealers and the public. It was written that he 'painted like an assassin'. His paintings began to know real success only from 1988 onwards, when the artist abandoned his disturbing images and began to concentrate and further elaborate on his technique, which is still evolving.

Preferring exclusive contracts, less for financial reasons than to avoid the administrative aspects of his career and a professional milieu with which he couldn't identify, Sandorfi worked with the Beaubourg Gallery from 1974-1976, and then for seven years with the Isy Brachot Gallery.
From 1984-1988 his work was exhibited in various galleries by an interesting patron and collector and then handled by the Prazan-Fitoussi Gallery from 1990-1993.
From 1994-2001, his paintings have been exclusively represented by the Jane Kahan Gallery in New York. Visceral and self-taught in work as in life, Sandorfi has since childhood distrusted 'things learned' and has remained true to his personal convictions.
He prefers to paint at night, but each day goes to bed later than the day before, thus living in a perpetual time lag, which sidelines him from any social life. Sandorfi reconciles this isolation with his family circle (he is the father of two girls, Ange and Eve) and his emotional life, thereby maintaining a delicate and studied balance between his life and his work.

István Sándorfi, noto anche come Étienne Sandorfi (Budapest, 12 giugno 1948 - Parigi, 26 dicembre 2007), è stato un pittore Ungherese naturalizzato Francese, appartenente alla corrente iperrealista.
Figlio del direttore dell'IBM ungherese, dopo la guerra István Sándorfi venne deportato con la famiglia in un villaggio, dal momento che il padre fu vittima delle epurazioni della neonata (1949) Repubblica Popolare d'Ungheria, finendo sotto arresto e infine condannato a morte.
Scarcerato nel 1955 il padre grazie alla ventata democratica determinata dall'avvento al potere di Imre Nagy, tutta la famiglia Sándorfi approfittò della rivoluzione ungherese del 1956 per espatriare, trovando rifugio dapprima nell'Austria neutrale e nella Repubblica Federale Tedesca e quindi in Francia, dove si stabilì definitivamente nel 1958.
Segnato dalla violenza di cui era stato testimone e più in generale dalle aberrazioni dei sistemi politici che aveva sperimentato direttamente, Sándorfi trovò una forma di sollievo e consolazione dedicandosi al disegno e, a partire dal 1960, alla pittura ad olio.
L'arte divenne così il filo conduttore della sua vita: già da adolescente István (o Étienne, com'era chiamato in Francia) cominciò a mantenersi, almeno in parte, vendendo schizzi e disegni a compagni o professori.
Si iscrisse per esortazione paterna all'École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts e l'École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, entrambe a Parigi, dalle quali, a suo dire, non apprese nulla. La scarsa frequenza ai corsi non gli impedì tuttavia di diplomarsi con ottime valutazioni.
Nel 1966, quando entrò alle Beaux-Arts, aveva già all'attivo una prima esposizione personale alla Galerie des jeunes, a Parigi.
Nei suoi primi anni Sandorfi si dedicò soprattutto inizialmente agli autoritratti.
Nel 1973, un'esposizione al Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris contribuì a fare di Sandorfi un talento in ascesa dell'iperrealismo, anche se l'artista rifiutò sempre di riconoscersi in quel movimento e si definì «semplicemente realista». Il suo stile pittorico, che inglobava sia la tecnica iperrealista della meticolosità "fotografica" sia elementi tipici del surrealismo, fu accolto favorevolmente dalla critica.

Per oltre trent'anni Sandorfi presentò le proprie tele in numerose personali allestite presso autorevoli gallerie europee e statunitensi. Nell'ottobre del 1979 partecipò con un'esposizione individuale al sesto Foire internationale d'art contemporain a Parigi.
Sándorfi divenne un artista di fama internazionale. Le sue provocanti e provocatorie figure drappeggiate e le sue nature morte sono oggi custodite in collezioni private e pubbliche quali il Centro Georges Pompidou o il già citato Musée d'art moderne a Parigi, la Kunsthalle di Norimberga o il Taiwan Museum of Art.
Dopo le varie mostre in Francia, Germania, Belgio e Stati Uniti, proprio negli ultimi due anni di vita, Sándorfi accettò l'invito ad esporre in Ungheria.
István Sándorfi morì poco dopo, sul finire del 2007, a Parigi.


Sandorfi fu decorato in Francia con l'Ordre des arts et des lettres.