Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art

Pepperdine University Center for the Arts

Malibu, CA



Tibor Jankay: Celebrating the Human Spirit


The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University will present a small tribute exhibition of paintings by Tibor Jankay from May 27 through July 23, 2000. The exhibition, titled "Tibor Jankay: Celebrating the Human Spirit," will be on view in the museum's Mezzanine Gallery, and will run concurrently with "Victor Raphael: Envisioning Space," which is being shown in the Gregg G. Juarez and West galleries. (left: Five Women in Classical Dress, n.d., oil on masonite)

Tibor Jankay (1899-1994) survived the Holocaust in his native Hungary and settled in Los Angeles soon after the end of World War II. He began teaching at Pepperdine University and remained a vital member of the art faculty until his retirement in 1971. His paintings celebrate the joy of living that inspired him throughout his long life.

Jankay was born in Bekescaba, Hungary. He studied at the Academy in Budapest as well as at the Julian Academy in Paris, France. At the outset of World War II, he was conscripted into the Hungarian army and sent with other Jewish soldiers to a labor battalion in Transylvania. When the Nazis ordered the deportation of Hungarian Jews in 1944, he managed to escape and made his way on foot to his hometown. Using his skills as an artist to help him survive, he drew portraits in return for food and shelter.

In 1948 Jankay emigrated to America. He taught art at the University of Redlands and later at Pepperdine University, where he retired as the Chairman of the Art Department after 27 years. Alter his retirement, he spent much of his time at the Venice Beach Boardwalk, where he became a mentor to many young artists, inspiring them with his stories of survival and his philosophy of forgiveness. He would draw people on the boardwalk and explain,"They don't know it, but I am sketching the happiness." In 1992 he won the Spirit of Venice Award, an award given to outstanding citizens of Venice, California. (left: Two Nude Women at the Beach, n.d., oil on masonite)

Jankay's paintings are bright and colorful figurative works that were inspired by the School of Paris art of Pablo Picasso and Fernand Leger. He exhibited infrequently during his lifetime because he felt that his paintings were his children and to part with them would be unthinkable.

He called his art "stylized-realism" but added, "I am constantly changing--what I don't like today, tomorrow I will be enthusiastic about." He believed that his art captures "the inspiration of the beauty and the feeling of the eternal life of the universe." Jankay held a certain fondness for youth and said, "I enjoyed teaching because I like the new generation, and I was inspired by the new generation." (left: Profile of a Woman's Head with a Vase of Flowers, n.d., oil on masonite)

The paintings in the exhibition for the most part date from his last years. During this time, his favorite subjects were figures at the beach, mothers with children, and couples embracing. "I am a child, and everything is so beautiful if you are seeing with the child's eyes." He said of his beloved Venice beachfront, "There is no place in the world I would rather be."

Paintings on view were donated to Pepperdine University by Ignatz and Rose Present as well as by the Consulate General of the Republic of Hungary.

Read more about the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University in Resource Library Magazine.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 2/28/11

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