Ilonka Karasz – Modernist Pioneer

There will be an opening reception for Ilonka Karasz’ artwork at the Albert Wisner Library in Warwick, NY on Sunday, March 8 from 1:00 pm until 3:00 pm. Paul Kane will give a short talk about her life and work at 1:30. 

In the early years of the last century, a fresh breeze from Europe blew through the world of art and design – a movement called “Modernism”. It was the time of Wiener Werkstätte design in furniture, colorful and original textiles, and astonishing interior decoration. Ilonka Karasz was part of this movement.

Born in Hungary in 1896, she was the daughter of a silversmith and grew up surrounded by the vibrant and colorful designs of Hungarian peasant art. She attended the Royal School of Arts and Crafts in Budapest, one of the first women to be admitted. She emigrated to the United States in 1913 and settled in Greenwich Village, then a lively center of the arts. In Greenwich village she felt free from the Old World prejudice that women could not compete with men in art, and quickly established herself as an artist of unique ability, diversity and energy. She worked with other European emigres to help establish the Modern movement in America, with an emphasis on the applied arts. They founded Modern art schools, published magazines, held important exhibits and established ties to manufacturers. Ilonka often found herself the only woman in these worlds, but moved on a par with the men, working in and winning reknown in a wide variety of fields, including textile, furniture, ceramics, silver, wallpaper and interior design, as well as magazine and book illustration.  She was a well-known designer of covers for “The New Yorker” magazine, designing 186 covers over five decades.  

Ilonka Karasz Photo Gallery from the show of her work at the Amity Gallery last year.

Throughout the many decades of her career, she was able to find a new and fresh expression for her art, experimenting with new materials and methods, and adapting to the changing times. This could be attributed partly to the fact that she had, from her earliest years, a deep appreciation of Nature, and a wish to
understand its laws. In her article “Inspiration” she wrote: “It is in us that God meets with Nature and yesterday parts from tomorrow. There is no other place to look for inspiration except in this unique place that man has within himself, where nature and all new possibilities exist.”

She was the wife of Willem Nyland, the founder of the Chardavogne Group in Warwick, NY, and lived here in the last years of her life. This exhibit at the Warwick Public library, which will open on Sunday March 8, 2020 and end on April 15, will give an overview of her career. There will be an opening reception from 1:00 to 3:00 pm in the Library’s Board room, with a talk given at 1:30 by Paul Kane

 

Ilonka Karasz Photo Gallery

Ilonka Karasz Design Work is an outstanding show that includes Karasz’ many New Yorker Magazine covers, her furniture and the design studies she did with her students.

This exhibit was arranged by Sue Bemel, Lyn Youland, and Tim Hull with brochure & card design by Kory Trolio. Special thanks to Ilonka Sigmund for the loan of many papers, photographs, and works of art from the family’s collection and to Roger Lipsey, from the Gurdjieff Foundation, for the loan of 17 mounted covers from “The New Yorker” magazine. Also included is work by her students.

Photos by Arlene Prince. Click on the thumbnail to see full size images.