The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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Still life 1911
Painting, oil on canvas
94.0 h x 128.5 w cm
Purchased 1977
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Desiderius Orban

Circa September 1979

Desiderius Orban: I always have to find something which I didn’t try out yet, and usually the result is something which is interesting.

James Gleeson: I think some of those points you’ve made very clear in your book.

Desiderius Orban: Yes. Oh, yes, of course. I know this. I know this, but I thought it’s not too bad to mention.

James Gleeson: Exactly. Deciderius, I was struck by the comments on that big still life painting of yours that we have. Two people, Judy Cassab and a Hungarian artist, both mentioned it in terms of the sound of an organ. Now, I think that’s a very, very apposite description of it. It does have that sonorous huge tone about it.

Desiderius Orban: Yes. It amazing that the two statements is between 50 years or something like this, you see.

James Gleeson: Yes, yes. Can you tell me, can you remember when you painted that picture?

Desiderius Orban: Sure. I am absolutely sure. I see myself standing before the painting in my studio in Budapest in 1911.

James Gleeson: Nineteen eleven.

Desiderius Orban: Yes, 1911.

James Gleeson: Did you have the model in front of you?

Desiderius Orban: Yes. Yes, exactly. It was set up and left like this. This is interesting. It comes to my mind that before this painting I always painted one sitting painting. This was the first time in my life that I worked a longer time on the same work.

James Gleeson: It looked to me to be a work that summed up a whole period of experience, a climatic work. Did you feel that to be the case?

Desiderius Orban: Yes, yes. Yes.

James Gleeson: It certainly is most profound and, if you can call a still life a ‘monument’, it seems to me to have a monumental quality.

Desiderius Orban: Thank you. Yes, I think. You see, this elderly artist who made this statement is—one of these I have and haven’t my glasses. One of these elderly men, you know this?

James Gleeson: That’s you, yes I know.

Desiderius Orban: I was the youngest among the group, and one of these—here it is.

James Gleeson: I see.

Desiderius Orban: Vaszary. Vaszary. What’s his name? John Vaszary. He was very well accepted as one of—

James Gleeson: May I just put a little—Vasary, V-A-S-A-R-Y?

Desiderius Orban: V-A-S-Z-A-R-Y. I think I mentioned it in—

James Gleeson: Yes, you did but I don’t— ah, yes. That’s right, you did. Oh, good.

Desiderius Orban: He said this to me and this was a great sensation, of course, because I was a shy young man and he was one of the established great artists at that time. He said to me that it reminds him of an organ playing. Fifty years or more later Julie got upset. She never heard of this, that Vaszary told me this, said exactly the same that it reminds her of my work.


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