Gross Arnold and his Fairyland
Caption: top: Visegrád (the wedding gift) in black and white, Visegrád (in color)
Middle: Riverside (the 2nd wedding gift), Gross Arnold, his graphic in the background,
Bottom: Flowers and Birds, Circus

Gross Arnold and his Fairyland

Dr. Dora Józsefné with Karolina Tima Szabo

Gross Arnold was a most famous Hungarian graphic artist and painter, with international recognition. 

He was born in Torda (Romania) on November 25th,1929.  He was about ten years old when he knew he wanted to be an artist.  His first teacher was his father, Gross Károly, who was an icon, portrait and landscape painter.  With his father and brother, they walked the Torda Gorge, the Aranyos Valley, and that nature and the beauty of his home defined his life’s work.  In school, nothing interested him, but art.

He was 11 years old when his dream had a stumble: the Second Vienna Award did not give Torda back to Hungary.  North Transylvania remained part of Romania.  His family moved to Nagyvárad, just 9 km from the Hungarian border. Arnold was 17 years old, just before finishing high school, when, with an attaché case and a backpack, he escaped to Hungary over a corn field one night.  He didn’t see his family for nine years, until he traveled to Bulgaria with a group of artists, and his parents got on a train at Nagyvárad.

In Budapest, he applied to the Academy of Industrial Arts (Iparművészeti Főiskola), but since he had no high school diploma, he was turned away.  Next day, he showed up with his brand-new graphic, which he had just finished.  Seeing that, he was accepted.  Later he attended the Academy of Fine Arts (Képzőművészeti Főiskola), where he studied under Barcsai Jenő, Hincz Gyula, Kádár György, Kondor Béla and Szabó Vladimir.

He began his career as a watercolor artist.  Later, in the 50’s he developed his own personal style, as a graphic artist and copper engraver.  He revived the art of copper engraving.  First he worked only in black and white, later on he tried colors.  Up till then, colored woodcuts had been heard of, but not colored copper engravings.  He colored the copper plate, so no two are alike even from the same plate.  His color prints are internationally famous.

Gross Arnold was a soft-spoken man who loved nature, birds, people, trains, airplanes, and women.  He had a collection of miniature trains, toys, birds. All this reflected in his work. Very detailed, lace-like, each area is filled in. If there was a square centimeter of empty space, he put in another bird, a flower or an airplane.  He was a playful person.  In many of his pieces one can see the swing from his childhood Torda garden.  He etched people’s faces on flowers; birds, people, fairies could be seen hanging on Christmas trees.  The sun was always shining; he was creating a storyland, a fairyland – pieces of the real world, but no clouds, only smiles and fantasies.  His engravings suggest that which is dreamlike and surreal.

He is quoted as saying:  “So much trouble, worry, sorrow and horror surrounds us in the world that we must not allow it to enter the world of art too!” (“Annyi baj, gond, bánat és szörnyűség vesz körül minket a világban, hogy azt nem szabad még a művészetbe is beengedni!”)

He was commissioned to carry out three large oil paintings, an art form which he rarely engaged in.  They were on exhibit in the old Hotel Duna Intercontinental.  Currently they are privately owned.  He also painted one large canvas in Köln, also privately owned.  

During his lifetime, he created 150 copper engravings.  His reproductions, pen-and-ink and graphic drawings are countless.

Gross Arnold loved Italy.  His graphics illustrated the annual publication of the Magyar Akadémia of Rome.  He traveled to Italy often, and showed his engravings in many galleries.

During the Socialist/Communist regime, he was just about tolerated.  He was pressured, even bribed – he was given an opportunity to go to Dresden to study Dürer’s work.  But he refused time and again to join the Communist party.

In 2014, his family opened ARNOLDO, his own gallery and coffee house on Bartók Béla út, in Budapest.  The gallery was designed by his son, but the idea was his own. As you enter, you find yourself in Gross Arnold fairyland. One can see his life work, select and purchase a favorite piece.  In addition to his permanent exhibit, there is his own collection of famous artists’ works under the title “Chapters of the Golden Era of Hungarian Graphic Art”.  His toy railcars and rock collection, as well as posters of his past exhibits are also on display.

Gross Arnold won many awards, including the Munkácsy Prize (1955, 1967), Kossuth Prize (1995), Érdemes Művész (Deserving Artist Prize -1997), the Nation’s Artist (Nemzet Művésze – 2014), etc.

His work was exhibited in many cities around the world, including Sophia, London, Rome, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Athens, Vienna, Săo Paolo, New Delhi, as well as in Kolozsvár and Nagyvárad.  He had exhibits with giants of the art world such as Chagall and Dali. 

A művészet kertje – Gross Arnold (1929-2015) művészete” (The Garden of Art – the Art of Gross Arnold – 1929-2015) is the title of the largest exhibit of the half century of his works.  Under the direction of Curator Révész Emese, it opened at the Széphárom Közösségi Tér in Budapest on December 6th, 2019.

At the same time, a wonderful large monograph by Révész Emese by the same title can also be viewed.  The monograph contains more than 300 color pictures, an in-depth study of Gross Arnold’s work, documents, and memories of his friends.

Christmas and toys are central to the exhibit.  Gross was forever a child who used to love to play.  His two-dimensional dioramas are also on display.  His most famous compositions are grouped by topics.  This is the first time that two of his large oil paintings are exhibited together. The material for the exhibit was put together from the Gross Arnold Galéria, Jászi Galéria and from private collections.

The exhibit will be open until January 31st, 2020.

Sadly, he didn’t live to see it.  He passed on four years ago, on January 22nd, 2015, on Magyar Kultúra Nap – the Day of Hungarian Culture.

We lost our greatest contemporary graphic artist with his passing.


Dr. Dora Józsefné, née Tima Irma is a retired school principal enjoying her “Golden Days”.

Karolina Tima Szabo is a retired Systems Analyst of the Connecticut Post newspaper and Webmaster of Magyar News Online.  She is the proud grandmother of two.