Ágnes, the sensitive non-conformist
We were four siblings: Ágnes, Ágoston, András and István.
Ágnes was born in December 1940 on winter solstice. The family lived in Monor, not far from Budapest.
Circumstances were often difficult, but we grew up in a loving environment.
The city’s inhabitants stuck together facing the war and the seizure of power by the communists, with its ensuing arbitrariness and humiliation of the middle class (citizens, farmers, manufacturers), showing solidarity and helping each other. They survived, albeit gritting their teeth, even emerging fortified by these harsh experiences.
Our parents weren’t spared by the times we lived in either. Our father, a doctor, and our mother, a music teacher, raised us with Christian ethics: catechism classes, First Communion, the refusal to participate in the pioneers’ movement (úttörő mozgalom) – that was quite some resistance. This is the climate in which we grew up. We were imbued with our parents’ moral stance back then.
Ágnes, the eldest and only girl, always paid great attention to her brothers, especially the two youngest ones. And of course she would draw any time she could. A spiral-bound sketchbook took no time to fill.
Once, around May 1st, Ágnes, who was twelve and already drew skillfully, was tasked by her art teacher to illustrate a “celebratory poster”. Ágnes cleverly bypassed the political nature of the assignment, by drawing the A1 sheet full of flowers.
Our sister drew faces, movements, figures with exceptional mastery and passion, with single distinctive lines, then cast the sheets into the stove, saying she was just practicing. She maintained that it wasn’t the paper, the sketches that needed keeping, but rather the hand’s movement, the learnt gesture, which could give life to the pencil or the charcoal lines.
She drew, painted, created with clay. Works of art were flowing out of her hands seamlessly, to our great admiration.
That she would continue her studies at art school was undisputed. She attended the institute in Pál Törok street with joy, enthusiasm and good results.
She was admitted to the Academy of fine Arts at her second attempt and spent the gap year working for the Hungarian Postal Service. There too her drawing skills emerged and she won a prize at an exhibition of the “artists of the Post”.
She had a rebellious, independent disposition, was sometimes unconventional, followed her own will, hated academicism, loved though often criticized the avant-garde. Whatever she did she took responsibility for it, even for her mistakes. She didn’t allow her independent nature to be affected. Which also meant she had quite a few conflicts.
She graduated from the Academy with excellent results, but being an artist was a luxury back then too and she resorted to taking regular jobs as well. She was happy to teach history of art and free-hand drawing at the Ybl Miklós Faculty of Building Science (Ybl Miklós Építészeti Főiskola).
In the meanwhile she painted a lot: fine aquarelles and huge lively oil paintings. The dynamics of dance, music and movement were captured with bold and resolute brush strokes aiming, in nearly all her phases, at outlining the true essence of what she was representing, rather than lingering on the detail. The items of her clown series found their way to different countries in the world.
Later on she worked with full intensity as editor at the publishing house for schoolbooks (Tankönyvkiadó). For about fifteen years all illustrations and pictures went through her hands, many of the books she illustrated herself.
She was restless and always yearned after new knowledge. While carrying out her job, she attended, with hard work, the faculty of Italian language and literature at the best-known university in Hungary (ELTE) and subsequently occasionally worked as translator and interpreter. She gained a thorough understanding of Italian culture, visiting churches and museums in Italy during the summer, improving her knowledge of its language and culture as well. She became Mediterranean in spirit already then.
She was a rebel who longed for calm and security, for a family.
On the occasion of the organization of Eurocon 1 in Trieste (1972), a science fiction convention, she met Giampaolo, the Venetian translator and literary agent specialized in science-fiction.
The same year they got married… we waved long at the station as she departed, happy and sad at the same time.
Ágoston, András, István