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Gunther Gerzso


Mexico's Modern Master

by: Jeremy Tessmer

"Rumor has it that he is our best abstract painter. That is quite true, but it is not the whole story: He is one of the great Latin American painters."- Octavio Paz, "Price and Meaning," 1963

Table of Contents


Gunther Gerzso became one of Mexico's greatest artists without the benefit of formal academic training. Nevertheless, his exposure to the arts was considerable.

While he was still a teenager, the young Gerzso lived in Switzerland with his uncle, Hans Wendland, who was then an influential art historian, collector, and dealer. When he was 14, his uncle gave him Le Corbusier's Towards a New Architecture which mesmerized the developing artist. Le Corbusier's elegant geometry and modern tendency towards reduction was to influence Gerzso his whole life - showing up, in particular, in his architectonic abstracts.

Later, Gerzso met Nando Tamerlani, who was working as a set designer for the Milan opera. Watching Tamberlani at work inspired Gerzso to pursue set design, which he pursued in Mexico with German emigre, Fernando Wagner. Avant-garde theater in Russia, Germany, and France was also inspiring the likes of Pablo Picasso and George Braques. Gerzso's burgeoning interest in set design eventually led him to the Cleveland Playhouse in Ohio, where he studied under Arch Lauterer.


  • 1915 - Gunther Gerzso is born in the colony of Juarez in Mexico City on June 17, 1915. His father, Oscar Gerzso, is a Hungarian emigre from Budapest. His mother is from Berlin.
  • 1927-1931 - Gerzso moves to southern Switzerland to live with his uncle, Dr. Hans Wendland. Wendland introduces him to European Modernism and various luminaries like Paul Klee and Nando Tamerlani.
  • 1935-1940 - Gerzso studies set design with 25 other students at the Cleveland Playhouse under Arch Lauterer, Professor of Drama at Bennington College. Despite his inexperience, Gerzso's obvious talents soon land him a position as staff set designer. He designs 56 plays in four years. While there, he meets his first collector, Thomas Ireland.
  • 1941Gerzso returns to Mexico. He begins working for Churubusco Studios where he designs over 150 film sets between 1941-1963. He also travels extensively throughout Mexico absorbing and admiring its Pre-Columbian artistic heritage.
  • 1944 - Gerzso's surrealist painting El Descuartizado (The Quartered) appears in Issue No. 4 of Andre Breton's Surrealist magazine VVV.
  • 1950 - Gerzso has his first exhibition as a painter at Galeria de Arte Mexicano.
  • 1959-1960 - Gunther travels to Greece, where he paints Recuerdo de Grecia - the first of thirty-six paintings in his "Greek Period."
  • 1962 - Gerzso retires from film set design to pursue painting full time.
  • Awards

  • Premio Nacional de Artes y Ciencias, 1978 (Mexico's highest award for achievements in the arts)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 1973
  • Ariel Award, Una Familia de Tantas , 1947 (Mexico's equivalent to the Oscar - won for set design)
  • Exhibitions (partial list)

  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California 2003
  • Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art Gallery, New York City, 2000
  • Gunther Gerzso, Latin American Masters Gallery, Beverly Hills, 1996
  • Gunther Gerzso: Prints and Sculpture, The Americas Society, New York, 1995
  • Gunther Gerzso 80th Birthday Show, Mary-Anne Martin/Fine Art, New York, 1995
  • Gunther Gerzso. Obra Receinte, Galería Lopez Quiroga,Mexico, D.F., 1995
  • Gunther Gerzso. Pintura, Grafica y Dibujo, 1949-1993, Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico, D.F., 1994
  • Gunther Gerzso. Pintura, Grafica y Dibujo, 1949-1993, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1993
  • Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C., 1991
  • Gerzso, Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico, D.F., 1990
  • Kimball Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1988
  • Gunther Gerzso, Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico, D.F., 1986
  • Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, 1986
  • Gunther Gerzso Retrospective, Mary-Anne Martin/Fine Art, New York, 1984
  • Gunther Gerzso, One Man Show, FIAC 1982, International Contemporary Art Fair, Paris, France, 1982
  • Gunther Gerzso - Retrospectiva, Museo de Monterrey, Mexico, 1981
  • Gunther Gerzso: Pinturas, Dibujos, Galería de Exposiciones Temporales, Museo de Arte Moderno, INBA, Mexico, D.F., 1981
  • The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan, 1974
  • Twenty Years of Gunther Gerzso, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, 1970 The Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 1963
  • Gunther Gerzso, Exposicion Retrospectiva, Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, Mexico, D.F., 1963
  • Gunther Gerzso, Galería Antonio Souza, Mexico, D.F., 1958
  • Third International Art Exhibition, Tokyo, Japan, 1955
  • Galeria de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City, 1950, 1952, 1955
  • Collections

  • Museo Alvar y Carmen
  • Proa Foundation, Buenos Aires
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Virtual Museum of Canada
  • Publications

    1. Ashton, Dore. Gunther Gerzso.
      Latin American Masters; Beverly Hills, 1995.
    2. Breton, Andre, ed. No. 4. VVV. 1944. np.
    3. Du Pont, Diana C. Risking the Abstract: Mexican Modernism and the Art of Gunther Gerzso. Turner Ediciones S.A.; Santa Barbara, 2003.
    4. Espinoza, Igancio Martinez. "Gerzso, Magician, Alchemist." La Prensa.(date unkown)(pages unknown).
    5. Golding, John. Gunther Gerzso and the Landscape of the Mind.
    6. Editions du Griffon; Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 1983.