Hungarian painter and draughtswoman Ilka Gedő (26 May, 1921, Budapest – 19 June, 1985) drew incessantly even as a child. She began her art studies with Viktor Erdei. Prevented from being admitted to the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts because of the anti-Jewish laws enacted in 1938, she enrolled in the private drawing schools of Tibor Gallé and István Örkényi-Strasser. While her early mentors became victims of the Holocaust, Gedő miraculously escaped a similar fate, and her 1944 sketchbooks of children and old people from the Budapest Ghetto comprise a moving and powerful pictorial diary. By 1945, when she was eventually admitted to the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Gedő was already a mature artist with a pictorial language her own. She therefore left the Academy within a year and by 1949 created a suite of series consisting of about three thousand exquisite works on paper. (Her total graphic inventory is over five thousand items.)
Ilka Gedő responded to the onset of Communist dictatorship in 1949 by stopping making art for fifteen years, during which, however, she intensively studied art history and colour theory, making extensive notes and translations of her readings. In 1965, following a studio exhibition of her drawings, Gedő started to work again, initially using pastel, then oil on canvas. The year she spent painting in Paris (1969 – 1970) gave further impetus to her work, and during her second creative period Gedő completed one-hundred-and-fifty paintings.
Gedő died at the age of 64, a few months before her discovery abroad. The scene of the breakthrough was Glasgow where the Compass Gallery presented a survey of her paintings and drawings (1985), which was followed by a major retrospective at the Third Eye Centre (1989).
Ilka Gedő’s thematic series (Ghetto Drawings, Ganz Factory Drawings, Self-Portraits, Pregnant Self-Portraits, and Tables) won her worldwide renown and her work can now be found in major museums throughout the world: Albertina, Vienna; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf; Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin; Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig; Israel Museum, Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem; British Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jewish Museum, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Cleveland Museum of Arts. In Hungary, she is represented at the King St. Stephen Museum, Székesfehérvár, which had the distinction of mounting the first survey of her work in 1980; the Jewish Museum, Budapest, which showed a large selection of the Ghetto Drawings in 1995; and the Hungarian National Gallery, which held a retrospective exhibition of the oeuvre in 2004.
For further information, see Wikipedia and the complete digitized works of Ilka Gedő.