The Dead Matador (1958) by Francis de Erdely P1107 SOLD

For the Hungarian émigré artist, Francis de Erdely, the figure of the matador had a particular and powerful resonance. He is known to have executed a number of works centered on the bullfighter. One might read this choice of protagonist as a symbolic stand-in for the artist himself who had all his life confronted the implacable forces of world history, war and exile, and overcome them all, finding a home for himself and his art as an acclaimed artist and teacher in California, only to be laid low, far too young, at the age of 55.

This, then, is the figure we are confronted with, in a surprising and dynamic foreshortening, hands clasped in prayer on his breast, dressed in his suit of lights, laid out in an attitude reminiscent of medieval knights and saints on their tombs. An extremely powerful drawing in mixed media.

Framed 32” x 45”. Drawing is 20” x 32”. Comes with full documentation and exhibition history,


Francis (Ferenc) De Erdelyi  (1904 – 1959)

Francis de Erdely (Ferenc de Erdelyi) was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1904. He studied at the Royal Academy of Art in Budapest. De Erdely continued his studies at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, and in Paris at the Sorbonne and l’Ecole de Louvre. He lived in many places in Europe, including Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna and Prague. De Erdely abandoned war torn Europe and arrived in New York in the late 1930s. He had exhibited in Budapest and won prizes as early as 1925. He began a new, successful career in the United States; in 1939 he exhibited in New York City, in 1940-1944 at the Detroit Institute of Art, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in 1941. Through the next decades he exhibited at the Corcoran, the Carnegie Institute, the de Young Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many more.

De Erdely was an important teacher, first at the Netherlands Art Academy in The Hague, and then at the Pasadena Museum School, and from 1945 until he died he was a professor of art at the University of Southern California. His influence on the art community of Southern California cannot be overstated; he was one of the most respected teachers of art for more than a generation. De Erdely was a modernist with roots in the techniques of the Cubists and the tradition of Cezanne. Typical of his Eastern European experience his subjects are often filled with angst, but ultimately his works are a celebration of the human experience, like many of the artists of l’École de Paris. He was a brilliant draftsman, a sophisticated colorist, a master of composition, expressive, and innovative. De Erderly was a tall imposing figure, often described as an eccentric bohemian; he was known to wear a long black cape and a large brimmed hat. He frequented the coffee houses and Jazz clubs the proliferated the local scene after World War II.

De Erdely is represented in every major museum in California, including Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His works are in the collections of the de Young Museum, the Cranbrook Academy the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

“De Erdely is best known for his figure-based paintings done in Los Angeles during the 1940s and 1950s of immigrants, and other ethnic or social outsiders.  It can be argued that the subjects of these paintings relate directly to De Erdely’s own experience as an immigrant in a new country.  The works De Erdely’s created while living in Southern California began to capture profound narrative meditations on the human condition and anxieties faced by the lower classes and immigrants.  His personal insight enabled him to create highly emotional, powerful contemplations on the experiences of the people of Los Angeles. In these paintings he confronted controversial social issues relating to race, politics, labor, and immigration in the Los Angeles area.  His paintings focused on minorities and common laborers at work and play, depicting each individual in a manner that highlights their struggle, but also the honor and dignity of their experience…” -Anderson, Alissa J. 2006. Francis De Erdely: An Artist Who Became The Voice Of Mid-Century Los Angeles. Master’s Thesis.