(Alsókubin, 27 November 1905 - Salgótarján, 18 March 1977) Hungarian artist and poet of gypsy origin
The man living in a rural gypsy slum and completing only two grades read everything he could obtain, from Homer through the Hungarian classics to Shakespeare, Balzac and Nietzsche. His paintings and poems were inspired by his reading experiences and the world coloured by his imagination. The “hermit of Pécskődomb” even wrote a diary and played instruments created by himself. He started painting at the age of 63, and produced his oeuvre during only 8 years. He became acknowledged by his smaller community, Salgótarján soon – here was his first exhibition organised in the Attila József County Cultural Center (1971), and his memory has been cultivated conscientiously ever since. His nationwide fame has been followed with a series of international exhibitions, due to the aroused interest towards naïve art in the early seventies.
Domokos Moldován directed his film entitled Hungarian Naïve Artists 1972-74 after the Hungarian National Gallery’s 1972 exhibition Hungarian naïve artists in the 20th century - János Balázs got a significant part in the exhibition and the film alike. The media dealt with him regularly, journalists and reporters interrogated him, and several portrait documentaries were shot about him (Gabriella Kernács: I am János Balázs…, 1972, Edit Kőszegi, Timor Shah). He illustrated his book of poems published in 1977 (With Brush and Pencil, Corvina Publishing house) with his own images. The most complete and representative monographic album until now, assembling scripts about him and his diary notes („Cigány büszkeséggel”. Balázs János – ’With Gipsy Pride’. János Balázs; edited by Marianna Kolozsváry), has been published by Kieselbach Gallery in 2009, in Hungarian and English volumes. The personal reminiscences by Zoltán Botos were published in recent years, entitled My conversations with János Balázs (Salgótarján, 2014).
There is a remarkable collection from the oeuvre of approximately 300 works in the Museum of Hungarian Naïve Artists in Kecskemét, opened in 1976, apart from the Béla Dornyai Museum in Salgótarján. Nevertheless, the most significant number of the short but productive and unique oeuvre’s works is at private collectors – first of all, Péter Horn, from whose collection we have selected the body of the Kunsthalle’s exhibition.