Victor Vasarely was born in Hungary. He studied at the Mühely academy, which focused on the applied arts and was often referred to as the Bauhaus of Budapest. It was modelled on the German school and offered classes on the works of Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Josef Albers. In 1930, Vasarely left Budapest for Paris, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Two years before the making of Topaze Noire – Positif, Vasarely was included in the influential MoMA exhibition The Responsive Eye alongside Bridget Riley. The exhibition ushered in the dawn of Op Art, which used block colours and geometric shapes to create the illusion of movement. Vasarely achieved this using a grid system of three-dimensional shapes. “Pure form and colour can define the world,” he said.
Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley are often held in the same breath. However, as curator Bryan Robertson, who organised a retrospective of Riley’s work at the Hayward Gallery in 1971 remarked, “Vasarely confines his use of space to the picture plane: whatever obtrudes from that plane or recedes into it is implied by the perspective within that picture plane. Riley’s true space is not confined to the picture plane: it is the distance between the spectator and the canvas.”