Desiderius Orban

Desiderius Orban OBE (26 November 18844 October 1986) was a renowned Hungarian-born Australian painter, printmaker and teacher. He was influenced by the paintings of Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne.

Born Orbán Deszö in Győr, Hungary, in 1884, he moved to Budapest in 1888 where he was taught by Janos Pentelei-Molnar. He studied philosophy, physics and mathematics at the University of Budapest. In 1905 he commenced compulsory military service with the Austro-Hungarian army. In 1906 he moved to France where he studied briefly at the Académie Julian, but gave up academic training to study alone. In 1909 he founded a group of artists known as Keresok (The Seekers), bringing contemporary painting to Hungary. In these early years he came into contact with Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and Georges Braque.

In 1912-13 he was again called up for military service in the Balkan War. In 1915 he married Alice Vajda, a doctor serving in the army. In 1931 he founded the Arts and Crafts Academy, Atelier, in Budapest. In 1937 his painting 'Cathedral in Eger' (1928) was seized by the Nazis from Nuremberg Museum collection, and never recovered. In 1939 he fled Budapest, travelling to London, then to Sydney, where he settled. In 1942 he enlisted in the Australian Army as a private. He began his own art school, and also worked as a spray painter in a Sydney factory. In 1944 one of his paintings was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

From 1946 to 1949 Desiderius Orban was President of the NSW branch of the Contemporary Art Society of Australia. In 1953 he was elected Chairman of the UNESCO National Committee of Visual Arts. From 1957 to 1967 he conducted summer schools in painting at the University of New England, Armidale. He was a judge for the 1960 Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

In 1967, and again in 1971, he won the Blake Prize for Religious Art.

In 1975 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his service to the arts. In 1982 Orban was awarded the Gold Medal of the Order of the Hungarian Flag by the People's Republic of Hungary.

He died in Sydney in 1986, aged 101.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

1917 Solo exhibition, Konyves Kalman Gallery, Budapest 1923 Helikon Gallery, Budapest 1924-31 Various solo exhibitions in Hungary, Romania and Czehoslovakia 1943 Notanda Gallery, Sydney 1944 Farmer's Blaxland Gallery, Sydney 1946 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney; Myer Art Gallery, Melbourne 1950 David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney 1952, 59 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney 1955 John Martin Art Gallery, Adelaide; Bissietta Art Gallery, Sydney 1957 Brummel's Gallery, Melbourne 1960 Newcastle Regional Art Gallery 1963 Komon Gallery, Sydney; War Memorial Gallery of Fine Arts, University of Sydney; Douglas Galleries, Brisbane; Ipswich Arts Centre, Queensland 1964-68 Komon Gallery, Sydney 1969 Retrospective, Newcastle Regional Art Gallery 1969 Von Bertouch Galleries, Newcastle; Holdsworth Galleries, Sydney 1970, 71 Toorak Art Gallery, Melbourne 1972 Reid Gallery, Brisbane; Holdsworth Galleries, Sydney 1973 Langsam Galleries, Melbourne; The Sculpture Gallery, Sydney; Reid Gallery, Brisbane; Skinner Gallery, Perth 1975 Retrospective, Art Gallery of New South Wales 1976 David Sumner Gallery, Adelaide 1977 Artarmon Gallery, Sydney 1978 Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney; Queen Street Gallery, Sydney 1979 Trinity Delmar Gallery, Sydney 1980 New South Wales House, London 1981 Niagara Lane Gallery, Melbourne

Selected Group Exhibitions

1909-12 Exhibited with the Keresok Group, then Nycolcak Group, in Budapest and Berlin 1914 Exhibition of Hungarian Artists, Vienna Kunstlerhaus 1918 Ernst Gallery, Budapest 1932 Still Life Exhibition, National Salon, Budapest – Hungarian representative 1940 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney 1943 Became a regular exhibitor with the Contemporary Art Society and the Society of Artists 'Australia in Pictures', David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney 1944 'Contemporary Australian Painting', Art Gallery of New South Wales 'One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting in Australia 1794-1944', Art Gallery of NSW 1945 The Herald Exhibition of 'Present Day Australian Art', Lower Town Hall, Melbourne 1948 Began exhibiting with The Sydney Group 1950 'Sydney Art Today', Finney's Gallery, Brisbane; Macquarie Galleries, Sydney 1951 'Jubilee Exhibition of Australian Art' 1952 'Australian Painting', Art Gallery of NSW; Macquarie Galleries, Sydney 1954 Royal Tour Exhibition, The Fellowship of Australian Artists 1954-56 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney 1956 'Contemporary Australian Painting', Pacific Loan Exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW and on board the 'SS Orcades' 1959 'Exposition des peintures du group Australian et Baltes', Gallerie Royale, Paris 1963 Australian Art Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1971 'Hungarian Avant Garde 1909-1930', Munich and Milan 1971-82 Numerous group exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Perth


1929 Gold medal, International Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain (still life painting) 1957 Wagga Wagga Art Prize 1967 Blake Prize 1967 Muswellbrook Art Prize 1971 Blake Prize 1971 Wollongong Art Prize 1974 International Co-operation Art Award 1975 Awarded an OBE for his service to the arts


Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest Municipal Art Gallery, Szeged, Hungary Nuremberg Museum, Germany National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart Western Australian Art Gallery, Perth Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Victoria Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria Hamilton Art Gallery, Victoria Mildura Arts Centre, Victoria Newcastle Regional Art Gallery, NSW Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston University Art Gallery, University of Melbourne Municipal collections: Wollongong, Muswellbrook

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