The big lonely heart of János Balázs

János Balázs (1905-1977) is Hungarian painter (and poet) of gypsy origin, with expressive paintings and unusual life.

Art critics classify his works as “naive art” and “surrealism”. Sometimes they compare him to Paul Gauguin, but in fact his works are absolutely unique. His paintings are recognisable at first glance, as with the great artists.

János Balázs is a talent self-taught and self-made in everything. He attended school for only two years. He was born in the gypsy neighbourhood of Alsókubin in Hungary, and moved with his family to Salgotarjan, where he remained for the rest of his life.

He participated in the Second World War, but was most of the time a prisoner of war, and at that time he read a lot – Homer, Shakespeare, Balzac. He also has been well acquainted with the Hungarian classics.

After his return home, János Balázs lived alone and barely met other people. He lived quite poorly and made money for living by collecting and selling coal from local mines, gathering herbs and mushrooms in the woods.

Only the children from the gypsy neighbourhood, who have liked to talk to him and listen to his fairly tales, visited his poor house.

János Balázs started painting at the age of sixty-three.

The gypsy children, his friends from the neighbourhood, were the first impressed by his paintings. They began to wear the necessary materials and paints.

He died extremely poor and lonely. The painter left behind about 300 paintings that are becoming more and more valuable to art lovers and merchants. Most of his paintings are in private collections, but some of them can be seen in the Hungarian Museum of Naive Art and in the Art Gallery in Salgotarjan.

What makes János Balázs’s work so valuable?

There is a naive emotionality in them, absolutely untouched by civilisation and the predominant way of life.

Closeness to nature bordering to Shamanism. Relationship with the primary forces in this world, with eternal energies and human symbols.

We remain wordless feeling the great power of human nature, for we understand how unique and powerful the human being is, if he can encompass and visualise the world in such an incredible way, only through the wisdom of the old books, obtained in loneliness.

It is amazing how this could happened in the second half of the 20th century in the center of Europe.