Günther Gerzso Wendland (1915-2000)
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Gunther Gerzso Wendland was a Hungarian-Mexican painter, designer, film director and screenwriter. Gerzso was born in Mexico City to parents of Hungarian and German heritage. Gerzso’s father died when he was a young child and Gerzso’s mother remarried a German man. Gerzso’s family returned to Europe during hard economic times, but returned to Mexico after a couple of years.
Gerzso’s mother had financial difficulties and sent him to live with his uncle in Switzerland. Gerzso’s uncle was an active artist and collector of such masters as Pierre Bonard, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Delacroix and Titian. As a teenager Gerzso met important artists like Paul Klee.
In 1931 Gerzso was again sent back to Mexico when economic difficulties hit Europe. In Mexico, Gerzso continued to do sketches and came up for set designs influenced by sets he saw in Europe. Gerzso got a job working at a local theater company run by Fernando Wagner.
In 1935 Gerzso was offered a scholarship to study in the United States at the Cleveland Playhouse where he made more than fifty set designs over the course of 4 years.
During the next two decades Gerzso made various set designs for Mexican, French and American films. Gerzso was praised for his skilled work, winning five Premios Ariel (Equivalent to an Oscar in Mexico). Projects Gerzso worked on included “El Indio”, “Un Dia de Vida” (1950), “Susana” (1951), “Una Mujer sin Amor” (1952), “El Rio y la Muerte” (1955), “Les Orgueilleux” (1953), “Under the Volcano” (1984).
During the thirties Gerzso started painting the dynamic performers he met in theater. Gerzso’s paintings showed an interesting mixture of Mexican and European influence. Painting did not become Gerzso’s primary occupation until his work was selected for an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art where Gerzso’s work received positive reviews.
In Mexico City Gerzso became apart of the surrealist painting group that included Benjamin Péret, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Alice Rahon and Wolfgang Paalen. Octavio Paz considered Gerzso to be one of the greatest Latin American painters, along with Carlos Merida and Rufino Tamayo. Gerzso was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973 and the Premio Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1978.
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