Monday, February 20, 2023

Illustrator Istvan Banyai 1943 - 2022

Illustrator Istvan Banyai, whose distinctive line art decorated the covers and interiors of many of the major print magazines beginning in the 1990s, passed away on December 15, 2022 in a hospital in West Harrison, NY. The cause was lung cancer. His death, as the New York Times notes, was not widely reported at the time. 


The New York Times:

"By 2013, the celebrated Hungarian-born illustrator Istvan Banyai had achieved a place of prominence and influence in his profession. Blending a gimlet-eyed satirical sense with fantastical whimsy, Mr. Banyai had produced frame-worthy covers for The New Yorker, along with eye-catching work for New York magazine, The Atlantic and other publications.

"His ambitiously conceptual children’s book, 'Zoom,' had earned rave reviews. And that year, Mr. Banyai’s work was the subject of a solo retrospective at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.

"But if he was savoring his rise, Mr. Banyai, ever arid and ironic, rarely let it show. “Really,” he said in a video interview promoting the exhibition, 'I feel like I’m an outsider. I’m really an oddball guy who managed to, like a jackal, eat whatever the pigs leave behind.'"

He grew up in Hungary, in a Russian-controlled regime that discouraged creative thinking.

"'We grew up like paranoid people,' said [his wife Kati] Banyai, who is also from Hungary. 'You had to salute the Russian flag. You had to sing the Russian anthem. There was no sophistication. Everything cultural was bourgeois, and that was not allowed.'"

He attended the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, seeking a degree in the more acceptable major of architecture, but, according to his wife, once designed a two story home without a staircase. "Maybe my heart is not in it," he told her. 

Inspired by The Beatles' Yellow Submarine animated feature, he created his own film, 

"'... Gobble Gobble,' about a ravenous man who grows absurdly enormous as he devours first restaurant meals, then cars, buildings and eventually the stars in the heavens.

"The French director René Laloux saw a screening of 'Gobble Gobble' and invited Mr. Banyai to France to work on his animated science fiction film, 'The Masters of Time,' which would be released in 1982. Mr. Banyai obtained permission from the Hungarian government to travel to France, and for his wife and their son, Simon, to visit him, after which the family 'declined to return,' as he later put it."

After trying unsuccessfully to emigrate to France, the family moved to Los Angeles in 198a. Mr. Banyai created the graphics for the video game "Love Connection," as well as the cartoony hand lettering on the "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" movie poster.

From The New York Times:

"As much as he loved the sun-drenched airiness of California, he knew that the real opportunities were in New York, the capital of publishing and advertising. So, in 1993, he and his family moved to Manhattan and settled in the West Village.

"His big break came two years later with the weekly assignment for New York magazine. It was an opportune era.

"'The 1980s and ’90s, right before the internet really made American magazines as we knew them an endangered species, and magazine illustration even more so, were also the final golden age for both,' [author Kurt Andersen, a former editor in chief of New York magazine] said. 'Istvan was one of the handful of great illustrators of that generation.'

"Mr. Banyai would never have described his career in such grandiose terms. Thanks to his weekly appearance in the magazine, he said in the 2013 video interview, 'I ended up next to everybody’s toilet. So in a way, that really made me visible.'"



1 comment:

Orang Basikal said...

The Lincoln Memorial cartoon is particularly eloquent. I looked at it for a long time. It seems to sum up 160 years of history in a single drawing.