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Andor Mészáros (1900–1972)

by Kelman Semmens

This article was published:

Andor Mészáros (1900-1972), architect and sculptor, was born on 1 September 1900 in Budapest, son of Alexander Mészáros, solicitor, and his wife Bertha, née Grunsberg, who was a sculptress. Educated at the local Gymnasium, Andor served in the Hungarian cavalry in 1918, but World War I ended before he saw action. Between 1919 and 1927 he studied building engineering at the Technische Hochschule, Vienna, sculpture at the Académie Julian, Paris, and architecture at the Budapesti Müszaki Egyetem. In Paris, L. Henri Bouchard and P. M. Landowski introduced him to abstract and cubist forms; at night he learned carving in Jószef Csáky's studio.

After two years training as an architectural draftsman with Móric Pogány and as an architectural engineer with Jószef Vágó, Mészáros was admitted to the Hungarian Chamber of Architects. Working as an independent architect, he aimed 'to escape from the all-pervasive influence of the Bauhaus [school], and to adapt modern technology to the Hungarian character'. He formed a close relationship with the sculptor and medallist Ede Telcs, and designed architectural mounts for several of his fountains. On 1 December 1932 he married 22-year-old Erzsébet Back at the registrar-general's office, Budapest. To avoid involvement in an impending war, he emigrated to Australia, reaching Melbourne on 21 June 1939. In the following year his wife and son joined him.

During his first year in Melbourne, Mészáros was employed by the architectural firms of J. V. T. Ward and Marsh & Michaelson. In 1940 he began to make a living from sculpture and secured commissions with the assistance of such influential friends as Professor W. E. Agar and (Sir) Herbert Schlink. His early works included a series of three carved stone figures for Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney: 'Maternity' (1944), 'The Surgeon' (1945) and 'King George V' (1946). He also illustrated Oswald Barnett's book of poetry, I Hear the Tramp of Millions (Melbourne, 1945). In 1949 he went to England where he was commissioned to sculpt the altarpiece for St Anselm's Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral and to complete 'The Canterbury Series', fourteen medallions depicting the Stations of the Cross. After some months, when prospects appeared unpromising, he returned to Australia.

Unusually versatile in the range of his sculptural modes, Mészáros was a dramatic narrative artist in a period when style mattered more than subject. His uncommissioned pieces embraced timeless themes—the story of Jesus, maternal love, man's need to adapt in a hostile world, endurance in adversity—which were expressed with a sturdy masculinity in stylized, figurative forms. Among his larger commissioned works were 'The Resurrection', a sandstone carving forming the reredos in the chapel of Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) (1954), the hanging rood in the transept of the Cathedral Church of St Peter, Adelaide (1955), and 'Christ Accepts His Cross', a bronze figure in All Saints Church, Brisbane (1962). Mészáros's bas-reliefs in stone and bronze adorn many buildings, among them the Shrine of Remembrance, Brisbane, the Supreme Court, Darwin, and Sydney's international air-terminal with his memorial to Charles Ulm.

When bigger commissions were lacking, Mészáros turned his hand to designing medallions, of which he produced more than one thousand. He made medals for the Victorian Artists Society (1947), for the Olympic Games (1956), and for Australian and New Zealand servicemen who fought in the Vietnam War (1968). In 1951 he received 'the highest award' at the International Medallion Exhibition, Madrid; in 1964 he won the 'purchase prize' at the International Medallion Competition, Arezzo, Italy. A sensitive artist with a fine eye for line and composition, he believed that 'the medallion is to sculpture' what 'the sonnet is to poetry'. He regarded medals as 'the chamber music of the pictorial arts'.

Mészáros was a member of the International Federation of Medallists, the Amici Della Medaglia, Italy, the Victorian Sculptors' Society (president 1954-55, 1962-63) and the Association of Sculptors of Victoria (president 1968). From 1970 he worked with his younger son Michael. Survived by his wife and two sons, he died on 1 May 1972 in South Melbourne and was cremated. Telcs, Paul Vincze and Michael Mészáros struck his likeness on medallions; L. S. Pendlebury's portrait of Mészáros is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Semmens, Andor Meszaros (Melb, 1972)
  • K. Scarlett, Australian Sculptors (Melb, 1980)
  • T. Wachtel, Andor Meszaros (Budapest, 1987)
  • People (Sydney), 1 Aug 1951, p 24
  • Australian Women's Weekly, 28 Oct 1959
  • H. de Berg, interview with Andor Meszaros (transcript, 1965, National Library of Australia)
  • naturalisation file, A435/1, item 47/4/2638 (National Archives of Australia)
  • E. Meszaros, The Artist's Recollections (manuscript, privately held).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Kelman Semmens, 'Mészáros, Andor (1900–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Meszaros, Andor

1 September, 1900
Budapest, Hungary


1 May, 1972 (aged 71)
South Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.