Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
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Hugo Gellert 1892-1985

self portrait Hugo Gellert biographical timeline
(information from Hugo Gellert: People's Artist)

1892 born Budapest Hungary, May 3

1906 with his family, he emigrates to the United States.

1909-14 attends Cooper Union and National Academy of Design; receives three awards and intends to study at the Julian Academy in Paris; outbreak of World War I forces him to return to the United States.

1916 first anti-war cartoons published in the New York Hungarian socialist daily, Elöre. Gellert contacts radical literary journal, The Masses where he meets and befriends John Reed, Mike Gold, Floyd Dell, and Art Young.

1917 October 10: brother Ernest, 21, a conscientious objector is drafted into the army.
November: government suppresses publication of The Masses.

1918 February: Gellert cover illustration for the first issue of a new magazine, The Liberator, which featured John Reed's report on the Russian Revolution.
March 8: brother Ernest Gellert shot and killed while confined in military prison as a conscientious objector, Fort Hancock New Jersey. The army claims his death was a suicide but the circumstances are suspicious.
Gellert advises local draft board he will not serve in an unjust war. He goes to Mexico, works on cotton fields irrigation project and returns to the USA after the armistice.

1919 teaches art to the children of workers at the Modern School, Stelton, New Jersey.

1922The Liberator ceases publication.
Decorates lobby of New Playwrights Theater, established by Mike Gold.

1923 first solo exhibition, Keworkian Gallery.

1925 staff artist at The New Yorker Magazine [1925-1946] and later for The New York World, New York Times, Daily Worker and other publications. For the next 60 years until his death, he will draw more than 1000 cartoons for various newpapers and journals, a critic of social injustices; an active organizer for resistance.

1926 member of the editorial board of the newly launched The New Masses.

1927 head of the Anti-Horthy League, the first anti-fascist organization in the United States. Gellert and his wife, Livia, picket the White House where Horthy's representatives are being received by the President; the Gellerts are arrested.

1928 50 foot mural for Worker's Cafeteria in Union Square, New York City; possibly the first labor mural in the United States, now lost or destroyed.

1930 accompanies Count Károlyi, first president of the post-World War I Hungarian Republic; protest meetings called to draw attention to the Horthy regime.

1932 submits study for a mural to an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) titled Us Fellas Gotta Stick Together: it depicts John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, President Hoover and J.P. Morgan in the company of Al Capone. MOMA wants to remove the work, and the work of two other artists, Ben Shahn and William Gropper, but upon threat by other artists to withdraw their work, all the 'offending' art is hung, albeit not reproduced in the catalog. (for details of controversy, see article by James Wechsler).

1933 Karl Marx's Capital in Lithographs is published.

1934 John D. Rockefeller orders the destruction of Diego Rivera mural in Rockefeller center, because of its depiction of Lenin. Gellert organizes demonstration to demand a Municipal Art Gallery.

1935 Comrade Gulliver published.
Solo exhibition at ACA Gallery. Exhibit at the Whitney Museum.

1936 February: Municipal Art Gallery opens.
Organizes and delivers keynote address at First American Artists Congress (":Fascism, War and the Artists")
Aesop Said So published.

1937 organizes the Mural Artists Guild of the United Scenic Painters, AFL-CIO.
Addresses second session of Artist's Congress.

1938 paints murals for the Communications Building in the New York World's Fair.

1939-1941 active in organizing artists; chairman of the committee of delegates of 16 artists' societies that exhibited 1500 paintings, sculpture and graphics from all (then) 48 states at the New York World's Fair; served on the board as chairman of Artists for Defense; after Pearl Harbor, started organizing Artists for Defense into Artists for Victory, an organization that eventually included 10,000 members.

1942 illustrated Henry Wallace's speech, "Century of the Common Man."

1943-1946 exhibitions of artwork in Philadelphia and San Francisco; organizes Hungarian Committee for the Re-election of President Roosevelt; travels to Australia.

1950-1970 mural for Seaman's Union headquarters; leads fight to free Mexican artist Siqueiros from jail.

1953 Paul Robeson is guest speaker at 40th anniversary of Gellert's career.

1959 murals for Seward Park Houses in New York City.

1969 joins editorial board of socialist journal, American Dialog.

1973 mural for Hillcrest High School, Jamaica, New York.

1974 exhibition at Budapest Museum of Labor History; awarded highest honor Hungarian Republic can bestow: the Order of the Banner.

1982 appers in Warren Beatty's film Reds as a 'witness' to historic events.

1985 October 3: speaks at Masses exhibition at Whitney Museum, New York; December 6: dies at home in Freehold, New Jersey.