A Tribute to Endre Hevezi

I first met Endre in 1985 when I formed the British Society of Enamellers or The Society of British Enamellers as it was known then, when he became a member of the original Steering committee. He served on the committee for many years, with much enthusiasm and was always willing to take on jobs in the running of the Society.

Endre was one of the reasons for the change of name, as he was born in Szeged, Hungary. There were other members who were not British, including Irish and American, so it was decided that British Society was a better reflection of the membership.

I knew that he was a talented artist and enameller whose work was in major collections and museums, but sadly it was not until after his death that I learnt the full extent of his talents and also of the fascinating story of his life.

In 1941 he attended the Budapest Technical University, where he studied Architectural Engineering. At this time the whole of the second year, including the tutors, were conscripted into the German army. He mercifully survived the experience and towards the end of the war found himself and a school friend in northern Europe – they made a joint decision to go to Denmark. This is where his career started as an artist in the late 40s. He painted portraits and landscapes and worked for the Kastrup Pottery. It was there also that he met his wife, Birthe. They decided to move to England together. They arrived with almost no money and a 5 year contract to work as a labourer, moving heavy clay around at Booths & Colcloughs (became Ridgeway Potteries Ltd).

Endre’s artistic talents were soon noticed and he became a designer for the firm, winning the prize of Design Scholar for the Federation of Pottery Manufacturers in 1951. Part of the prize was a trip to New York.

At the end of his 5 year contract in 1953, he moved to London. At that time foreign degrees were not recognised in the UK, so with his typical determination and capacity for hard work, he studied and achieved a Masters degree in Architecture at the University of London.

I can find no reference to when nor how he began enamelling, but the scope and range of his work is amazing. He is quoted as saying “I became a veritable Jack of all Trades – you can do so many things if you have a big pottery kiln”.

I imagine that his largest commission was for decorative metalwork, mosaics and stained glass windows for Debre Libanos Coptic cathedral near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There are three massive mosaics on the front of the cathedral and eight more showing the life of Christ, covering more than 600 sq ft – the largest mosaics ever made in England. They were shown at the Royal Festival Hall before being shipped out. Endre was out in Ethiopia for six months, supervising the installation. The work shows the same wonderful use of colour which shines out in his enamels.

Endre had many one man shows at numerous galleries, including the Drian Gallery in Hyde Park, and his work is in private collection in Europe and America and in the National galleries of Warsaw and Gdansk, the National Gallery and the Museum of Decorative Arts, Budapest, the Silkeborg Museum, Denmark and the Usher Gallery, Lincoln. In 1988 he won first prize at the International Enamel Exhibition in La Coruna, Spain.

At the age of 80 he became a film maker, producing “Images, a trilogy of animation”  images in pastel to the music of Schubert and Beethoven. We were lucky enough to have a showing at one of our AGM meetings at The Art Workers Guild.

In the last two years he designed and made stained glass windows for the Hungarian Reformed Church in Zillah, Romania. He was in fact working on a commission right to the very end of his life. A truly remarkable man and I feel privileged to have known him. It is fitting that his work is included in Enamoured.

Go to Endre’s website – heveziart.com – where you will see photos of some of the range of his work.

Maureen Carswell.