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Portrait Oil Painting Attributed to Bela Ormo, 1931

Item Details

Attributed to Bela Ormo (American/Hungarian, 1883 – 1943)
Untitled (Portrait), 1931
Oil painting on board
Signed vertically to lower left quadrant
Presented in an American Arts and Crafts style frame with distressed finish

Bela Ormo, a Hungarian political refugee born in the Romanian town of Nagyszentmiklós (Sânnicolau Mare), had emigrated to the United States in 1909. Much of Ormo’s early life and schooling in artistic method has yet to be revealed. In review of an 1918 exhibition of Ormo’s landscape paintings, Evelyn Marie Stuart notes that the artist is already a known figure abroad and will surely be recognized in America. At age twenty-nine, Ormo had completed preliminary studies which would later develop into a series of five paintings titled The Tragedy of Europe or The Curse of Kultur. The works largely concerned the cruelty and devastation of war, a subject of topical interest during the later years of World War I. Starting in 1919, Bela’s brother Hugo had orchestrated a free traveling exhibition of the paintings which would be accompanied by anti-war lecture and fundraising efforts for foreign relief funds. The paintings were largely praised by critics and public alike, who applauded Ormo’s distaste of commercialization. Travel costs were paid in part by sale of 25¢ catalog booklets containing prints and informational essays which described the artwork and creator. Exhibitions continued cross-country into the early 1920s and Ormo gained reputation in periodical as the “Artist Who Wars on War”.

Throughout the early-to-mid 20th century Bela Ormo had taken several commissions for politically themed illustrations and portrait work in New York State, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC. His sitters included Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, Bishop Thomas James Conaty, and debutante Miss Margaret Payson. Ormo is known to have retired with family to Cohasset, Massachusetts, where his brother had now become a successful restaurateur and owner of the iconic Hugo’s Lighthouse restaurant. During his final years, Bela sketched a portrait of actress Cora Witherspoon while attending a party in her honor at Hugo’s Lighthouse.


- minor markings to frame and dust present.


31.0" W x 37.0" H x 1.5" D

- of frame; sight measures 23.5″ × 29.5″.

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