The Hungarian artist Lajos Vajda died in 1941, when he was only thirty-three—having long suffered from tuberculosis, he’d fallen ill during a compulsory stint in the Labour Service, the government’s antisemitic substitute for military conscription. Vajda’s paintings had garnered him a reputation among the avant-garde from a young age: an early critic called them “modern catacomb art.” As a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, one of his exhibitions met with such disdain among the conservative faculty that he was expelled. By the end of the twenties, he’d allied himself with the Munka Kör, a revolutionary group of artists, intellectuals, and workers.
Vajda spent the early thirties moving from hostel to hostel in Paris, where he developed a fascination with film that led to a prolific period as a collagist. You can see a number of his photomontages from this time below—like his paintings and works in charcoal, they exude a fear of fascism and prefigure the violence of the Second World War. Ironically enough, a posthumous show of his work in 1943 at the Budapest Alkotás House of Art had to be evacuated. It was interrupted by an air raid.