Biography

Amerigo Tot — Imre Tóth (1909–1984)

1909

He was born on September 27, 1909, in Fehérvárcsurgó, next to the Castle of the Counts of Károlyi, in a vineyard. According to the legend, he was bathed in grape juice at birth. His mother, Zsófia Naszályi, came to Csurgó from the village of Naszály in Komárom County, and there was certainly Italian blood in her veins, as among her ancestors there was a certain Nasali who settled in Hungary during the reconstruction of Buda Castle. This time his father, Imre Tóth, was a carter shipping the sand of Tatar Hill on the outskirts of Csurgó to the nearby towns.

1910At the age of four in the photo atelier of Pál Nemes

1919

He lives in his home village until the age of ten. Then he enters the School of Cistercians in Székesfehérvár. A letter of recommendation was written by count József Károlyi. The well-known Hungarian poet, Mihály Vörösmarty spent his student years here before.

1920

Shortly after the First World War, in 1920, the family moved to Budapest, more specifically to the Sashalom district, to 14 Wesselényi Street. During the war, his father, who served as a cavalry officer before, joins the forces as a mounted policeman in the capital. Imre Tóth continues to study at the Calvinist School in Lónyai Street in Budapest.

1926Collage portrait

1926

He finishes his secondary school studies without a baccalaureate. In the same year he gets admitted to the Hungarian Royal School of Applied Arts (now it serves as the building of the Museum of Applied Arts). His teachers are Ferenc Helbing, György Leszkovszky and Károly Weichinger. During his college years, he gets acquainted with Sándor Bortnyik. He takes part in the creative work of Modiano cigarette poster series. He works in the PIATNIK factory besides studying. (Piatnik Hungary had the largest card-making factory on Rottenbiller Street at the time. Between the two World Wars they produced coloured cardboards and boxes.) Later on he uses these reproduction skills in Rome as a zincographer at Il Messagero's printing house. While in Budapest, he joines the left wing Work-circle of Lajos Kassák.

1930

He and comrades attack turulist protesters outside the National Theatre. Due to police intervention the roit ends in prison. Released after three months, he gets a notificatied at home: he was admitted to the Bauhaus in Dessau for six months from the autumn of 1930. With some luck, he manages to get a passport and sets out on the long road on foot.

1931On a tram in Berlin

1931

It is the last year of Bauhaus in Dessau. Many of the former masters are already gone, yet he manages to acquire the basics from famous professors such as Lyonel Feininger, Josef Albers, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Joost Schmidt, Gunta Stölzl, Alfred Arndt, Walter Peterhans and László Moholy-Nagy.

1932

The school is trying to survive in Steglitz, one of the suburbs of Berlin. Imre Tóth leaves school in October of and becomes a sailor. Schwinemünde, Kronstadt, Helsinki, Åland Islands, Stockholm. Just a few places where Imre Tóth landed.

1933

Earlier this year, the Nazis banned Bauhaus. Imre Tóth returns to Berlin, and Otto Dix welcomes him and his friends (György Kepes, Hans Hofmann, Helmut Klose) at his school in Dresden. He opens his first exhibition at the Brücke Gallery in Dresden.
On February 10, the students get arrested and interned in Zwickau by the Nazis. He Manages to flee to Italy with a Polish poet and a German friend Leo Meter (1911–1944), via Czechoslovakia and Austria.
In Venice, he meets Ferenc Luttor, director of the Roman Catholic College, who later helps him to become a resident of the Collegium Hungaricum in Rome.
In Padua, in the Church of St. Anthony, he is fascinated by the relief of Donatello and his disciples on the predella. The work of the early Renaissance artist opens his eyes to the beauty of plasticity.
Tóth arrives in Rome on foot on June 4, 1933. (The extraordinary story of his arrival is recorded by Antal Szerb in his novel Journey by Moonlight published in 1937.)
He tries to make a living on drawing portraits of restaurants and coloring newspapers for months in Rome. He spends the nights in a homeless shelter (in Via dei Pettineti).
He receives his first salary in the Eternal City by painting the shutters of the Minerva Hotel next door to the Pantheon.
He studies for a short time at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome in Angelo Zanelli's masterclass for a while from the autumn of this year. He makes his first sculptures there.

1934At the Hungarian Academy in Rome

1934

In the spring, his school announces an exchange scholarship: Italian students can travel to Hungary and Hungarians can arrive in their place. Thanks to this scholarship and the intervention of Ferenc Luttor, Imre Tóth will be a resident of the Collegium Hungaricum until 1936. Here he meets László Mészáros, Jenő Grantner, Antal Szerb and Károly Kerényi, among others.

1936On Via Vittoria

1936

He's moving to Via Vittoria to a little studio. He carves the statutes of the three widows of wood, works on the portrait of Beethoven and the small statue of the Bulls. He wins a state award and 5,000 Liras for his statue of the Antique Smile.

1937

He's modeling his relief, Respect to Donatello. In the same year, the Albanian government is launching an international competition over their national hero, Skanderbeg’s equestrian statue. Imre Tóth wins the competition. His model proves to be better than the works of renowned sculptors (such as Ivan Mestrovic). This is the first time, he use the name Amerigo Tot for this competition, which will become the name of the artist.
He is moving to a bigger studio in the 4th district, 7 Via Margutta, it is known as the Artist's District of the Italian capital.
Due to the invitation of King Zogu I of Albania Tot spends New Year's Eve in Tirana. He is commissioned to create a commemorative plaque for the wedding of King Zogu and his Hungarian-born fiancée Geraldine Apponyi next year.

1938

After seven years, he visits Hungary. He's looking for a place to make Skanderbeg’s monumental equestrian statue.
Winner of the "Premio per Giovani Artisti", the annual prize for young Italian artists. He creates religiously themed reliefs: Nativity, Baptism, Conversation with Scribes, The Last Supper, Crucifixion, Expulsion from Paradise, Golgotha, Resurrection.
Hungarian critics appreciate his work at the Madách sculpture competition in Budapest, which he designed together with the architect, László Juhász.

1939

In April, he visits Hungary again for three weeks, where he receives a state award for his success in the Skanderbeg competition. He learns about Albania's invasion by Italy. King Zogu flees with his family to England. Preparations of the statue of Skanderbeg are thus postponed.
He also creates portrait sculptures: Celestina and The Hermet Poet.

1940November in Rome

1940

First, he models the tomb chapel of the Goldoni family in Bologna, then carves it out of Carrara marble in two years, the multi-shaped relief (272 figures) titled: The Last Judgment. In the composition, he places the figures of Hitler and Mussolini among those who have been doomed to go to Hell. The work's direct precursor is the reliefs of Mining Education (1938–39), which also featured many characters, as well as relief series reminiscent of Mesopotamian seal cylinders.
Sándor Lénárd writes an article about him under the title Montparnasse of Rome. In the years to come, a close friendship develops between them. As a doctor, Lénárd later cures him of serious health issues several times.
Portraits of the Prophet, Donatella and Sándor Lénárd gets completed. He models the first version of his statue La bella Partenopea.

1942

Upon request of the Roman art dealer Alfredo Balsanti, he creates the sculptures Bathing Woman and Susan in the Bath. He becomes a member of the Association of Free Hungarians in Rome with comrades such as Gábor Apor, Hungarian Ambassador to the Vatican, Zsolt Aradi, Vatican Press Attaché, dr. Zsolt Kovács and Sándor Lénárd doctor.

1943

In May, he will exhibit his small sculpture Judith (also: Judith and Holofernes) at the 4th Quadriennale in Rome.
He gets stranded in the German-occupied Northern part of the country. He decides to cross the front line and joins the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (CLN). He undertakes parachute training and then, completes seven courier services between the Commission and the partisans as liaison officer. During the war, he makes ink drawings of partisans some of them later get printed in a Florentine newspaper called 11 Agosto.

1944

He is captured by the fascists on one of his failed missions, but his convoy is hit by a bomb, so he manages to escape instead of being executed.
At the end of the year, before the Russians occupied Budapest, his father was led to the city's border to shovel snow. In the cold, he gets such severe frostbite that he has to have one of his legs amputated. He gets septicemia during surgery and dies at the age of 75.

1945

During one of his missions, he sees Budapest in flames from above. He flies above and lands by parachute on Hortobágy. His commander happens to be Alessandro Pertini, who later becomes President of Italy in the late 1970s.
On his last mission, he gets hit in the left arm by a projectile while jumping a parachute. He has surgery on his damaged forearm in several places in Bari, and he’s forced to rest for a couple of months.
On returning to Rome, he models a portrait of Harry Sions (The Yank). He used to be a renaissance artist up till that time but the war makes him change. He experiments with abstract compositions, more specifically ties to connect the interior and exterior in his works.

1947Portrait photographed by Sandro Vespasiani

1946

He meets Eva Fischer, a painter from Daruvár, South region of Hungary in May, at the annual exhibition of the Associazione Artistica Internazionale (International Artists' Association). They live together for more than a decade and become life and creative partners for good.
Sculptures are made: The Count, Dr. Birnbaum, Foreign Correspondent, The Lunatic I-II, Urban Visit, Rural Visit I-II, The Rumors I-II, Village Hail Mary.
In 1946 he wins another Italian sculpture prize (Premio Saint Vincent).
For this period he makes works inspired by pebbles and ancient forms, the Stone Woman and the Pebble Women.
Tibor Kardos, newly appointed director of the Collegium Hungaricum in Rome, invites Amerigo Tot, together with Renato Guttuso, to help create a representative exhibition in Via Giulia, where the institution is located.

1947In the atelier. Photo by Sandro Vespasiani

1947

He makes a large relief entitled Last Supper on the wall of the refectory of monks living on Via Santa Maria Mediatrice.
He creates illustrations for Sándor Lénárd's poems Ex Ponto and Orgelbüchlein.
This year he meets Georg Lukács, the philosopher, who invites him to Hungary.
During these years, partly for the reason of making money, but basically because of his restless, adventures nature, he tires himself in car-racing, he takes small film roles and even learns harpoon hunting.
His sculptures The Retired Wrestler and The General are completed, and the dominant pattern of his later works, the fan motifs also appear on his sketches.

1948Wearing a French barett

1948

He becomes the winner of the first prize of the Forte dei Marmi.
He presents his work The Expectant in March, at the 5th Quadriennale at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna. The figure was inspired by the ancient figurative representations of pregnant women.
The American Evan M. Frankel orders a bronze statue of The Beauty of Naples lying on huge pebbles for his estate in East Hampton, (Brigadoon).
He leads a so-called open house for some years: he hosts artists, politicians and philosophers from all over the world on Saturdays, among others Salvador Dalí, the members of the Peters Sisters. Igor Stravinsky also shows up in his studio.
The famous Italian novelist, Alberto Moravia opens the sculptor's exhibition at La Margherita Gallery in September.

1949

Tot takes over the ceramic manufactory of Vincenzo Pinto in Vietri sul Mare in May, upon the advice of Giuseppe Ragazzini. Under his direction, the factory gets internationally acknowledged within a few years. His assistants are two young artist, Matteo Rispoli and Guido Infante. The glazed terracotta sculpture titleda The Fishmonger (elsewhere: Devil's Fish) is made, which is erected in Positano on the sea-side promenade.
He wins the international competition for the façade frieze of Rome's Termini railway station which is considered to be one of his most spectacular artistic successes and makes him world famous all of a sudden. The anodized aluminum sheet composition is finalized in 1953. Several layers of metal are built on top of one another. This design pattern is reflected on its ceramic bowls and wall tiles as well.
He got acquainted with George Lang in the summer. The future manager of New York's Restaurant The Four Seasons assists the artist organize his overseas exhibitions and sell his works in the 60s.
Oscar Kokoschka also praises his prehistoric bones-inspired work Bones and Semaphores.

1950Photo by Cosimo Boccardi

1950

He meets the American photographer, Milton Gendel, who arrived in Rome on a Fulbright scholarship to make documentation of postwar Italy.
He experiments with inks drawings of fossil forms.
Palazzo delle Esposizioni unveils a sculpture entitled The Stone of Restoration (elsewhere: The Stone of Reconstruction) in May, which happens to win the Mostra della Ricostruzione Nazionale sculptors’ award.
He exhibits his works in Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden.

1951

He plans the interior design of the Il cubo (The Cube) restaurant in the basement of Via Sicilia 25 in Rome together with architects Ernesto and Attilio Lapadula.
He makes figurative wall decorations (Fishermen, Orange Harvest) that evoke ancient black-shaped vase painting at the Fiera di Levante fairgrounds in Bari.
The Italian Government orders him to design abstract ornaments adorning the doors of courtrooms for the new Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome.
Three of his works Solstice, Metamorphosis, Useless Garden Machine get selected by the professional jury for the 6th Quadriennale opening in December.
Tot undergoes hernia and gallstone surgery at a private clinic in Rome, and gets bedridden for four months.

1952Photographed by F. J. Monaco

1952

He welcomes the Russian painter Jacques Chapiro to his studio in July, who will make a charcoal drawing of the artist.
He exhibits in the Italian pavilion of the 26th Biennale of Venice. He receives a number of private orders. The first versions of his series of sculptures entitled Rape of Europe are being prepared.

1953

He is commissioned by Count Astolfo Ottolenghi to design a balcony for his villa in Acqui Terme in the North of Italy.
The Termini Frieze is completed.

1954Photo by Michele Ficarelli in Bari

1954

He experiments with the new material of architecture, concrete, and he forms his space sculpture Meteor, which later gets erected next to the Palazzetto dello Sport in 1960. The building is designed by Pier Luigi Nervi for the 17th Summer Olympics held in Rome. The State Department's ceiling relief and the statue of The Stone as Gordian Knot gets completed. He has an exhibition in Bologna.

1955

He prepares his plastics entitled High Mountain Farming for the Ministry of Agriculture, which consists of several reliefs, with which he commemorates the extreme manual work carried out by agricultural workers. Forest loggers and nymphs, harvesters and churners, wood carvers making forest saints, olive harvesters are featured on these reliefs.
He prepares his relief The Surgery in the lecture hall of Aldo Moro University, Bari, which can be compared to Rembrandt’s The anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632).
He welcomes Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo to his studio
In November, three of his works will be presented again at the 7th Quadriennale in Rome.

1956

Tot wins the first prize for the Agriculture Expo (Mostra dell'agricoltura) in Rome with his reliefs from the previous year. In Bari, he unveils the bronze gate Il Tavoliere (The Laid Table) for the Cassa di Risparmio delle Pugile Savings Bank building. He is attending the 28th Venice Biennale. (Exhibited items: Man is not a Machine, The Stone as a Gordian Knot.)

1958

At the Brussels World's Fair, he features a large statue of The Monster Train erected in front of the Pavilion of the European Transport.

1959At the age of 50 on the iconic photo of Burt Glinn

1959

The concrete relief entitled Cylinders, Reflectors and Tunnels is completed in the building of the Directorate-General of the Automobile Club d'Italia in Rome.
The relief of Geometric Muscles created for the Rome Olympics has a similar design, which Tot himself glazes and burns for installation in the Palace of Sports (Palazzo dello Sport) in Rome.
He participates in the 8th Quadriennale with four concrete statues: Relief I-III and the Meteor.

1959Portrait of Tot by Elio Sorci ‘The Paparazzi’

1960

He works on a series of abstract small plastics: Protest I-XII.
The Meteor is erected.

1959Photo by Pasquale De Antonis

1961

Triangular polyester decorations are planned for the ceiling of the new Naples Railway Station in collaboration with architect Massimo Battaglini, but due to lack of money, the final artistic construction does not get carried out.

1962

He participates in the 31st Biennale of Venice with his solo exhibition. Statues titled: Roar and the Nazi, The Useless Machine, His Majesty, the Kilowatt, the Minotauromachine and The Ear of the Earth.
He exhibits in London.
This year, he writes a screenplay for a ballet production for the Spoleto Festival and designs the set himself.

1963At the Bruxelles World Fair

1963

Denis Chevalier invites him to Paris for the exhibition Actualité de la Sculpture, at Galerie Creuse, organized by the journal Art d'Aujourd'hui. He exhibits with artists such as Henry Moore, César, André Bloc, Alicia Penalba. He is invited to Belgrade with Henry Moore and Ossip Zidkine, where they create a sculpture for the Museum of Modern Art (Young People Getting Prepared for the Campsite).
Plywood reliefs Biology I-III and wooden wall painting Petrified Forest I-III are ordered from him for the new building complex of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry of La Sapienza University.

1964

He works on the fan-motif railings and anodized wall coverings for the Raffaello luxury ocean cruise liner during the whole year.
(The ship got hit by a missile in 1983 and sank in the Gulf of Bushehr in Iran.)
The Shell I-II and other figures be estimated to be completed this year.

1965Portrait with a beard by Mauro Bolognini

1965

He moves into a new studio a few blocks from the former one, to 17 Via Margutta.
He creates illustrations for the erotic poems of Pietro Aretino, the Italian Renaissance poet.
He designs a two pierced concrete relief for the facade of the Palace of Justice in Aquila (Palazzo di Giustizia dell'Aquila).
He meets the American student of liberal arts, Doreen Kay. Their relationship starts roughly, then continues with a marriage proposal in the US, and ends tragically when Doreen all of a sudden becomes sick on the cruise during their return trip to Rome. She gets to be hospitalized with viral hepatitis. On her deathbed, it turns out that she secretly started to learn Hungarian and expecting a child, who never gets born under the sun, because Doreen dies at the end of August.
She rests in the Catholic Cemetery (Cimitero Accatolico). Her tombstone is carved by the sculptor.

1966

Tot wins the competition for the Kennedy Memorial in Rome. His solo exhibition opens in New York. Many of his works are placed in private Collections in America.
He pours two concrete mounds for the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Bank building in Bari.
He sets out for a study tour to Japan and India.

1967

He is ordered to design a statue in front of the Conservatories at Lincoln Center in New York for Béla Bartók, the giant Hungarian musician of the 20th century. This is how the maquette for the monument Microcosm in the Macrocosm is born. The public version of the statue will finally be erected in Kecskemét, Hungary, in 1984.

1968In Hungary again, by Géza Szebellédy

1968

He comes back to Hungary for a short visit in April, after being away for about thirty years.
Returning to Italy, he takes on movie roles. He plays a German baron in Sorry, are we Making Love? (Scusi, facciamo l'amore?), the film was directed by Vittorio Caprioli. And he gets assigned for the role of Lica, the shipbuilder in Gian Luigi Poliodoro’s Satyricon. The film will be banned in Italy in March of the following year before its debut.

1969In Tihany, by Zoltán Szalay

1969

Zoltán Huszárik Hungarian film director, and János Tóth cameraman shoot a unique portrait about the sculptor.
This year he makes sculptures: Hommage á Karinthy Olivecrona, Crusaders, and the Cosmos, the Twin Flights.
Szülőfalujának református templomában Lékai bíboros felszenteli a Csurgói Madonna című szobrot.
He is elected to be the honorary professor of the Budapest Academy of Applied Arts.
The comprehensive exhibition of his work opens at the Art Gallery in Budapest on 24th March. The curator was Makris Agamemnon, a Hungarian sculptor of Greek descent, and the exhibition was opened by another sculptor József Somogyi. It was visited by hundreds of thousands within a month, remarkably it had never happened before. During the exhibition he meets Joseph M. Katz, a factory owner and art collector from Pittsburg, who buys four of his sculptures.
The works exhibited in the Kunsthalle (Műcsarnok) gets also presented in the exhibition hall and the gardens of the Benedictine Abbey of Tihany from 22 June. This exhibition attracts more than 100.000 visitors during the summer.
Cardinal Lékai consecrates the statue of the Madonna of Csurgó, in the Catholic Church of the sculptor’s home village, Fehérvárcsurgó on Tot’s 60th birthday.
At the end of the year, on October 4, the exhibition moves to Debrecen, to the ornamented courtyard of the Kossuth Lajos University.

1970In the garden

1970

The series of his Hungarian exhibitions end in Szeged in January. His sculpture The Ear of the Earth gets placed in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, and The Eye of the Earth s erected in Debrecen. His Majesty, the Kilowatt is erected in front of the Abbey in Tihany, by the lake Balaton.
He opens an exhibition in a gallery on Madison Avenue in New York in April, where he shows twenty-four new sculptures. In Philadelphia, he plans to design his new creation in front of a skyscraper, an 18-meter-high statue that displays an eagle in the crest of the US by transplanting it into dynamic shapes. In Philadelphia, he meets realistic painter Andrew Wyeth. His sculptures are placed in several private collections.
He works on a memorial to the Banderia brothers all summer.
He plays the role of Don Antonino Stella in Damiano Damiani's The most beautiful Wife (La moglie più bella).
He creates a concrete relief called Masks (or: Mascaras) on the façade of the new theatre building in Brindisi, Nuovo Teatro Verdi.

1971

In January, he gets invited to Bari to become a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts (Accademia di belle arti di Bari). He teaches there for ten years. The Italian edition of Jenő Barcsay's Art Anatomy will be completed with his assistance and upon his proposal, anatomy will be a compulsory subject at the academy.
In the early 1970s, 6th Paul, the Pope gives him important assignments.
He is invited to carry out the golden plaque of Avery Brundage (outgoing President of the International Olympic Committee).
The first variants of the Apotheosis of the Seed are being prepared. The seed motif is also displayed in the design submitted for the tender for the last gate ornament of St. Peter's Cathedral.

1970Portrait with moustache

1972

A monument commemorating the Banderia brothers, has been erected in Cosenza, on a cliff in Vallone di Rovito, his plan for it had already won a tender a decade earlier.
(The Banderia brothers fought for the unification of Italy. That's why Tot evoked the broken chain shape in the statue.)
He also appears as a partisan alongside Michael Caine in Pulp.

1973

His exhibition opens in Palermo, Sicily.

1974In the movie ‘Godfather II’

1974

A statue of the Puglian Keel is erected in Bari, on the Via delle Costituente.
He takes the role of Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) bodyguard in the second part of the famous Godfather trilogy. At the request of Francis Ford Coppola, he appears in some episodes of the film, which are filmed in the Dominican Republic.
In the same year, he prepares the portrait of Pope Paul VI and the chalice that the Pope then uses at a Mass celebrated at the opening of the Holy Year. The Hammer and Trowel used to break open and wall up the Porta Sacra.
He's planning a fountain for a Philadelphia hospital.

1976

He creates a 2nd World War memorial, transforming a German military bunker in the coastal town of Anzio, near the ruins of Nero's villa which gets the title The Warrior as Guardian of Peace (máshol: Peace Fighter).
He receives a private assignment from the Persian Shah, Reza Pahlavi, to prepare the tomb of his brother-in-law General Khatami, who died in a plane crash. His student Pantaleo Avellis is also assisting in the implementation.

1978

His permanent exhibition opens in Pécs. He prepares his series of sculptures entitled Chairs for the Small Sculpture Biennale in Pécs.
He is elected to be a gold medaled member of the Italian Academy of Sciences.

1979Photo by Tamás Farkas

1979

He is awarded the laurel wreath ornamented Flag Order of the People's Republic of Hungary.

1980

He creates the Historical Ellipse for the Chapel of the Lady of the Hungarians, which is located in the sub-church of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome.
The construction of the gigantic bronze relief of The Apotheosis of the Seed started in the building of the Petőfi Hall in Budapest for the University of Agriculture in Gödöllő.

1981In Pécs, photo of Katalin Nádor

1981

Tot creates ceramic panels of his characteristic dancing and sitting on the beach figures in Pécs, in the Zsolnay factory.

1982

His last Hungarian exhibition opens in the Vigadó in Budapest on March 18.

1983

Inauguration of the Seed in Gödöllő. Ferenc Juhász, the famous Hungarian poet also participates in the ceremony and recites his poem written for Amerigo to the audience.

1984Photographed by Endre Schwanner

1984

The statue of the Microcosm in the Macrocosm in memory of Béla Bartók gets inaugurated in Kecskemét on 20 June.
Tot is taken to Gemelli Hospital in Rome, where Pope John Paul II is also being cared for.
He dies in Rome on December 13. His is buried in the Farkasréti Cemetery in Budapest. (His tomb was made by Miklós Melocco, erected in 1989. 1-1-585/586)