Tibor Kajan's memorial speech
for Caricaturist-Cartoonist Felix Kassowitz (Kasso)
(Translation by Mary Kassovitz)
I am at a loss of words when I must say goodbye to one of ours, whose
exceptional talent, magical art and warm humor was a part of our lives.
Still, as I tackle my memories of Felix Kassowitz's Munkacsy-Award winning,
unimitable, unmatched graphic art, the sorrow must share space with
consolation. That's because his life was as well rounded as the Kasso
drawings: Full with angelic charm and high spirit.
First I will say farewell to the artist on behalf of the Hungarian Graphic
and Industrial Artists Foundation, then on behalf of fellow artists and
Felix Kassowitz occupies a most significant place even among the most
important exponents of Hungarian graphic artists. Few artists have the power
to redefine the style of their era. And few get to exercise such profound
influence upon the public and their peers as did Felix.
The Munkacsy and numerous other awards bestowed upon him
speak for his achievements, but can't do justice as to the full meaning of
Felix's work to Hungarian visual arts.
Until the age of 22, Felix Kassowitz worked as a stenographer, writing
with lightning speed reports that arrived from all over the world. His
stenography pencil turned into his artistic tool. he watched life with a
keen eye and made it the theme of his high-spirited cartoons.
An illness in his youth confined him to a hospital for a time.
It was there
that he started drawing caricatures and cartoons, to overcome boredomm,
loneliness and the illness itself. He was in Paris at the time, and his
drawings were so good, that soon they appeared in the Le Rire weekly. They
(the drawings) were signed for the first time using Kasso. The young
Kassowitz could alwayss count on friendly help from Marcel Vertes and Henrik
Major. After his return to Hungary, in 1937, several Hungarian publications
(Pesti Hirlap, Magyarorszag and Tukor) became publishers of his work. Later
he took part in the creation and development of the Hungarian
cartoon-animated movie industry.
At the beginning of his career George Grosz's social injustice themes
influence on him. Later he turned to more heartfeltt themes. He shaped his
style with diligence. Kasso's well defined lines strived for the utmost
simplicity and clarity. His example has instantly changed the landscape of
satirical graphics, like a breath of springtime breeze. The heavily
embellished style of his great predecessors, such as Karoly Muhlbeck and the
exceptional Antal Gaspar, was exchanged with Kassowitz's clear and simple
style. "His example drew a large following and a school of new artists
formed that put it's stamp on the cartoons and caricature artistry."- Said
Pal Szegi, the fine critic and expert in this form of art.
As an art historian I must analyze Kasso's work indepth to fully understand
the magnitude of it. Kasso's art drew from the child-like simplicity of folk
art and brought light to the relationship between graphic art and folk art.
He was the genius of simplicity.
Felix Kassowitz uncovered the healing power of humor in a world full
turmoil. It was not just his art that was charming, but his personality as
well. It was a joy to work with him. The letter O (with the two little
accents) meaning he/she, almost comes alive in my imagination like the
little faces he used to draw. Even his drawing table was reminding of his
free spirit, calm demeanor and order. His fatherly encouragement and
mentoring of new talent helped young artists gain confidence in finding their
Kasso had a free and independent soul, never asked for favors and he
stand up for young artists in their fledgling careers. He was tireless when
it came to others. He lent his expertise to the Federation of Artists and
helped organize many exhibits. He sought the success of the entire genre, not
just his own.
He know it all in his trade, except for one thing: He did not
know how to
hate anyone. Even when he was frustrated, he found some humorous way to ease
tensions. he loved people, he loved life and he had a great deal of respect
for other people's work.
He loved to talk about his son, Peter's achievements and about their
And he loved to talk about the warm and cozy home that his wife, Bozsi
created for them.
He (Felix) will reunite now with his brother Emil, who died as a young
war. I never met him, but I have seen his remarcably well created self
portrait in the Kassowitz house.
This is our last goodbye. Let me call you by your name,
like in the old
days. In your last few years you created some excellent riddles. This last
riddle you gave us is insolvable. Now that your earthly pain subsided, you
can be happy to know that in your well rounded life you left us many
thousands of great drawings. Your name will be listed among the greatest
artists of all time, and you, yourself will be living in our hearts.
Dear Felix, may God be with you.
Funeral speech by Tibor Kajan at the grave of Felix Kassowitz.