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Although relatively unknown outside the art cognocenti, Gunther Gerzso is viewed by some critics as comparable to Pablo Picasso and Joaquin Torres-Garcia. He is “one of the great Latin American painters,” according to Octavio Paz, the Nobel Prize-winning Mexican author. Born in Mexico City in 1915, Gerzso’s father was a watchmaker from Hungary; his mother, a singer and a pianist from Berlin. Six months after he was born, his father died. His mother then married another expatriate, the German owner of a popular jewelry store. He lost his business during the Mexican Revolution, and in 1922 the family moved to Europe. In 1924 they returned to Mexico. After his mother divorced her second husband, during her subsequent economic uncertainty she decided to send Gunther, then 12, to live with her brother, Hans Wendland, an influential art historian and dealer in Lugano, Switzerland. Wendland sold works by Rembrandt, Cézanne, and Titian, and Gerzso recalls paintings by Bonnard and Delacroix on the walls of his bedroom. Among the important guests of the Wendland’s was Nando Tamberlani, an Italian stage set designer who became friends with Gerszo while living on the estate for a summer. As the impact of the Great Depression hit Europe, Gerzso’s uncle sold his estate and art collection. Gerzso returned to live with his mother and sister in Mexico, where he enrolled in a German school. During the next three years Gerzso sketched set designs and wrote plays as he dreamed of a life in the theater. On graduation in 1934, through a family friend he began designing sets for a local theatrical producer. A year later, he was offered a work-study position at the Cleveland Play House, where he soon became staff set designer. Over the next four years he designed sets for some five dozen productions.

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