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Meet the Family: The Private Judy Cassab Reflection

Judy Cassab AO CBE1998

Sydney Jewish Museum

Sydney Jewish Museum
Darlinghurst, Australia

Judy Cassab's name is synonymous with portraiture and Australian landscape painting.

Born in Vienna to Hungarian parents, she lived from age nine with her mother and grandmother in Beregszasz, Hungary. She drew her first portrait at 12 – a charcoal of her grandmother. It soon became known that she had a gift for creating a likeness. Shortly before turning 18, Judy met Jancsi Kampfner. He proposed three weeks later, promising to always support her in her chosen career as an artist.

Judy enrolled at the Academy of Art in Prague. Her studies were disrupted by Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia. In 1941, Jancsi was conscripted in a forced labour unit of the Hungarian Army. Judy went to Budapest to study painting but in March 1944, Germany occupied Hungary. The Jews of Beregszasz were deported from the ghetto to Auschwitz. Judy’s mother, stepfather and grandmother were taken at the same time as Janci’s family. To survive, Judy had herself baptised and took on the identity of the family maid.

In 1949, Judy, Janci and their two sons left for Vienna, awaiting approval of Australian visas. Arriving in 1951 with a letter of introduction to Charles Lloyd Jones (his family owned David Jones department store), she gained her first commission to paint his wife. Her ability to capture the character of her portrait sitters gained her commissions from Royal Princesses, Australian artists and celebrities. Her love for the Australian landscape and her expressionistic interpretation of its colours and contours added another dimension to her oeuvre.

In a remarkable career, overcoming obstacles to define her place and purpose as an artist, Judy had countless exhibitions and received coveted awards, including winning the Archibald Prize twice, in 1961 and 1968, appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1969), Officer of the Order of Australia (1988), and honoured by the Hungarian government with the Gold Cross of Merit (2011).

Sydney Jewish Museum holds a number of her personal paintings of her family, landscapes and still-life paintings, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

Details

  • Title: Meet the Family: The Private Judy Cassab Reflection
  • Creator: Judy Cassab AO CBE, Judy Cassab AO CBE
  • Date Created: 1937/2007, 1998
  • Rights: Sydney Jewish Museum. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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