Molnár's Paris

Vera Molnár moved to Paris at the end of 1947 and would call the city home for the rest of her storied life. Use our interactive map to follow in her footsteps across the French capital and discover the entwined narrative of artistic evolution and urban existence that defined her practice.
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Image (detail) by Qian Qian

Molnár's Paris

Vera Molnár moved to Paris at the end of 1947 and would call the city home for the rest of her storied life. Use our interactive map to follow in her footsteps across the French capital and discover the entwined narrative of artistic evolution and urban existence that defined her practice.

1. First Paris Residence (1947)

Rue de l'Hirondelle in Paris. Photo courtesy of the author

Veronika “Vera” Gács arrived in Paris on December 10, 1947, with her soon-to-be husband, François Molnár. “I was obsessed with the desire to see modern art, and for me that could only mean Paris,” she later recalled.1 The twenty-three-year-old Vera stayed with François at a hotel on Rue de l'Hirondelle, her first place of residence in the city. There she would produce her first creative expression in Paris, drawing the house across the street from her hotel window. The Hungarian expat would call the city home for the next seventy-six years.

1 Baby, Vincent. Vera Molnár: Interview with Vincent Baby. p. 20. Manuella éditions, 2022.

2. Ermont - Eaubonne Family Home

Vera Molnár, Hommage à Dürer, 400 aiguilles, traversées par un fil (Homage to Dürer 400 Needles Crossed by a Thread), 1989/2004. Courtesy of the artist and DAM

Married and now named Vera Molnár, the young couple left the hotel to live with her affluent Franco-Hungarian family in the suburbs of Ermont-Eaubonne. The newlywed couple spent a year living in a small caretaker's lodge on the property. The Molnárs had access to a studio on the estate, which delighted the young artists and made their visiting artist friends extremely jealous. This idyllic situation, however, would not last long, as a minor family scandal forced them to relocate. It was around this time in the late ‘40s that Vera began experimenting with abstraction, after encountering the work of Albrecht Dürer.

3. Belleville Apartment

Belleville, Paris, 1952. Photo by Keystone-France Gamma-Keystone

The Molnárs were forced to leave Vera's bourgeois family estate to make room for a relative and his young girlfriend, who had an unexpected pregnancy and needed to marry right away. Given some money for rent, Vera and François were confronted with the harsh realities of Parisian real estate. They found a one-room apartment in Belleville “with a tiny kitchen and the toilet on the landing. Horrible. But we still drew and it still worked. We survived,” she later recollected. When asked at the time where she lived, Vera replied, “You wouldn’t believe me; it’s horrendous. Belleville.”1

Baby, 37

4. Rue de Gergovie Apartment and Studio (1954)

Vera Molnár in her Rue de Gergovie apartment, Paris, 1954. Photo by François Molnar, Vera Molnar archives. Courtesy of the artist

With both young artists desperate to leave Belleville, they got creative. “This can't go on; we can't live there any more; it's filthy; we'll find a studio,” Vera remembers François remarking at the time.1 Leveraging the area's bad reputation, they orchestrated a flat swap with "drunks" eager for proximity to bars. The move landed them in a seventh-floor Rue de Gergovie apartment with a studio and panoramic Paris views. Together, Vera and François, dubbed a "two-headed painter," collaborated until 1960, when François shifted to a research career. In the late '50s and early '60s, Vera explored solo creativity, delving into the machine imaginaire.

1 Baby, 37

5. Le Select Café

Le Select (brasserie) — 99, boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris (6th district), France. CC BY-SA 3.0

This Hungarian expat café would prove absolutely essential both to Vera Molnár’s social life and artistic practice. She started going to the café, still in existence today, from her first week in Paris onward. It was here that she would be introduced to the modern art scene that she had come to Paris to take part in. Through her Le Select network, she was able to meet artists such as Constantin Brancusi, Georges Vantongerloo and, most importantly, Sonia Delaunay. “The goddess of abstract art at the time,” Delaunay’s encouragement would prove “very important. [It] came at the right time.”1

Baby, 39

6. Rue Hallé Permanent Home (1964-2020)

Studio portrait of Vera Molnár, 2012. Photo László Horváth

In 1964, the Molnárs planned and constructed their own three-story home and studio on Rue Hallé. Vera later reminisced, “It was the Morellets who lent us money, plus the family and the bank, which meant that we were poor all our lives.” Despite this, it was a spacious and comfortable dream home, profoundly influencing Vera's artistic journey. Reflecting on the past, she marvels, “Did I already have a table? My own? Which wasn’t half for me, half a desk for François, where I could leave my stuff? There were things I couldn’t do [before] that time because I didn’t have a table.”1

Baby, 38

7. First Computer Encounter: Bull-GE HQ (1968)

Vera Molnar, 1 des premieres images d’après listing – BULL, 1968. Courtesy of the artist and DAM

Vera Molnár’s machine imaginaire became a machine réelle in 1968, when she gained access to her first computer through her friend Pierre Barbaud, a French algorithmic composer. Barbaud invited Molnár to the Bull-GE headquarters in Gambetta, where she created the work 1 des premieres images d’après listing – BULL 1968. Molnár generated the piece by having the computer print out numbers corresponding to colors, which she then colored by hand. Molnár would not soon forget this experience, as she would ensure she had regular access to a computer later in the year.

8. Sorbonne University–Orsay Computing Centre (1970s)

IBM System/370 control panel. Photo by Yves Tessier. CC BY-SA 4.0

After finally accessing her machine réelle, Vera Molnár could no longer be without it. She famously snuck "unofficially," usually on evenings and weekends, into the Sorbonne Computing Centre in Orsay, where she had access to an IBM system/370 mainframe computer and a Benson drum plotter. Most of her plotter work from the 1970s was created here, "shrunk in a corner, the last in line," as she told Hans Ulrich Obrist. The now-legendary sprocket-holed paper frequently read "JOB FROM MOLNAR," referring to the Molnart program, which the Molnárs co-created.

9. Sorbonne University–Saint Charles Centre (1980s)

Vera Molnár, Lettre à ma mère, 1990. Courtesy of the artist and DAM

Vera Molnár was heavily involved with Sorbonne University throughout the 1980s. In 1980, she and Franćois established the Centre de Recherche Expérimentale et Informatique des Arts Visuels (CREIAV). From 1985 to 1990, she taught fine art, aesthetics and art history at the Sorbonne’s Department of Plastic Arts and Art Sciences. This period was also fruitful for her practice, as it included some of her most well-known projects, such as Lettres à ma mère (1981-1990). Molnár stopped using plotters in 1991 and switched to prints.

10. Most Recent Residence (2020-2023)

Vera Molnar, Arrondir les angles / D. 2021. Courtesy Galerie Oniris Rennes

In 2020, Vera Molnár continued her exploratory ways in a bright corner of Paris's 14th arrondissement, not far from her fifty-six-year home on Rue Hallé. Drawing, experimenting, sipping tea and receiving visitors occupied her days at her private retirement home. As one of France's first computer artists, she touched countless lives around the world, sparking and experiencing advancement at every turn. Navigating such a transformative life, two constants emerged. From 1947 to 2023, the foundational mainstay in her life, besides art, was Paris.


Peter Bauman (Monk Antony) is Le Random's Editor-in-Chief.