Sandor Konya

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KONYA, A Sandor. (c1890 - 1971?). Architect, film set designer, painter, cartoonist, graphic artist, columnist and book-reviewer, Konya came to South Africa in 1928 from New York, the first Hungarian artist to come to South Africa, to design cinema interiors for Ira Schlesinger's African Theatres. Konya had left Budapest in 1909 to study architecture at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris; at night he attended art classes at the Colarossi Atelier. He returned to Hungary on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and served on the Italian and Russian Fronts for more than four years before being invalided back to Budapest from where he fled to Vienna. It was then that he encountered the film industry. After working for Fritz Lang as a set designer and on The cabinet of Dr Caligari, he joined Alexander Korda, collaborating on Samson and Delilah. In 1921 he left Vienna for Berlin and moved on to Paris in 1922. He designed sets for Four horses of the apocalypse and Madame sans gêne. He exhibited lithographs at Guiot's in Paris, selling a folio to one Payne who opened South Africa's first commercial art gallery, the Van Riebeek in Cape Town, with an exhibition of Konya's work. In 1923 he went to Panama where he designed three cinemas; in 1924 he went to New York, joining the first National Pathe's Cosmopolitan Studio in Haarlem where he worked with Charlie Chaplin before rejoining Korda. In 1928 he came to South Africa, living in Cape Town where he met and married Phyllis Jubyh and opened an art school. He continued to work with cinemas, designing the interior of the Capitol Theatre in Pretoria between 1930 and 1931. In 1934 he closed the art school in Cape Town and sailed for Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong, teaching architectural students at various points. His son, Allan Rae Konya, was born in Hong Kong in 1935. Konya's main occupations at this time were teaching and writing, learning to read and write in Chinese. Rumours of war precipitated a return to South Africa in 1938. He set up as an architect in Pretoria where he remained for the rest of his career and retired in 1959.


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