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Molnar, George (1910–1998)

by Attila Urmenyhazi

George Molnar (György Molnár) was born in Nagyvárad, Hungary (Romanian city of Oradea since WWII ) on 25 April 1910 and came to Australia as a sponsored migrant in 1939 with a B.Arch. (Budapest) to begin work as a government architect in Canberra.

In 1945 he took up a lectureship at the University of Sydney and also began contributing cartoons to the Daily Telegraph. His talents were recognized by the opposition daily newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald which employed him from 1952 to 1984. His sharp, satirical and thought provoking, black & white fine line drawings more than just entertained readers three times a week. Considered irrefutably a conservative European in attitude and disposition, he frequently criticized irrational trends and social mores through his incisively executed art form.

As professor of architecture at Sydney and NSW universities, he alerted the establishment and the public to the high cost of the 1960s and '70s uncontrolled building development boom causing the destruction of many Victorian & Georgian buildings in Sydney. He was a passionate advocate of modern architecture but equally dedicated to the preservation of heritage assets and to modern urban development that was sustainable, soulful and allowed for humane dimensions. Unfortunately more than half of Sydney’s heritage buildings were lost before the Heritage Act (1977) and Environmental Planning & Assessment Act (1979) were introduced.

Molnar was fluent in Hungarian, French, German and English and was a fount of Latin adages which were delivered with aplomb when opportune. The architect-professor, cartoonist-commentator, master water-colourist, writer (Statues) and social analyst was awarded the OBE in 1971 and the AO in 1988 for his unique contribution to Australian society. Australian newspapers responded to his death with substantial articles, praising his abilities as "the finest newspaper cartoonist of his generation" (The Australian) and his personal qualities as "a cultured man whose wit was as elegant as his art" (The Age).

Original publication

  • unpublished, 2011

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Citation details

Attila Urmenyhazi, 'Molnar, George (1910–1998)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 9 August 2020.

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