The Japanese widow of Hungarian sculptor Nándor Wagner passed away last October. For three decades, Mrs. Chiyo Wagner was a true companion of her husband and – after his death – she worked to preserve his artistic legacy.
Born in Sapporo on September 22, 1930, she was the fourth daughter of the Akiyama family, one of the founders of the city. The little Chiyo was kind of a wild girl, interested in everything, but she was aware of the proper polite order. She learned easily and quickly. She finished her schooling during the war years. At fifteen, she lived through the surrender of Japan and the American invasion. Later, she graduated from Japan's first women's university, Japan Women's University, with a degree in English Language and Literature in 1954. The motto of her university "find your ideal lifestyle and be a woman who continues to shine" has guided her throughout her life.
Meeting a master
An eventful decade followed in her life. She and her researcher husband lived first in Tokyo and then, for a year, at the prestigious Harvard University and Lund University campuses, where she continued her artistic studies. In 1960, she enrolled in a drawing course with an ethnic Hungarian artist, who emigrated from Hungary in 1956, Nándor Wagner. For the first time in her life, she met a master under whose guidance her talent for drawing and painting almost exploded in two months. She felt that she had found the meaning of her life.
Teacher and student came from two different worlds but their mutual affinity and passion for art and their wartime experiences bound them together. Their correspondence became increasingly lively and intimate. In 1966, they met again in Lund and finally decided to tie their lives together.
1966-69: in Sweden
The unpredictability of the art scene and the lack of income are inherent in it. At times, they had serious financial problems and lived on small jobs. Chiyo was a talented watercolorist who exhibited successfully and had many buyers. She even participated creatively in Nándor’s building sculpture work.
1970-97: together in Japan
They experienced the joys of nesting, first by building a sculptor studio house in Mashiko, Tochigi prefecture then, five years later, by building a house in Tokyo. The plans were drawn up by Nándor, and both were actively involved in the construction. They spared no effort. On New Year's Eve of 1970, the first Wagner work (‘Mother’s Love’) in Japan was ceremonially completed in their studio. They kept a strict schedule, Mrs. Chiyo was the head of the household and her husband's sculptor's assistant, or rather a real sculptor's wife. She could take care of everything from preparing the clay to various administrative tasks. She also helped set up their joint foundation, the Tao Foundation (now the Nándor Wagner Foundation). She devoted her life entirely to supporting Nándor's artistic work, so that they could both lead full lives. Nándor Wagner passed away in November, 1997.
In order to preserve the artistic legacy of her husband, she set up the Academia Humana Foundation in Budapest in 1999. It made possible the rescue of the first Wagner work: the Corpus Hungaricum statue was inaugurated on October 6, 1999 in Székesfehérvár. Years of research, events and statues were to follow.
Wagner’s memory cherished
It is due to the life work of Mrs. Chiyo that Nándor Wagner's memory is still alive in Japan, in Hungary and in his town of birth, Oradea (Romania) and that he has admirers in Sweden and around the world. This is thanks to the numerous Wagner Nándor symposia, the annual Nándor Wagner competitions at the Partium Christian University (in Oradea) and the Motherhood competition in Miskolc, support for artists and artist groups in Japan and Hungary, and, since 2006, to the annual Nagybánya Summer Painter Camp in Baia Mare, Romania.
Nándor Wagner’s main work is the ‘Garden Philosophy’. He created three copies After his death, it was erected in Budapest (2001) and Tokyo (2009) with the third one, intended for New York City, awaiting travel in Mashiko. They carry his message and gift to the peoples of the world with the motto is "For better mutual understanding" – something his wife has acted for throughout her life.
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