architect, cartoonist, watercolourist, illustrator and teacher, was born of a Catholic family in Nagyvarad, Hungary (which became Oradea, Rumania, after WWI). He graduated B.Arch. (Budapest University) in 1932. He came to Australia in 1939 and worked as an architect in Canberra (Public Works Dept?). In 1975 he illustrated Life in Canberra: A Satirical Guide (Canberra: Clareville Press) written by the much younger Alan Fitzgerald (who came to Canberra in 1964), full of gags about public servants etc., especially the Income Tax Office.

During WWII Molnar was a designer for the Ministry of Munitions (located in David Jones, Market Street, Sydney) with Bernard Hesling , who claimed in his autobiography to have encouraged Molnar to draw cartoons. In return Molnar gave Hesling, then daily cartoonist on the Telegraph , drawing lessons. Molnar said he became a cartoonist by accident. Influenced by Osbert Lancaster and Saul Steinberg (Tanner CAB , 45), his earliest cartoons appeared in the Daily Telegraph for some years from 1944 [Souter says 1945]. [Other influences suggested by Joan Kerr include: Simplissimus ; Grosz; Architectural Review (and John Benjamin); Osbert Lancaster; Saul Steinberg; Bernard Hesling; Ronald Serle; Ralph Stedman.] He also drew a few cartoons for Australia, National Journal and Australia Week-end Book , the earliest appearing in vol.4 of the latter (1945), including a drawing signed 'MO’ on p.23, and another signed 'Molnar’ on p.82 (a ghost issuing from a dead body and saying to a barman, “Same again, please”). Others, signed both 'Molnar’ and 'Mo’, are on pp. 92-93 (illustrations for a story about a love affair between a painted nude and a satyr), 116, 128 and 205 (re stone age courtship). Vol.5 (1946), p.81, depicts 2 wolves and 2 women (“That will lure them here – it’s the human mating cry”), et al. (including art joke p.199). In 1949 he did pages of cartoons for A.M. illustrating George Orwell’s 1984 .

Unhappy with Packer’s editorial intervention at the Telegraph , Molnar moved in February 1954 [McCulloch says 1953; 1965 Year Book says associated with SMH since 1952 but both wrong] to the Sydney Morning Herald as its leader-page cartoonist (alternating with Eyre Jr) at editor John Pringle’s instigation (Souter, 328). Cartoons done for the SMH include: a 1966 cartoon on State Aid (ill. Coleman & Tanner, 86). 20 of his cartoons were included in Walsh’s 1966 anthology.

Original Molnar cartoons in ML include Two Decades of U.S. Painting [3 large black canvases] 22 July 1967 (Px*D249-38); I decided to forgive Captain Cook (Aborigine being kicked out by whites demonstrating against 'invasion’ etc) dated 4 April 1970 (original ML Px*D460, p.18); and the Whitlams dressing for a formal evening occasion with Mrs W. adjusting her husband’s tie and saying: And the tie slightly askew. We have to uphold Labor principles 24 April 1973.

Molnar continued his Saturday cartoon on the Herald until 1984 while simultaneously lecturing in Architecture at SU (there from 1944?) under Prof. Leslie Wilkinson. He despised Wilkinson’s successor Professor Ashworth and in 1967 moved to UNSW as an Associate Professor in Architecture, where he remained until he retired in 1975. He also drew and exhibited his work in galleries. At the Macquarie Galleries in 1955 he had an exhibition of drawings and pastels. He began doing watercolours in the 1970s and held an exhibition of his watercolours and some drawings (probably of his travels) at Macquarie in 1977. A 1978 watercolour by Molnar of Kenneth Slessor in his eastern suburb waterfront flat adorns the cover of Geoffrey Dutton’s Kenneth Slessor: A Biography (Viking-Penguin, 1991; now owned by News Limited ). It illustrates the verse:

“Kenneth Slessor

Waiting in Vain

For Magic

To Finish Poem

Exchanges Same

For Fish.”

Molnar retired from regular Herald cartooning in 1984. He held solo exhibitions of his cartoons, drawings and splendid watercolour paintings (cartoons as 'high art’) at Holdsworth Galleries in 1984, 1987 and 1989. Another exhibition, mainly of his watercolours, was planned before he died in November 1998 and held soon afterwards at Tusculum, where he had exhibited earlier in the 1990s. All were watercolours, mainly about the muses and memories of his childhood (obit SMH ). (Was there a posthumous exhibition at Holdsworth too?).

Molnar always had something pithy, relevant and funny to say in his cartoons. He drew several pointed ones about the condition of Aborigines, e.g. on the return of land to the Gurinji people ('Roam!’) and on the 1970 Cook Bicentenary ('I’ve decided to forgive Captain Cook’). Good architecture/society cartoons drawn for the Sydney Morning Herald include: “Darling, if you want to look at the view you must go inside. What do you think we got the glass wall for?” 1959 (reproduced in Molnar’s anthology Insubstantial Pageant and in Vane Lindesay 1979, 288). Nuclear Demo of 3 June 1971 and Sacred Site of 9 April 1982 were included in Christine Dixon’s Adelaide exhibition (not ill.). Undoubtedly his most famous cartoon was published on 20 October 1973, the day after the official opening of the Sydney Opera House. Showing Joern Utzon – of whom Molnar was always a passionate supporter – in front of the building he designed (but who did not attend the opening), it is captioned: Yesterday upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there (ill. Souter, 465, original ML PXD 764).

ML has a large collection of Molnar cartoons, the SMH retains some and Carol Molnar also has a lot. Others are spread around public collections in smaller number. In February 1997 Josef Lebovic had a nice simple original ink drawing of two students sitting on a professor entitled …A Quiet University City c.1965, for sale at $290.

Further information:
George Molnar (1910-1998) lectured in architecture at the Universities of Sydney and NSW. Student Bryce Mortlock recalled in a 1996 interview with Paul-Alan Johnson and Susan Lorne Johnson that in the late 1940s, Molnar was the only Sydney staff member supporting modernist architecture – others, like Professor Wilkinson, were not supportive. He was born in Hungary and came to Australia in 1939. After the war, he began lecturing at the University of Sydney and drawing freelance cartoons for the Daily Telegraph; switching to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1954. This twin career continued until he retired in 1984 as Associate Professor. He received an OBE in 1971 and an AO in 1988 for services to journalism and architecture. Clive Lucas remembers (Architecture Bulletin 10.98 p19) that Molnar’s ‘lectures were a dream, the blackboard strewn with his wondrous cartoons. Except when in the Victoria Park pool in the briefest of briefs, he was always in a suit, bow tie, monocle and flowing academic gown, sweeping through our lives, opening new horizons and making pronouncements in his thick accent: ‘It matters not’, ‘It is a vulgar little thing, but I like it’, ‘You will make a terrible architect, I am going to fail you’.
—Johnson, Paul Alan and Susan Lorne Johnson. 199X Bryce Mortlock interview for the Architects of the Middle Third program. Sydney: University of NSW.
—Documents and obituaries archived by the NSW RAIA’s 20th Century Buildings Committee.

Kerr, Joan
Davina Jackson
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