Laci de Gerenday came to the United States as an infant. Born on August 17, 1911, in Budapest, he was the son of László Gerenday, a Protestant clergyman. Not long after being ordained, the Reverend Gerenday joined the French Foreign Legion as a chaplain. Drawing upon his adventures in North Africa he authored several popular books upon returning to Hungary. In 1914 (or 1912, there is a discrepancy in different records) the family moved to the United States. The Reverend Gerenday held pastorates at several places, including New York City's First Hungarian Reformed Church on 69th Street in Manhattan.
Young Laci was educated at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Ursinus College, Srivenham University in England, National Academy of Design, and the Beaux Arts Institute of New York.
During his long and prolific career he created a multitude of highly esteemed works of art. One of the best known is the carved wood wall sculpture depicting the founding of the town of Grand Crossing, now reposing in the Federal Building in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Another outstanding work is the large bronze relief for St. Francis of Assissi School in Torrington, Connecticut. He executed a vast array of portraits and medals, including a gold medal in behalf of the Society of Electrical Engineers in 1960. Although at ease with different materials, his preferred media were wood and bronze.
In 1939 de Gerenday married Mary Ellen Lord and they had a daughter named Lynn. Their union endured until Mary's death in 1976. During World War II he served as a combat engineer for three years and was decorated on several occasions.
Like most other artists, de Gerenday was a member of several professional associations, among them the National Sculpture Society and Allied Artists of America. The quality and originality of his works were recognized by a multitude of awards, including the Lindsey Morris Memorial prize (a detailed list of the honors and awards bestowed on him appear in editions of Who's Who in America).
Joining the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Connecticut, he served on the faculty as a teacher for 22 years. The school was founded by fellow artist Elizabeth Gordon Chandler whom he had known for a long time as a fellow member of the National Sculpture Society. She was also widowed and the two of them quickly found friendship growing into love. They were married in 1979. Working closely together, they transformed the small academy into a nationally recognized degree-granting college of fine arts.
Laci never became as famous as he should have been based on his professional reputation. According to his wife, he never cared whether his work sold or not and chose not to be represented by any galleries. Some of his work was stolen and most of his early work was destroyed when his studio burned.
De Gerenday lived a long and fruitful life, passing away at the age of 89. In his obituary in the Hartford Courant, June 19, 2001, Henry Putsch, president of the Lyme Academy, refered to him as "one of the most significant figurative sculptors of the 20th century."
Mostly from the Vasvary Collection Newsletter 2009/1 (41) and materials from the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. Special thaks to the Academy's Loree Bourgoin, Sue Joffray, and Diana Atwood Johnson who were incredibly helpful and gave me most of the material shown here.