Often we learn a lot from artists who never made the big time. They're the ones who hover in the shadows of the Great Ones, sometimes knowing them, working alongside or studying with them and almost always under their influence. • So it is with Tibor Pataky (1901-78), who moved from his native Hungary and the vibrant city of Budapest in 1931 for love of a woman. They settled where she lived, among the orange groves of Central Florida, and there he made the best of things, both teaching at Florida Southern College (while pursuing a master's degree) and translating his colorful folk-inspired figurative style into paintings that reflected American regionalist school as seen from a Florida perspective. • Pataky (pronounced PAT-a-key) did a 180-degree turn in the mid 20th century when he came under the spell of abstract expressionism. He spent six summers studying in Massachusetts with Hans Hofmann, one of the premier artists and teachers in that movement. • The Polk Museum of Art presents 400 drawings (including No. 9, 1957, charcoal and graphite on paper, shown) and eight paintings, most from this later period and the majority from the collection of Florida Southern College, in which we see a noble and fervent immersion. Pataky would frequently write Hofmann's critiques on the back of the works, which are reproduced in the wall labels. • Also on view at the museum is "Polk County Collects," art from local private collections. • The museum, 800 E Palmetto St., Lakeland, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors and free for children and students with ID. Free admission from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday. Visit polkmuseumofart.org or call (863) 688-7743 for more information.
Lennie Bennett, Times art critic