The father of Herend's animal figures.
The designer from Transylvania and his animal figures.
János Tóth is tied to the place by a thousand strands, having spent the best part of his life there. There he founded a family and familiarised himself with porcelain, which was to become his destiny.
He was born in 1915, in Erzsébetváros (Dumbraveni) on the banks of the Kis-Küküllő in Transylvania, in a magnificent land where man and nature are as one. The children in his family set store by pencil stubs or scraps of paper.
Everyone drew and painted. Perhaps the first to notice his talent was the painter he became apprenticed to, who had him mix the "finest grey". He went off painting with his elder brother, restoring churches, carving wood, and planning the future.
In 1941, he was sent to Herend, with the declared intention of using his experience later at the Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) porcelain factory.
Herend people came to appreciate him, while he found the Bakony Hills a substitute for his native mountains. Porcelain was unknown to him as a material and an art form, as his ambitions had focused on large open-air sculptures and great blocks of marble or stone.
The challenge, as it became, was enormous - just the consolation and opportunity he needed. He learnt every stage of porcelain making for his own satisfaction, his industry and willpower taking him up the ladder, step by step. Meanwhile he won the support of older masters and learnt from them secrets of the trade.
His first successes came with figures of Toldi and the Horse-herd (Who's the Lad of Hortobágy?), which earned him praise and a livelihood.
Later, he would spend hours and days at the zoo, in front of a cage, observing every movement of a favoured subject, or have a lizard or an eagle at home as a guest.
He managed to train a dog to cohabit with a dove and a cat with a rabbit. Ladybirds, songbirds, horses, tree frogs or lizards all have their beauty and charm. People and animals seem to understand each other, because János Tóth, Herend's most successful animal sculptor, saw them not only with his eyes and shaped them not only with his hands, but put his heart into each figure as he brought them to life.