He studied at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts from 1886. He won a scholarship to Paris in 1894, where he trained at the Julian Academy, later making an Italian study tour. He settled in his place of birth, Hódmezővásárhely in 1898, and became the motor of cultural life in "peasant Paris" in the early years of the century. Along with his friends he founded a journal dealing with cultural politics and the arts in 1910. In 1910 they established a an industrial colony for the production of majolika and ceramic goods, collecting the relics of folk art in the Lowlands and organised exhibitions. Tornyai took part in the organisation of the Mukácsy Guild, and was elected a member of KÉVE, KUT, UME and eventually, after he had begun working there, the Society of Szentendre Painters as well. His work as a cultural manager was continued by the Tornyai Society established in 1934.
Bibliography: Faragó, Sándor: Tornyai, Hódmezővásárhely, Tornyai Társaság, 1934. o Bodnár, Éva: Tornyai János 1869-1936, (Magyar Mesterek), Budapest, Képzőművészeti Alap, 1956. o Tornyai János művészete, ed. Kampis Antal, (Művészettörténeti Dokumentációs Központ Közleményei, 1), Budapest, MKPI, 1962. o Bodnár, Éva: Az újra felfedezett Tornyai, Budapest, Gondolat, 1986.
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