Hungarian Artists in Munich, 1850–1914

- 1 October 2009 – 10 January 2010


The exhibition Hungarian Artists in Munich, 1850–1914, to be held at the Hungarian National Gallery from October 1, 2009 to January 10, 2010, will illuminate a hitherto unexplored aspect of Hungarian painting in the second half of the 19th century. While it is common knowledge among art historians that in those days virtually every young Hungarian artist went to study in Munich in the absence of an art academy at home, the actual influence on artists of the Academy and of the city as an international centre of art remains largely unassessed. The exhibition will be an attempt to highlight distinctive features in the development of late 19th century art indisputably traceable to what Hungarian artists had learned at the Bavarian metropolis, playing a direct role in the emergence of the movement centred at Nagybánya (today Baia Mare, Romania) and, consequently, that of modern Hungarian painting.

The Hungarian artists who went to study in Munich in the second half of the 19th century belonged to various generations. From the late 1850s, history painting was the genre that had the greatest influence on the style of our artists; three of the most well known Hungarian painters, namely, Sándor Wagner, Sándor Liezen-Mayer and Gyula Benczúr did, in fact, hold teaching positions at the Munich Academy, but one might also mention here the name of Bertalan Székely. Then the period between the end of the 1860s and the early 1880s was marked by a realism originating from Paris yet bearing the particular marks of Munich, represented by artists who had studied in the Bavarian capital such as Ottó Baditz, Gyula Aggházy, or even Mihály Munkácsy and László Mednyánszky. An especially large number of Hungarian artists frequented Munich in the 1880s. Following Simon Hollósy’s emergence, the young artists gathered around him worked in the spirit of “delicate naturalism”, another style with French beginnings. By the mid-1890s, this circle had given rise to the association of artists who – headed by Hollósy, István Réti, János Thorma, and Károly Ferenczy – in 1896 settled in Nagybánya to start modern Hungarian art right there. That did not however mean that no more Hungarian artists would come to Munich after that; both at the Academy and at the shows of a growing number of private galleries, the presence of Hungarians remained uninterrupted until the outbreak of the First World War.

Over the last two decades the role of the Munich Academy and of the city as an art centre has come to the foreground in the work of art historians in Middle East European countries. Neighbouring countries (Poland, Croatia, Greece etc) organise exhibition after exhibition in an attempt to investigate common roots and reveal the changes that took place in each country’s painting at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The changes are almost without exception traced back to Munich, or to influences encountered there. The topicality of the issue was also enhanced by a grand exhibition, and the impressive accompanying catalogue, commemorating in 2008 the second centenary of the foundation of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Hungarian art, represented by nine works on loan from the Hungarian National Gallery, was featured as one of the largest national sections at the show.

Our exhibition will feature several key works loaned from various museums in France and Germany as well as a large part of the uniquely rich 19th century German collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. The works on display will provide a means to compare the trends in Hungarian art to contemporary European tendencies; in addition, viewers will not only have the opportunity to see works of already well known excellent artists, but light will also be shed on other excellent masters whose oeuvre requires the context of Munich to be truly comprehended.

Viewers of the exhibition will obtain an insight into the methods of instruction at the Academy, get a glimpse at minute details of strict academic requirements, and will be able to assess the draughtsmanship of individual artists.

Curators of the exhibition: Zsuzsanna Bakó, Orsolya Hessky, Enikő Róka

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