“The creative mastermind” – The history of a cult image

- 19 October 2017 - 18 February 2018


19 October 2017 – 18 February 2018

The Museum of Fine Arts – Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest is holding a memorial exhibition to mark the centenary of the death of Viktor Madarász (1830–1917), a leading exponent of Hungarian history painting. The cabinet exhibitionis based on previously unpublished research recently conducted in the archives of Paris; the results shed new light on a masterpiece of this important painter, and allow us to present it within the context of his most productive, Parisian period.


Madarász painted the Mourning of László Hunyadi in Paris in 1859, and when he exhibited it at the Pest Art Society in Hungary, it brought him immediate acclaim: one critic praised him as a “creative mastermind”. Two years later, the work reaped similar success abroad, when it was awarded a medal by the jury of the Salon de Paris. This masterpiece, painted in the “spirit of French Romanticism”, is not only the most emblematic work of Madarász but also a high point in Hungarian history painting. This “Hungarian Pietà” depicts one chapter in the story of the nation’s “Passion” and played an important role in strengthening the national consciousness in the nineteenth century. The exhibition explores this painting based on recent results of research, touching on the role of Hungarian history painting during the period of neo-absolutist rule and the successes achieved by Hungary’s artists at the Salon de Paris. The show also presents a variety of textual and pictorial representations (sketches, reductions and reproductive prints) of the Mourning of László Hunyadi, which contributed to the painting’s elevation to national cult status and made it a virtually iconic image known by every Hungarian. After many years, the painting has now been restored to its original dramatic splendour.

Further highlights of the exhibition include a painting also representing a lamentation (Briseis Mourning Patroclus) by Léon Cogniet, the master of Viktor Madarász in Paris, kindly loaned by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Orléans. The medal that Madarász was awarded in Paris is now on show for the first time at the Hungarian National Gallery, alongside the paintings that brought the artist his well-earned recognition.

The exhibition is curated by: Réka Krasznai

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