|Home -> Other California History Books -> A Brief Guide to the Palace of Fine Arts - Panama-Pacific International Expostion - Post Exposition Period - Chapter 9|
We draw freely upon the chapter on "The Art of Hungary," by Dr. Gyorgy Bölöni, in the Catalogue de Luxe, for material used in this chapter. No foreign section in the Exposition so completely represented the entire art history of its country as did the Hungarian. It contained types of every school and form of Hungarian painting. It also illustrated most completely the course of evolution, or perhaps devolution, in modern art.
As Dr. Bölöni says: "Hungarian art has not a long ancestry of centuries. The Hungarians have no cathedrals of Chartres and Rheims, they have no ancient masters such as the French possess in Fouquet and Clouet. The real serious Hungarian art is not much older than about fifty years. Through many centuries the Hungarians had to defend Europe against invaders instead of creating works of art. But they may be proud of the art produced in the short period of fifty or sixty years. Hungarian art as we may see here is the product of the nineteenth century, in other words, of our own day. In foreign countries people very often, even now, await something strange and exotic from Hungarians. Yet they have but few extravagances; in so far as there are any, they may be found in their paintings and sculptures.
"The land of Hungary is exceedingly diverse. It has great plains, hills and mountains. The sky here is a deeper blue than the Italian sky; masses of thick cumulous clouds float across it. This nature was the first thing reflected in Hungarian art. It is a colorful, bright art. The joy of life spreads over it, and even in its conception there is an exceptional dramatic vigor."
Although to Americans only the name of Munkacsy has been known in Hungarian art, it is apparent now that not only was he far from being the greatest of Hungarian painters, but also that he was celebrated abroad for the wrong things. It is now recognized that his pretentious, panoramic story-telling pictures are inferior to his many beautiful landscapes. The names of other Hungarian masters, such as László and Páal and Bertalan Szekely are bracketed with those of Munkacsy as progenitors of modern Hungarian art.
Many excellent portrait painters have been developed in Hungary, but it was and is, as Doctor Bölöni states, "in landscape painting that Hungarian art develops frankly, profoundly, and unreservedly." Among the prominent men who carried on the work of the earlier masters are Lajos Bruck and Károly Lotz.
As the same writer points out, modern art had not to struggle with so many difficulties in Hungary as in other countries, as in France and Germany, for example. Hungary had no old traditions, which were difficult to disturb, had no academicians, had no inherited national plastic traditions. Even so, however, it seems that in Hungary as elsewhere the path of the initiator is a thorny one. Pal de Szinnyci-Merse, who discovered the principles of impressionism at the same time as Claude Monet in France, was so adversely criticized that for many years he gave up painting. Later on he took up his art again, for an understanding of his work had been developed. Such artists as Károly Ferenczy, Béla Ivanyi-Grünwald, István Csók, among many others, made impressionism familiar to the public. Adolf Fényes and Józzef Rippl-Rónai dealt with convincing power and artistic beauty with the natural aspects of Hungarian country life. The next important name, one which marks a new development, is Károly Kernstock. He marks the emphasis placed upon modern art by problems of form. After him came the newest contemporary group, in whom every fluctuating phase of turbulent modern thought is reflected. Bertalan Pór, with his monumental designs, is one of the leaders of this group. Robert Berény, whose art is marked by an extraordinarily original use of color, is another. With this group we reach the most expressive phase of contemporary Hungarian art, which is not isolated, and seeks intercommunion with the most vigorous form of art developed elsewhere.
Room No. 2
In this gallery are placed a representative collection of Austrian Graphics and the paintings of all Austrian artist of the ultra-modern mode, Oskar Kokoschka These are portraits, in which the effort is made to express the dominant character of the sitter without any regard to ordinary ideas of charm or beauty. Kokoschka is taken with great seriousness by those interested in the development of modern art, however strange and repellent the work may seem to those uninitiated in the exotic tendencies of the newest movements.
Room No. 3
In this gallery are placed the works of several representatives of the ultra-modern group of Hungarians. Károly Kernstock is the leading figure. Influenced by Césanne and Matisse his appearance in Hungarian art has been characterized as "a warning to modern painters not to fall into profligacy in pursuit of impressionism." He represents the evolution of important problems of form, and Hungarian critics consider it to be truly native; "simple, dry and taciturn as the thoughts of the Hungarian peasant."
Róbert Berény is also amply represented in this group. He is a member of the most advanced group, and the distinguishing feature of his art is a very singular expression of psychic interest by means of a very personal composition and interweaving of colors.
Lajos Tihanyi is a third leader of this group who is well represented in this room.
Room No. 4
This large gallery includes the room with the dome, and its surrounding alcoves.
Taking the domed portion of the gallery first, the most important artist is József Rippl-Rónai, whose work occupies the wall, the center of which shows a vividly-executed picture of a Hungarian room, a table covered with a red cloth. "Rippl-Rónai's art is a picture book of a great artist's life," says Dr. Bölöni. "Its contents is always the same . . . quiet Hungarian country life is reflected in it. At times we sit in a peaceful room with a bottle of wine and we look out on the multi-colored field, and then we walk in a rich, cheerful country; one day a pig is slaughtered, another day we take a walk along the seashore, and once more we are back in the studio, where a thin gypsy girl is playing the guitar. Rippl-Rónai animates with life objects and their surroundings."
The work of Istvan Csók may be seen on a near-by wall. A very attractive painting of peasant girls in an arbor will draw your attention to his work. He was a leading member of what was termed the "Nagybanya School." Nagybanya is a little town in Hungary with beautiful surroundings, and is termed the "Hungarian Barbizon." Here a number of artists broke the bonds of academicism and introduced the principles of plein air and impressionism.
Another leader among these modern but not revolutionary artists is Yános Vaszary, five of whose pictures, illustrating as many phases of his development, hang on both sides of the doorway leading into Gallery No. 6.
Near this group is the large painting of a Carpathian mountain winter scene, by Baron Mednyánszki, flanked by a Lajoz Mark interior, to the left, and to the right by a garden scene by Sandor Ziffer.
The next wall, as you continue moving to the right, shows the work of Baron Hatbany and Lajos Mark The large portrait in the center by Lajos Mark, a fine specimen of his well-characterized and beautifully-painted portrait work, has for its subject a sister of J. Nilsen Laurvik, the Fine Arts Commissioner for Norway.
Room No. 4
In the alcove at the far end of the building the work of several important modern men is displayed. Those of most consequence are the following; Ivanye Grünwald, Adolf Fenyés (the Hungarian kitchen table forms the subject of his still-life picture) and Lándor Katona.
The decorative work of Körösföi-Kriesch, an artist for whom the chief force of painting consists in its symbolical presentment of abstract ideas, and Count Bátthányi, who is represented by many characteristic paintings and drawings.
Ferenc Lipóth, an artist who has invented a new form of work which he calls "color marble," represented by a head of Christ, and a Madonna; and the work of Pal Javor, represented by pictures of a Hungarian church interior, and a home altar, are the chief features in the next alcove.
Room No. 5
In this gallery is placed the work of the contemporary painters of Hungary who represent the academical school. The outstanding men are Geza, Vastagh, and Edvi-Illés, both being notable cattle painters, and Magyar-Mannhceimer, Oszkár Glatz, and Miksa Bruck.
Room No. 7
This room contains the decorations of Bertalan Pór. The largest was done for a new theatre in Budapest. The one on the end wall, which is entitled "Worship of Wisdom," was done for a club in the same city. The large painting facing it is a portrait group of the artist's family. These decorations are monumental in their character and do not have sufficient space for their proper appreciation, as they require to be viewed from a considerable distance. This room also contains two symbolical panels by Körösföi-Kriesch, entitled "Joy" and "Fear."
Rooms Nos. 8 and 9
Room No. 8 contains an exhibition of Hungarian graphics and sculpture; Room No. 9 shows the drawings of Uitz, and decorative embroideries by Berény.
Room No. 10
This gallery contains a very interesting collection of a retrospective character, together with work of certain contemporary artists who derive from the pioneers of Hungarian art. The most important of these men are Mihály Munkácsy, Lázló Páal, Lajos Bruck, Károly Lotz, Miklós Barabas and Szinnyei-Merse.