Art in the 19th Century

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Art in the 19th Century

The re-organised permanent exhibition showcasing Hungarian fine art from 1810 to 1900 is displayed in the most impressive halls on the first floor of the Gallery. Visitors can again admire the well-known masterpieces at the new exhibition comprising some 150 paintings, 40 sculptures, 40 medals, and 33 applied art objects. Works are arranged according to new principles and in a different selection; one third of the exhibited objects had been previously visible on rare occasions.


The nineteenth century is distinguished by the birth of national art and the emergence of the most important institutions of art, including museums, the academy, exhibitions, art prizes, as well as art criticism and art press. István Ferenczy’s Shepherdess, Pál Szinyei Merse’s Picnic in May, Miklós Izsó’s Woeful Shepherd, or Miklós Barabás’s Romanian Family Going to the Fair have virtually become iconic works of Hungarian national art and indelible examples of the collective Hungarian pictorial memory.

The reorganized exhibition consisting of 14 sections, arranged in chronological (Hungarian art at the beginning of the nineteenth century; The nation and art), stylistical (Biedermeier; Enchanted by the Orient; In the open air, Naturalism), thematic (The heroism of modern life, In the lands of Italy, Exoticism and eroticism) and genre-based (From nature to landscape; The golden age of the portrait) units. A section devoted to cultural and institutional history, titled The Scenes of Culture, will occupy the middle hall, and will be an exciting novelty of the show. It provides an overview of the art institutions that were established in Hungary in the nineteenth century and enabled the development of art life. The sections contain units focusing on a prominent master (for example, István Ferenczy, Károly Markó, Miklós Izsó, Miklós Barabás, Bertalan Székely, Károly Lotz, Pál Szinyei Merse, Alajos Stróbl).

Besides the paintings, sculptures and medals, the rearranged exhibition also displays furniture and ceramic objects, originating from the collections of the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest and the Anna Zádor Foundation, among others. The period interiors purport to evoke the characteristic milieu of the era.

In the sections opening from the dome hall, two significant groups of artworks can be found. First, works of national romanticism, the idea dominant in nineteenth-century Hungarian painting: beside the Women of Eger by Bertalan Székely, The Mourning of László Hunyadi by Viktor Madarász, or The Baptism of Vajk by Gyula Benczúr, the most outstanding historical paintings by Viktor Madarász, Sándor Liezen-Mayer, Bertalan Székely and Gyula Benczúr are exhibited. Secondly, visitors can see representative artworks of plein-air naturalism, i.e. the beginning of modernism: paintings by Simon Hollósy, István Csók, Béla Iványi Grünwald, and Károly Ferenczy, all active in Munich and Nagybánya (Baia Mare) at the end of the century.

Veszprémi Nóra
Zwickl András

Curators of the exhibition:
Orsolya Hessky
Réka Krasznai
Dorottya Gulyás (Sculpture)
Gábor Tokai (Medal)

Highlights, curiosities

Pál Szinyei Merse: Lady in Violet, 1874

This early masterpiece by Pál Szinyei Merse is a depiction of the artist’s wife, Zsófia Probstner, in the garden of their mansion in Jernye. The couple got married in 1873, after Szinyei painted the chief work of his oeuvre: Picnic in May. Lady in Violet is built on the complementary colour pair of violet and yellow, and green. It is interesting that unlike in Picnic in May, in this picture Szinyei virtually does not use any red, as it only appears in a tiny spot on the woman’s lips, and in the signature of a calligraphic quality, making the latter conspicuous.

Antal Ligeti: Visegrád, 1854

The ruins of the castle of Visegrád, proclaiming the medieval grandeur of the Kingdom of Hungary, became a popular theme among Romantic landscape artists in the early 19th century. Antal Ligeti painted the castle hill and the Danube behind it from an unusual perspective, enlivening the blue of the river and the sky after the storm with dynamic forms and vivid colours. The historic ruins are thus made a natural part of the painterly landscape depiction.

Bertalan Székely: Women of Eger, 1867

In his monumental historical painting, Bertalan Székely virtually elevated the story of the women of Eger into a national ‘devotional’ image. When Eger was besieged by a seventy- thousand-strong Ottoman army on 29 September 1552, the castle only had two thousand defenders, among them many women and children, yet they managed to repulse the enemy. The role of women in this siege was highlighted by 19th-century historian Mihály Horváth in one of his publications. Székely captured the climax of the drama unfolding during the uneven struggle against the Ottomans.

Art in the 19th Century

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