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From Rippl-Rónai to Vajda – Modern Hungarian drawings from the Collection of the art historian György Gombosi (1900–1945)

- 4 December 2016 - 16 April 2017

 

Hungarian National Gallery, Cabinet of Prints and Drawings

 

The collection of modern Hungarian drawings once owned by György Gombosi was purchased from the art historian’s family in 2016 by the Museum of Fine Arts – Hungarian National Gallery. In recent decades, the Hungarian National Gallery has directed its collecting policy towards obtaining important collections of drawings assembled between the two world wars – these include parts of the collections of Rudolf Bedő and Béla Radnai, and the entire collection of Sándor Frankl. The acquisition of the Gombosi legacy is a major milestone in this process, and eighty pieces from his collection, which give a representative taste of Hungarian drawing in the first half of the twentieth century, will now be presented to the public at our exhibition, titled From Rippl-Rónai to Vajda.

György Gombosi (1904–1945) was one of twentieth-century Hungary’s most important art historians, who specialised mostly in the research of medieval and Renaissance Italian art. In 1934 he married the painter Judit Beck, daughter of the renowned sculptor Fülöp Ö. Beck. Gombosi now began to take a keen interest in contemporary art, and routinely attended the rich and varied exhibitions held in Budapest’s art galleries.

He frequently paid personal visits to the artists who were among his close circle of friends, and while they were talking they would show him their latest drafts and sketches, sometimes even specially made prints. Gombosi regularly bought such works in order to help out artists (or their heirs) who were living in hardship. At other times, the artists presented their works to him as gifts, occasionally even dedicating them personally to him.

Gombosi was a methodical collector. Almost every notable Hungarian artist from the turn of the century until the beginning of World War II is represented in his collection, and there is a great variety of genres and techniques among the drawings. Besides the specially made works, there is a predominance of studies, drafts and sketches, as well as preliminary drawings for larger compositions. In terms of subject matter, studies of nudes and other human figures constitute the majority, portraits and self-portraits are less numerous, while mixed compositions and landscape studies are relatively rare.

Prominent among the painters and printmakers whose works feature in his collection are Róbert Berény, Gyula Derkovits, István Dési Huber, Gyula Hincz, Károly Kernstok, János Kmetty, Vilmos Perlrott-Csaba, József Rippl-Rónai and Béla Uitz. A separate and particularly interesting group consists of sculpture drawings, selected partly from works by members of the Beck family, and supplemented with others by Dezső Bokros Birman, Béni Ferenczy, Ferenc Medgyessy and Márk Vedres, and – among the younger generation – Géza Csorba, István Gádor, László Mészáros, Erzsébet Schaár and Tibor Vilt.
In addition to striving for as complete a historical overview as possible, Gombosi was also at pains for his collection to exemplify how rich and varied the art of drawing can be. Instances of almost all the common drawn media can be found: pencil and penwork, charcoal and chalk, India ink and walnut stain brushwork, and even a few with watercolour highlights. György Gombosi also picked out certain works from his collection for publication, and these drawings, together with other items from similar important collections, were published in a volume in 1945, entitled (in Hungarian) New Hungarian Drawing: From Rippl-Rónai to the Eight.