GULÁCSY. The Prince of Na’Conxypan. The Art of Lajos Gulácsy (1882–1932)

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GULÁCSY. The Prince of Na’Conxypan. The Art of Lajos Gulácsy (1882–1932)

Hungarian National Gallery, building C - 7 April – 27 August 2023

The retrospective exhibition of Lajos Gulácsy, one of the most unique figures of twentieth-century Hungarian art, opens in the National Gallery from 6 April 2023. The large-scale show of some two hundred works, including eighty-four paintings, reveals the diversity of Gulácsy’s profound art by highlighting new contexts. Besides the many well-known masterpieces, visitors can view several recently identified works. His paintings, drawings, and illustrations are complemented by Gulácsy’s manuscripts, photographs taken of him and characteristic works by his contemporaries.

Lajos Gulácsy, a middle-class youth from Pest, traversed the entire history of art in his works: he was a Florentine knight from medieval times, a Venetian marquis, a flamboyant rococo dandy, an ascetic monk and a spiritualist magician, inventing new names for each of his imaginary journeys. Louis, Lodovico, Luigi Gulaxy, and the Prince of Na’Conxypan. He produced most of his oeuvre in Italy, where he returned several times after his first trip to Rome in 1902. Gulácsy pursued his studies in Venice and Florence, and he painted in Genoa, Chioggia, Como, and Bellagio, but also travelled to Paris in 1906. He wrote poems, short stories, art reviews and even a novel, and also designed stage sets for the Thália Society, advocating modern theatre.

Upon receiving news about the war, Gulácsy, a man with a fragile mind, had a nervous breakdown and, after a brief period of recuperation, he eventually needed permanent care from 1919 and was then a patient in a psychiatric hospital from 1924 until his death.

Gulácsy’s painting, distinguished by a peculiar character, evoking dreams, historical ambiances, and visions, was admired by many but, although he had several collectors, he spent his life amidst financial strain. “I live in this world half dreaming. With one eye, I stare into the illusion of sweet, mendacious phantasms; my other eye is always open to reality,” he wrote about himself. Our exhibition seeks to emphasise this dual character of Gulácsy’s oeuvre: one is represented by the world of dreams and ambiances, humorous, kind and silly beings of the country of his imagination, Na’Conxypan, and the other by subtle landscapes of a passionate observer of nature and drawings of simple figures of everyday life, attesting to the artist’s profound knowledge of the human soul.

Gulácsy was a child of his age not only through his dreams and historical nostalgia but also through his artistic erudition. His style bears the influence of the sensitivity of the Secession and the Pre-Raphaelites, the mystery of symbolism, and, at times, even the effortlessness of impressionism.

Our exhibition presents the many colours of Gulácsy’s oeuvre arranged in several sections, its connections with the art of the past and the present, and with his contemporaries. Gulácsy’s self-portraits, his home, Italy, and the artistic periods he evoked are shown in separate chapters, and so are his theatrical and literary connections, his illustrations, his drawings of Na’Conxypan, as well as the last period of his oeuvre with images of war that convey with dramatic force the artist’s ever-gloomier state of mind.

Curators of the exhibition: Edit Plesznivy, Gábor Bellák

Corporate Partner of the exhibition is Bartók Spring International Art Weeks
Main Sponsor: Szerencsejáték Zrt.
The Major Sponsor of the exhibitions is CIB Bank
Our Cooperating Partners are: Porsche Hungaria and Danubius Hotels

Highlights, curiosities

Dante’s Meeting with Beatrice, 1907

The medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri had an extraordinarily profound influence on the work of Lajos Gulácsy. Gulácsy painted several of the characters and stories familiar from Dante’s writing, and even painted himself in the guise of Dante. Mesmerised by the sight of his beloved Beatrice as she takes a walk, here Dante is in fact the artist Lajos Gulácsy himself. He too yearned for true love with equal devotion, although ultimately the woman of his dreams was to be found in his own imagination. Set against the golden greens and yellows of the landscape, Dante and Beatrice appear as two exclamation marks: their figures, one red and one white, form a contrast not only with the background but also with one another.

The City of Na'Conxypan on Mars, 1902

Gulácsy’s most idiosyncratic creation as both painter and writer was the city of Na’Conxypan. The inhabitants of the city, Butterdog Street, and Kepleensthol House included Prince Piripiri, the Crescent Moon Girl, Bam the dim-witted caretaker, and many others besides. The drawings in which the city’s inhabitants are brought to life are just as original as the stories of Na’Conxypan, which Gulácsy wrote with masterful linguistic ingenuity and humour. The first painting inspired by Na’Conxypan was produced in 1902. On the back of the picture, he wrote: “The City of Na'Conxypan on mars”. The title was placed inside quotation marks, and “mars” was written without a capital letter. This pastel is not only the first but also the largest of the Na’Conxypan paintings.

Return of the Pilgrims, 1908

Gulácsy exhibited this work in February 1909 in the National Salon, and again a year later at an exhibition of paintings on biblical themes at the Művészház, where he gave it the title “Return of the Pilgrims from the Land of Our Lord in the 13th Century”. Although Gulácsy intended the work as a biblical painting, it is rather an expression of moods and visions than an explicit narrative. Gulácsy preferred to see landscapes partly as the creation of nature, and partly as the world of humans and the setting for their activities. Rather than wild and primitive nature, he depicts gardens, mansions and monasteries on the hills among the trees, and a milling crowd of pilgrims. Gulácsy’s landscapes are permeated with an atmosphere of history, faith, ardour and asceticism, secrets and superstitions.

GULÁCSY. The Prince of Na’Conxypan. The Art of Lajos Gulácsy (1882–1932)

7 April – 27 August 2023

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