The Kiss of the Sphinx
Department of Art after 1800
The reunification of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery has resulted in some major changes and challenges for the Collection of International Art after 1800.
One of the most fundamental adjustments is that the collection is moving out of the recently renovated building of the Museum of Fine Arts, which now serves as the home of art from antiquity until the year 1800. In 2021, as the first of many steps in a process expected to last several years, around 2400 works of international art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as contemporary pieces, have been be transferred to the National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre, a new facility constructed as part of the Liget Budapest Project. Eventually, these international works will join up with Hungarian art from the same period (presently housed in the Hungarian National Gallery), and will eventually go on permanent display in the New National Gallery.
In the meantime, our temporary exhibition ensures that some of the finest pieces in the collection can still be enjoyed by the public. When deciding which works to display, it was important for us not only to include the best-loved pieces from the last two hundred years or so, but also to treat our visitors to a few novelties. Our recent acquisitions, newly restored works, and some rarely seen items all showcase the rich variety of our collection, and demonstrate the dynamism in our activities.
The exhibition consists of two distinct chronological units, owing to the fact that the task of collecting international modern and contemporary art was interrupted several times in the history of the Museum of Fine Arts; the twin focus of the exhibition also reveals some substantial gaps that occurred during the twentieth century.
The nineteenth-century rooms encompass art from late romanticism through to symbolism. Paintings by some of the greatest exponents of the French impressionist era can be seen alongside works by Austrian, German, Belgian, and Scandinavian artists, building up a complex and nuanced overview of the European art of the period.
The twentieth-century and contemporary sections are organised around a variety of trends and artistic problems: some of the most important movements in modern international art (kinetic Art, op art, geometric abstraction) are represented with pieces by major artists. We have also placed particular emphasis on acquisitions made in the last few years by including works which illustrate the main directions in which the collection is expanding and developing.
Between these two units, functioning both as a physical divider and as a spiritual link, we have located a separate cabinet, which is regularly host to different dossier exhibitions examining various aspects of the collection, as well as the connections between “old and new” art.
Among the three paintings by Monet in the Budapest collection, Plum Trees in Blossom is the one that most completely bears the distinctive hallmarks of impressionism. His beloved wife fell ill at the end of a very long and cold winter, but when spring arrived in full flower, Monet was still able to work in relative serenity.