Budapest: Art’s Home Is Its Castle

Buda Castle

Buda Castle

Before I leave for a gluttonous trip to Budapest for a week (too short, I know) I wanted to research a few of Hungary’s more well-known artists of the past century. I was starstruck!

If a culture’s level of art appreciation is correlated with the architectural importance of the building in which its art is housed, Budapest must be madly in love with its art. The Hungarian National Gallery (HNG) is housed in Buda Castle — the historical castle of the Hungarian kings in Budapest — first completed in 1265. It’s undergone some rough times: during the siege of Budapest in 1945, it was the last major strongpoint of Budapest held by Axis forces, and artillery fire rendered the palace to ruins. It was subsequently rebuilt, and in 1959 the HNG moved in.

Currently on exhibit this summer is The “Művészház” 1909-1914. The exhibit tells the story of the turn-of-the-century organization of artists in Budapest called the Artists’ House (“Művészház”) which organized significant exhibitions of Hungarian and international modern artists, including classic Hungarian painting, impressionist works held by private collectors, and recent works by French, German, Japanese, and Hungarian artists (Austrian artists included Klimt). The organization introduced young artists by organizing jury-free exhibitions which provided an opportunity to artists rejected by other institutions. The Artists’ House also published a magazine and established a free art school.

The HNG features in its permanent collection many prominent Hungarian artists, including Margit Anna (1913 – 1991). Anna’s life tells an interesting story, perhaps one similarly embedded in the cultural fabric of the Hungarian people. In 1937, on a trip to Paris with her husband, Imre Amos (also a painter), she met Chagall and his influence became evident in her early work. After her husband died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944, Anna’s style became harsher and more elemental and a new motif appeared in her pictures: puppets symbolizing man exposed to history. After 1949, she stopped producing work for awhile, eventually starting to paint again in the 1960s. Her works at that point symbolized suppressed tragedy, with surreal metamorphoses of the puppet motif.

Margit Anna "The Thinker"
Margit Anna “The Thinker”

Meet you here with some (hopefully) magical stories when I get back! 


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