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21 September 2019

Pál Szinyei Merse: European Spirit – Hungarian Soul – On the Impressions of the Pál Szinyei Merse


An art exhibition of national importance, Impressions of Pál Szinyei Merse (1845–1920), opened on 17 May in Kaposvár, the seat of Somogy County, Western Hungary. The city is increasingly well-known for its cultural life, art college, theatre and music scene. This is principally due to the cultural significance of the painter József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927), a native of the city who, after a fruitful 15 years in Paris and with an acclaimed oeuvre, returned home to Kaposvár in 1902. Today’s Kaposvár Local Council provides a great deal of support for the city’s cultural scene, and was more than happy to help create the opportunity for a long-overdue exhibition of the life’s work of the Hungarian painting prodigy Pál Szinyei Merse, who was highly regarded by Rippl-Rónai, to mark the approaching 175th anniversary of the master’s birth, and the centenary of his death.

The exhibition’s curator is Dr Melinda Géger, chief curator and art historian at the local Rippl-Rónai Museum. However, since her own field of research focuses more on the 20th-century and contemporary art that came after Szinyei Merse, she invited Dr Anna Szinyei Merse, one of the leading Hungarian experts on 19th-century Hungarian and European painting – and the artist’s great-granddaughter – to assist as an expert adviser to the exhibition. Anna Szinyei Merse was chief curator at the Hungarian National Gallery for 35 years, and through her numerous research papers, and as the curator and catalogue writer of countless exhibitions in Hungary and abroad, she has presented the very best of realist and impressionist art to audiences in Hungarian and several other languages.1 Indeed, she organised the most complete Rippl-Rónai exhibition in France to date, in the museum housed in the former home of fellow Nabi Maurice Denis.2 The large-scale exhibition of Pál Szinyei Merse’s oeuvre, held in Buda Castle, Budapest, in 1990, is also a testament to her work.3 Following the publication of a comprehensive volume of documents relating to Szinyei Merse, a highly detailed monograph on the artist’s entire oeuvre, and its significance in Hungary and Europe, was also published for the exhibition.4 These two definitive works formed the basis for the movie director Iván Lakatos’s documentary After the Picnic in May. This film, which is broadcast by cultural television stations over the country from time to time, is also played continuously in the lobby of the Kaposvár exhibition, to help visitors gain a deeper understanding of Szinyei Merse’s art and life.

Anna Szinyei Merse continues tirelessly to research and analyse in detail the undiscovered works in the Szinyei Merse oeuvre and the history of this ancient family from the former “Felvidék” (Highland) region of Hungary that is now part of Slovakia. Before being invited to take part in the Kaposvár project, she had been asked to create a Pál Szinyei Merse exhibition in one of Eastern Hungary’s most important public collections, the András Jósa Museum in Nyíregyháza, so she was happy to take part in the exhibition to the west of the Danube, so as to ensure that the two events were coordinated according to the highest professional standards.

And that is no easy task in the case of Szinyei Merse’s oeuvre. After jointly selecting the artworks for the two exhibitions, the numerous pieces, some difficult-to-obtain privately owned Szinyei Merse pictures, others coming from public collections, were ordered chronologically and according to style and theme, resulting in an exhibition that is both accessible and enjoyable for any audience. At the same time, the organisers successfully excluded all forgeries, a high number of which are in circulation both at home and abroad.

Much to the artist’s annoyance, Szinyei Merse’s works were already being forged during his lifetime, and after his death the number of pictures that forgers attempted to add to his valuable, relatively small oeuvre barely over 250 pictures multiplied. Sadly, it continues to do so to this day. For half a century, Anna has battled heroically against the dilution of the authenticated, genuine oeuvre, and against the recognition of poor quality, fake works that do not belong in it. She has also weeded the descriptions of the artist’s life and work, for the advertisements and catalogue of the exhibition, so that they correct the advertisements information that has regrettably spread via the internet and ensure that interested readers are always properly informed. The informative posters displayed at the beginning of the exhibition also mention some important works that could not be obtained on loan. Some of these are on show now in permanent or other temporary exhibitions, while the owners of certain privately-owned paintings did not agree to loan them out. Besides these, there exist a few important photographs of Szinyei Merse pictures from the artist’s best period, which were sold by the artist himself to art dealers in Munich between 1869 and 1873, soon after they were completed.

Of these, both versions of Mother with Her Children have been found in America, and since then the earlier of these two has also been exhibited in Budapest. The painting with a distinctly French character entitled Szinye or Bathing Hut which won a bronze medal at the 1873 Vienna World Exhibition, however, lurk undiscovered somewhere abroad to this day. It is worth making a concerted effort to find these masterpieces, which is why they are featured in the catalogue. To help with the search, we too are publishing photographs of these paintings in the hope that the originals may be found more easily this way.

As a result of the above efforts, this dual exhibition held at opposite ends of the country, has become an event of true national importance. The study “Szinyei’s Present Times” by György Szücs, Deputy General Director of the Museum of Fine Art, which is included in the catalogue, also contributes to the scholary achievement of the exhibition. It analyses how Szinyei Merse’s art was received over the various eras of modern art, including an examination of the way our 21st-century contemporaries relate to the master’s works.

The title of the catalogue and the two Hungarian exhibitions held in 2019 is Impressions of Pál Szinyei Merse, as they set out to highlight the impressions that defined and shaped the painter’s epoch-making art throughout his career. In other words, the completely original observation, and depiction in fresh, light colours, of the created world, particularly the colours and light of natural scenes. The cavalcade of colours creating forms in the bright sunlight filled the artist’s serene and affectionate soul with such wonder that, submitting to an irresistible impulse and with his God-given artistic talent, he joyfully devoted his life to this experience, making use of the new painting techniques that he discovered by himself. Nothing, not even the incomprehension and mocking of his fellow painters and the critics, could divert him from this calling. Even during his occasional periods of doubt and uncertainty, he believed strongly in the truth of his endeavours, regardless of whether or not his efforts were recognised.

Pál Szinyei Merse gained most of these formative impressions in his birthplace in Northern Hungary, on the Jernye family estate in what was then the Hungarian county of Sáros. After completing his studies, he built his own manor house there, relatively far away from the ancient family mansion, and surrounded it with a floral garden and small farm. The main message of the exhibition, therefore, is that Szinyei Merse did NOT receive the impetus for his plein-air and impressionist painting style from the then still unknown contemporary French impressionists, or from his good friend Wilhelm Leibl, who painted in a style different to his (and incidentally painted an excellent portrait of him in 1869, before he left the Piloty School). From the famous Realist painter Gustave Courbet, who featured in the 1869 Munich exhibition, he could have received nothing more than encouragement, because the impulse had already been born, independently and uniquely, within the artist’s own joyful soul.

The 90 pictures on display at the exhibition arrived in Kaposvár from museums in Budapest and the provinces, as well as private collections and commercial galleries. The venue of the exhibition was the Vaszary Gallery, founded in 2011, a modern building making up a part of Kaposvár’s new Cultural Centre. The contemporary setting reinforced the exhibition’s message that the art of this Hungarian master, who died almost 100 years ago, remains relevant to this day, and that his uncompromising personality, his sense of calling and love of his homeland are still exemplary qualities. It is no coincidence that István Genthon (1903–1969), a leading figure in the Hungarian art scene of the interwar period and director-in-chief of the Museum of Fine Arts, pointed out in 1935 that Pál Szinyei Merse’s art “gained its relevance not by being quick to adopt the latest foreign techniques, but by elevating itself to great heights without any helping hands”.5

The dual exhibition places particular emphasis on the autonomous evolution of the artist’s work, which is an important part of Europe’s artistic heritage, and on his early works that are the roots of these endeavours. The exhibition kicks off with the highly realistic Still Life with Vegetables, painted while Szinyei Merse was still at grammar school, and with the compositions created at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich between 1864 and 1867. These encompass the main themes featuring in the academy syllabus at the time: still life, portrait, situations, literary, historical, biblical and mythical subjects. The seeds of the young Szinyei Merse’s individual artistic efforts, his equally intense enchantment with the human sphere and its environment, especially the natural world, are already detectable in these works.

His artistic development can also be traced through the portraits. In the years 1866–1868, depicting the inner spirit of his subjects took on an increasingly prominent role not only on his studies of heads made at the Munich academy, but also back home on the realistic portraits of his siblings and later his father. He achieved this through the innovative, original use of delicate colour tones, sometimes with an almost impressionistic ease, and at others an unusually rich palette of realist techniques, whichever was best suited to the personalities of his models, such as his younger brothers. The figure of his brother László, pictured in Hungarian ceremonial dress with a plume of heron’s feathers in his cap in 1868, for example, is formed by sheens of red, white and blue. In contrast to this, in the later classically beautiful portraits of his father and sister, he is capable of using their seriousness and restraint to evoke the emotional depth of his beloved family members. A decade later in 1879–1880, when in the solitude of village life he returned to portraiture, painting himself as well as his wife, he was able to condense additional depths of meaning into his art. The works gathered together at the Kaposvár exhibition included many examples of all these periods. In addition to the handful of well-known, sometimes perhaps over-cited works, the rarely seen paintings hidden away in private collections and coaxed out of museum storerooms finally offer an insight into the true richness and variety of the oeuvre.

Returning to the earliest works, visitors to the exhibition may also notice that, right from the start of his career, Szinyei Merse was far removed from the theatricality of academic, novelistic elements and even the excessive emotionality of Romanticism. The association with Böcklin and mythological themes, so eagerly emphasised by Hungarian art historians in recent years, is dwarfed by Szinyei Merse’s modern mode of painting, as there are only ten pictures with this kind of subject. He chose such themes occasionally, because they allowed him to compose his mythological scenes in a natural environment, making it easier for him to avoid the historical subjects which, although compulsory at the Munich academy, were alien to him. From very early on, Szinyei Merse drew inspiration for the subjects of his pictures, embedded in natural surroundings (Lovers, Hollyhock, Swing, Clothes Drying, On a Garden Bench), from everyday, simple, joyful events, and he remained faithful to this throughout his life. The few figures featured in his landscapes are shown in everyday attire, and they are far less active than the characters seen in the works of his contemporaries. For him it was important to show a transcendental form of joy; this is what compels him to depict the landscape as increasingly sun-drenched. In his pictures, in the glare of the beating sun, the forms become more and more dissolved and washed out, but they retain their ability to give a sense of the third dimension. The familial interest in contemporary French impressionist painters is a sign of Pál Szinyei Merse’s European spirit, but his art evolved independently of them. The plein-air style of painting, in which the air itself has a role in the forming and shaping of colours, was something that he discovered for himself and used before the Munich debut of the Barbizon school and Courbet in 1869, without having seen any works created in the same vein. One of the comments in the exhibition guide and on the showroom walls explains this as follows: “Unlike his predecessors and many of his contemporaries, the visual unity of Szinyei Merse’s paintings is not achieved with a single, dominant tone, but with the equal levels of intensity, or ‘valeur’, of the various colour patches, which allow for the unified optical visualisation of the scene. In his perfectly harmonious compositions – especially Picnic in May, his masterpiece completed in 1873 – each element indicates the solid unity between humanity and nature. In spite of their airy, vibrant liveliness, the elements of the scene do not disintegrate into tiny parts like the French paintings that analyse the fragility of surface and the momentary impression. In Picnic in May (the most beautiful Hungarian painting according to many), objects retain their corporality. This is why Picnic in May is often seen as the culmination of the classical tradition and, at the same time, the beginning of modern painting. However, his art failed to make an impact on Hungarian painting for decades as, when exhibited, for a long time it met with total incomprehension and negative criticism.”

Picnic in May, which he painted in Munich in 1872–1873, undoubtedly was the peak of the artist’s development as a painter. This masterpiece did not feature in the exhibition at Kaposvár, since it would be wrong to remove it from permanent display at the Hungarian National Gallery. But the exhibition does include the marvellous first sketch of the picture, made in 1872, and Idyll from the same year, which sprang from a similar artistic vision in this, we see shepherds with their animals grazing in a hazy Hungarian landscape. The sketch titled Children on the Hillside, as an antecedent to the idea for Picnic in May, proves that his figures were becoming one with the landscape even earlier than this, in 1870. After completing Picnic in May, he exhibited it at the Kunstverein in Munich, then at the 1873 Vienna World Exhibition. It was greeted with incomprehension, bad positioning and harsh criticism. With much sorrow, he withdrew the picture and had it transported to his home in Jernye (today Jarovnice, Slovakia). He married, and the joy of being in love, and the birth and growth of his children, nourished the artist’s optimistic outlook for a while, as evidenced by the pictures In the Green Grass, Tourbillon, or Baby Felix at the exhibition. He also painted his adored wife in a glorious violet dress, and later a yellow one. This latter, unfinished work again bears witness to the artist’s modern tendencies, as perfecting the landscape set in sun-drenched natural surroundings still represented a major challenge to be surmounted by artists the world over, including his French contemporaries. And it was achieved by a Hungarian painter some thirty years before his first (and last) trip to Paris in 1908! Not even the death of his three daughters in an epidemic could rob him of his wonder for the uplifting bloom of nature and the embrace of sunshine: in his sorrow, he sought refuge in his art. After this, however, he picked up the brush less frequently. He wanted to escape the constraints of the rural life that totally isolated him from the centres of art; but he was repeatedly forced to remain for family reasons. In the meantime, whenever inspiring events stimulated his imagination, for a time he still had the power to create further masterpieces, which are a testament to his fresh, bold ideas (Balloon, 1878), and his starkly condensed realism (Melting Snow, 1884). The former is hanging in the National Gallery at Buda Castle, already a popular painting, well-known to most Hungarians; while the latter is on display for all to see and admire at the exhibition in Nyíregyháza, having returned from an exhibition abroad.

At his exhibitions in Vienna, Munich and Budapest, even in 1883 Szinyei Merse was unable to achieve the recognition he so longed for, or indeed sell any of his works. But still he did not compromise. He refused to join the ranks of painters who toed the academic line, like most of his contemporaries. He was not driven primarily by a desire to achieve success, but by a deep-seated belief in the truth of his artistic principles. Rather than conform, he chose to put down the brush and wait until his own efforts came to be accepted. Then, when he observed that others were also starting to create works in a similar vein to his own painting, he resumed his work as an artist. This did not happen until a decade later, in 1894, which is when he completed the works left half-finished before his crisis. Now he finally found buyers at the exhibitions, while the critics also softened towards him. This new period is characterised less by figural compositions than by varied, naturalistic and realistic, often almost impressionistic landscapes. The rich, spectacular selection on display at the exhibition gives a good overview of these creations. The Self-Portrait in a Leather Jacket painted in 1897, which featured the inside cover of the catalogue for the exhibition, was taken to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 1912 at the request of the Italian Minister for Culture, to be displayed in the Gallery of Immortals. It remains there to this day, a testament to the Europeanness of this Hungarian genius.

The master’s first recognition in his homeland came in 1896, in Budapest, at the Millennial Exhibition held to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the Hungarian state: here, he received the Millennium Grand Medal. The critics at last hailed him as a bold innovator, and Picnic in May finally went into a museum after being purchased by the state. It came as an overdue vindication for the now 51-year-old master that he was celebrated with sincere respect by the young Hungarian painters on their way to the new art colony in Nagybánya (today Baia Mare, Romania), and who now regarded him as their forerunner. He visited them in Nagybánya that summer. Among the young artists there, he formed a close relationship with Károly Ferenczy (1862–1917), who had been to Paris, and had also discovered plein-air painting at the end of the century in Munich, independently of Szinyei Merse. Ferenczy had been a student of the Julian Academy in Paris, like several of his peers at the Nagybánya colony, and József Rippl-Rónai. When Szinyei Merse, as a member of parliament between 1897 and 1901, set out to modernise higher education in art, he asked his young painter friends to tell him about the private academies chosen as an example, because he had not yet been to France. It was also around this time that he came into contact with József Rippl-Rónai, whose circle of friends in Paris included Aristide Maillol, Maurice Denis, Bonnard and Vuillard. The Kaposvár-born painter, who was preparing to move home, did not yet have a base in Hungary, so Szinyei Merse placed his own Budapest studio at his disposal, and also invited him to holiday in Jernye.

The 60-year-old Szinyei Merse’s first solo exhibition was held in 1905 at the National Salon, and it was here that he finally achieved his major breakthrough. He was appointed director of the National School of Drawing (from 1908 the Academy of Fine Art). He invited his highly respected young friend Károly Ferenczy to join him as a teacher, and as a comrade-in-arms for the modernisation of art education. In 1907, Pál Szinyei Merse – together with Ferenczy and Rippl-Rónai – founded the first art association to adopt a modern approach, the Circle of Hungarian Impressionists and Naturalists (abbreviated in Hungarian as the acronym MIÉNK, which means “ours”). In 1910 and 1911 these two associates created portraits of their now elderly friend and mentor, each in their own styles. These are what greet visitors upon entering the exhibition in Kaposvár. Ferenczy’s Szinyei Merse portrait is contemplative and intimate, while Rippl-Rónai’s picture is more visually spectacular. It was made in the characteristic style of his mature period, with decorative outlines holding the picture together in the spirit of post-impressionism. It too superbly characterises both the artist and the man. The alert, serene gaze and quiet smile show a Hungarian gentleman with a formidable intellect who sees things from above, sitting in an armchair upholstered in light green fabric as he watches his painter friend, and greets the visitors to the exhibition.

After returning to the art scene, Szinyei Merse regularly displayed the pictures that he painted every summer in Jernye at exhibitions in the Budapest Hall of Arts and at the National Salon. From 1900 onwards, he won numerous awards all around the world, some of the most notable being the Silver Medals awarded at the 1900 Paris and 1904 Saint Louis World Exhibitions, the Gold Medals at the 1901 Munich, 1906 Milan and 1910 Berlin International Exhibitions, and the Grand Prize at the World Exhibition in Rome in 1911. His works also attracted plenty of attention wherever else they were exhibited. The catalogue lists his solo exhibitions, revealing how few one-man shows this master had during his lifetime. Abroad, he only exhibited in 1910 in the rooms of the Galerie Heinemann in Munich, but even in Hungary we can only mention his exhibition at the 1905 National Salon and the collection displayed at the Ernst Museum in 1912. There have not been many more since his death, right up to the present day. Notable among these were the 1948 exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts, and the aforementioned major exhibition of his work at the Hungarian National Gallery in 1990. In terms of cultural diplomacy, too, it is incomprehensible that no representative individual exhibition of Szinyei Merse’s work has been held abroad to date, given that he is regarded universally as one of the earliest and most original representatives of international impressionism. Of course, Szinyei Merse’s exemplary works have always garnered a great deal of attention at representative exhibitions of this period of Hungarian painting everywhere, but he has yet to be seriously promoted abroad.

The master’s return to painting is illustrated with the most varied landscapes in the exhibition. The Japonesque Apple Blossom, the purplish dusk-enshrouded Rocky Landscape, the sparkling white Winter, or the expansive Early Spring all reflect the carefully selected and observed details of nature in different ways. He never repeated himself, but always strove to solve new artistic problems when starting on a new work. The glorious pictures made in the first years of the 20th century include such masterpieces as Poppies in the Field, or Apple Trees in Blossom. A detail of the latter painting is shown on the poster for the exhibitions and on the cover of the catalogue, in a fitting reference to the hidden meaning of the title: Impressions of Szinyei Merse. At the 2013 Impressionist– post-Impressionist exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery, this picture was displayed alongside Claude Monet’s similar work Plum Trees in Blossom.6Everyone had the opportunity to compare the works of the two artists, and conclude that although the artistic intention is similar for each painting, the manner of depiction is unique! These were two great European artists, living far away from each other, who did not know each other at the time of painting, each with his own, independent artistic roots.

In the first decade of the century, for Szinyei Merse, life opened up to many new vistas. In 1908 he finally made it to Paris to see the great historic works of art, especially the pictures of his French contemporaries. In 1909 he was one of the organisers and exhibitors of the Hungarian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and later his boldly innovative early sketches from his time at the academy generated massive interest in Munich. Critics proclaimed him the “enfant terrible of the Piloty School”. In 1910 he received much acclaim at the Secession exhibition in Berlin, the large international exhibition that followed in its foolsteps, and the only foreign exhibition of Szinyei Merse’s oeuvre held to date, at the Galerie Heinemann, Munich. Critics in Germany and Hungary began to speak about the originality and European importance of Hungarian art, which according to a Hungarian reviewer of the Secession exhibition – “cannot be hidden under the apron of Austria, or the Austro-Hungarian monarchy”.7 In Hungary, the Művészház (Artists’ House) gallery presented Szinyei Merse’s works in the retrospective section of the international impressionist exhibition, and at the age of 65 he finally received the Grand National Gold Medal and, one year later, the Small Cross of the Order of Saint Stephen.

At the present exhibition, the paintings entitled Guelder-Rose, The Manor House in Jernye, Meadow with Violet Flowers and Under the Tree give an idea of the magic of his works made in the summer of 1911. The fantastic latter picture shows women sitting and chatting in the summer sunshine beneath the green foliage of a tree. On the left we can see his daughter-in-law, Janka Zeyk in profile, wearing a shiny white silk dress and holding a posy of flowers. His daughter Rózsi, shown facing the artist, is listening attentively to the conversation. Her attentive, placid and loving face is highlighted from behind, set apart from the green foliage by a large, dark wide-brimmed hat. The poetic characterisation of the stunningly beautiful lady dressed in a pale lilac dress with a white veil is provided by the novel, tranquil harmony and concordance of the colours, and their unity with the sun-drenched natural surroundings. Incidentally, two paintings by Rózsi could also be seen at Kaposvár, as she studied art herself in adulthood. We know from her great-granddaughter, Anna, that Rózsi studied first in private schools, and later at the Academy of Fine Arts. Her older brother Félix also had a creative bent, but never studied painting formally. Instead, he just watched his father work, and remained an amateur to the end. His expansively painted landscape of the area around Jernye eloquently justifies their father’s surprise upon seeing the considerable artistic talent of the two surviving children from his original brood of six. The master’s descendants have always proudly guarded the handful of pictures by Rózsi and Félix, which have never been displayed at exhibitions alongside their father’s works, until now. This was yet another interesting feature of the exhibition in Kaposvár and Nyíregyháza.

For Pál Szinyei Merse, one of the pinnacles of recognition of his life’s work was when Elek Petrovics, the new director of the Museum of Fine Arts appointed in 1914, kept a separate room dedicated to the artist’s own pictures that had since come under the museum’s ownership. The Szinyei Merse room was preserved in its integrity until the Second World War. During the Great War, in 1916– 1917, the master spent the summer in Fonyód rather than in Jernye. A small selection of his pictures painted at this Lake Balaton retreat can also be seen at the exhibition, and a separate exhibition guide comment commemorates his stay there, where he was attracted by the close proximity of the “Hungarian seaside”. After Fonyód, they managed to spend a little time holidaying in Jernye too in 1917, where he created a beautifully crafted, light-hearted picture, the privately owned and rarely displayed Autumn Garden with Blue Hill. In the summer of 1918, the marvellously intimate natural scene entitled Silence marked the end of his artistic activity. In the following year, now seriously ill, he needed a passport to return home to the land of his birth, as Sáros County, in the northern part of the thousand-year-old Kingdom of Hungary, where his family had lived for 700 years, had become a part of Czechoslovakia under the Treaty of Trianon. This tragedy hastened his death considerably. On 2 February 1920 he closed his eyes for the last time, but his memory lived on: forty days after his death, his friends and admirers founded the Pál Szinyei Merse Society, which was one of the most important entities in the art scene between the two World Wars, and an effective supporter of young talent.

The Kaposvár exhibition closed on 14 August 2019, and now it can be seen until late November in Nyíregyháza, the seat of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County at the other, north-eastern end of Hungary. Here, too, the exhibition was invited to the city by the local authority on the strength of a local connection. A famous native of the town, Gyula Benczúr (1844–1920), was a contemporary of Pál Szinyei Merse, and a good friend during his youth. They studied together at the academy in Munich, in Karl Piloty’s class; then in 1872 for a short time Szinyei Merse worked on Picnic in May in his studio in Munich. Their artistic paths soon diverged, as Benczúr became an outstanding figure in Hungarian academic historical painting, an official artist of the Kingdom of Hungary which was then celebrating its thousandth anniversary. The András Jósa Museum, which was 150 years old in 2018 and has won the title of “Museum of the Year” this year, has a permanent exhibition of Benczúr’s art in a separate room. It is next to this room that the Impressions of Szinyei Merse exhibition is held, but not exactly in the same form as the one in Kaposvár. The different proportions of the exhibition rooms, as well as changes in a few of the paintings and drawings, require a different layout. Three major works, Hollyhock, Melting Snow and Poppies in the Field will only be viewable here, because they were on display elsewhere during the Kaposvár exhibition. The latter, however, borrowed many more drawings than its counterpart. At the second show an item of special interest is a drawing by the young Szinyei Merse, entitled The Three Gypsies, usually kept in the storeroom of the museum in Nyíregyháza’s twin town of Prešov, Slovakia, was once exhibited in Hungary in 1990 in the comprehensive Pál Szinyei Merse and His Circle exhibition in Buda Castle, and has now been borrowed again for this latest exhibition. Besides this, there will be a chance to see Szinyei Merse’s four picture designs made for the 1881 opening of the Theatre in Eperjes (now Prešov, Slovakia). These are the property of the Hungarian National Gallery. They are true rarities on account of their historical theme, which is very uncommon in this artist’s oeuvre. These extra items will certainly make the second exhibition worth a visit as well.

(Exhibitions held at the Hungarian cities of Kaposvár [17 May – 14 August 2019] and Nyíregyháza [23 August – 24 November 2019])

Translation by Daniel Nashaat

 
 

Notes:

 

1 Including: Pleinair-Malerei in Ungarn. Impressionistische Tendenzen 1870 bis 1910. Osnabrück, Kulturgeschichtliches Museum, 1994; Hongaarse schilderkunst 1860–1910. Den Haag, Museum Het Paleis – Gent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 1995; W nurcie impresjonizmu – In the Impressionist Current. Krakow, Palac Sztuki, 2000; Alla ricerca del colore e della luce. Pittori ungheresi 1832–1914. Florence, Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Palazzo Pitti, 2002; Az impresszionizmus sodrában. Magyar festészet 1830–1920 In the Current of Impressionism. Hungarian Painting 1830–1920. Budapest, Kogart Ház, 2009.

2 József Rippl-Rónai. Le Nabi hongrois. Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Musée Départemental Maurice Denis “Le Prieuré”, 1998.

3 Szinyei Merse Pál és köre [Pál Szinyei Merse and his circle], Budapest, Hungarian National Gallery, 1990.

4 A Majális festője közelről. Szinyei Merse Pál levelezése, önéletrajzai, visszaemlékezések [The Painter of Picnic in May from Up Close. The correspondence, autobiographies and memoirs of Pál Szinyei Merse]. Ed. Anna Szinyei Merse. Budapest, 1989; Szinyei Merse, Anna: Szinyei Merse Pál élete és művészete [The Life and Art of Pál Szinyei Merse]. Budapest, 1990.

5 Genthon, István: Az új magyar festőművészet 1800-tól napjainkig [New Hungarian painting, from 1800 to the present day]. Budapest, 1935, 165.

6 Monet, Gauguin, Szinyei Merse, Rippl-Rónai. Impressionist and Postimpressionist Masterpieces from the Collections of the Israel Museum of Jerusalem, the Hungarian National Gallery and the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts. Budapest, Hungarian National Gallery, 2013. Anna Szinyei Merse addresses these issues in detail in her comparative study, published in bilingual format, entitled “Inspiráció és szuverenitás. Magyar festészet az impresszionizmus és posztimpresszionizmus francia kontextusában – Inspiration and Autonomy. Hungarian painting in the French context of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism” (30–75). See the two pictures of fruit trees on pages 104–105.

7 Menyhért Lengyel’s report from 1910 is quoted in the study by György Szücs, p. 22, note 13.




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