About this blog

This is a personal blog about Hungarian art history. A rather niche subject in the grand, global scheme of things, you might say. That is the beauty of blogging: one can write about the most obscure subject ever, without having to worry about finding a publisher, and in the vast and endlessly diverse universe of the internet there will inevitably be some readers with whom it resonates. It doesn’t matter how many, really. If the number of people who want to read about Hungarian art history in English on the internet turns out to be minuscule, I am still happy to offer these posts to them. That said, I also believe that the idea that the art of any country, any geographical area can be “niche” needs to be seriously challenged, and I hope this blog can contribute to that in its own modest way. Isn’t art history an academic discipline with principles and methodologies that cut across national borders? If it is, then the art histories of small or lesser-known cultures should possess the exact same relevance as those of the big ones. Art historians often centre the art of places such as Italy of France, using it to draw conclusions that they then project onto art produced elsewhere. But if art history is truly global, it should be possible for this to work the other way round too; it should work in all possible directions. Hungarian art history is my anchor, my guide, my beloved research topic, my own culture which I can never deny, but what I say about it is hopefully meaningful outside the country’s borders. Indeed, if you still think that what happens in a small country like Hungary has no relevance elsewhere, read the news and think again.

Although it may seem so from the previous paragraph, this blog is not just for art historians. In my posts, I consciously try to avoid academic language, and instead of overloading them with footnotes I only refer to the most recent publications of original research (those who are interested can consult these works for further literature). The blog intends to be accessible because its aim is to build bridges: bridges from the past to the present and from Hungary to the wide world. In a post about ruined castles, I described history writing as a form of communication, and this is what I attempt to put into practice in this blog. I arrange the fragments of the Hungarian art historical past into a form that I expect – hope – my non-Hungarian readers will find relatable; what they do with it afterwards is up to them. The blog as a genre helps a lot with this, particularly its personal aspect. All these posts are based on “proper” art historical research, all of the facts and conclusions derive from my best knowledge of the subject, but they are presented in a subjective way that no “serious” scholarly journal would tolerate. As I said, this is a personal blog, and it describes what these artworks mean to me. The freedom this gives me is hugely enjoyable, and I hope it encourages my readers to be equally personal in their interpretations. Is the Biedermeier post really about the Biedermeier? It is, I promise. But it also isn’t. And if it means something entirely different to you, I have no problem with that.

The relationship between general and personal is a theme that meanders through this blog. An artist reimagines national history in a “feverish, youthful, poetic frenzy”, a curator threads his subjectivity into a gallery intended for the Nation, people use generalised frameworks, pictorial clichés to properly grasp the singular, irreplaceable things that mean the most to them. Scholarly art history brings the artworks of the past closer to their present viewers by explaining their imagery, their background and their context. It offers encompassing storylines that connect these works together. But it is by adding our own stories, our own interpretations, that we can make this great body of knowledge, this respectable tradition, truly relevant and truly ours. It is the subjectivity that brings it to life.


My name is Nóra Veszprémi, and I am an art historian specialising in 19th- and early 20th-century art. I currently live in Birmingham, in the UK.


Texts © Nóra Veszprémi

Photos of artworks from the collection of the Hungarian National Gallery © Hungarian National Gallery

25 thoughts on “About this blog

  1. I think this is a very admirable project. A recent trip to Poland, as well as a growing interest in Russia, has made me realize just how little I know about the art history of this part of the world. In my limited experience of a couple North American universities, the art of your country and its neighbors simply isn’t taught. (I’d be curious to know your thoughts on this phenomenon.) I look forward to a chance to fill this void in my own knowledge base via your blog!

    • Thank you for reading and for your encouraging words. I hope you will find the posts interesting. As for your question, I have been thinking a lot about this lately, which is part of why I started this blog. It is hard to give a short answer. The main reason probably is that the teaching of art history basically still concentrates on certain centres, like Italy or France, and the art of Eastern Europe is not similar enough to be included in that narrative, but not different enough to be taught autonomously, like the art of Eastern Asia, for example. Another problem is that there still aren’t enough publications in English on the art of these countries. Books that investigate Hungarian art using the methods of current international art historical research and posing questions that are interesting to a non-Hungarian readership, while also highlighting the specific aspects of Hungarian history and culture, would, in my opinion, help a lot. I am thinking of writing a post about this in the future. I would also be interested to hear your opinion and about your experiences in Poland.

      • I agree with all your points, and would especially emphasize that most art historians, even if they do wish to teach this material, simply don’t know where to place it in a course since, as you said, it never fits easily into any of the traditional chronological or stylistic schemes. Relatedly, I once had a professor who specialized in Turkish art and, apart from his courses that focused on that topic, had a very difficult time slotting it into an introductory survey course, though he did manage to do so. I would certainly enjoy reading a longer account of your opinions on this.

  2. This is an extraordinary blog! I’m leaving for my first trip to Budapest on the second week of August. I was looking for some kind of guide to the Hungarian art, which is totally unknown for me. One of the highlights of my seven days visit is the MNG. Now, I’m writing down a list with the names of the artists you are commenting on with so rigor. Thank you very much!

    • Thank you very much for your kind comments! I’m glad you like the blog, and I hope you will enjoy your visit to Budapest, especially the MNG. 🙂 If you like, you can ask for me at the information – if I’m there that day, I could give you some advice on what to see.

      • This is so kind that I don’t know what to say! Well, hope we can meet at the MNG and thank you very very much.

  3. I have just discovered this blog and signed up. It is precisely what I have been looking for for a long time. I have a question and I don’t know if anyone can advise me. I’m a historian and my current work includes the oppression of Hungary by the Habsburgs after 1849.

    What interests me in particular is the artistic response to this oppression and the censorship. For someone who does not read Hungarian, it is very frustrating. The volume XIX. Századi Magyar Művészet, which I bought last time I was in Budapest, has been really useful, in part because of the chronological arrangement of the paintings.

    So there is:1850. Ujházy Ferenc. with The Honvéd’s Lamentation. This says to me: a risky subject in 1850. Was he in Hungary when he painted it. What happened to it – and to him. Just looking at the image I feel it is perhaps the grave of an individual – or by extension, the grave of the nation? Also the ruin above his head. I wonder what the inscription on lid of the sarcophagus says? A kind of allegorical allusion in the background with the veiled urn.? Then the flowering rose (?) on the left hand side.

    Then 1853: Than Mór. Nyáry. Lőrinc es Pekry Lajos elfogatása. My suppositions: Yes, an epic moment from Hungaraian history, with a clear surface text – the barbarous Turks. But the Turks had sheltered Kossuth and the other refugees, and risked Russian anger as a result. So is there another message? Are these Ottomans or Austrians, the most recent enemy of the nation. A deniable but potent message ? Then 1858: Madarász Viktor. Zrinyi Ilona a vizsgálóbiró előtt. Another historic moment, with a woman and her children, surrounded by armed Austrians, soon to be betrayed and her son taken from her. Violence, duplicity, and her courage – all perfectly true – but a bitter comment on the oppressors?

    Is this a reasonable approach to take – it goes on- or is it merely an indulgent self delusion. There seems to me to be so many rich seams in Hungarian history painting, and so hard for the inexpert to fathom. But maybe it is a well worn topic in Hungary?

    I shall go on following your blog with delight.

    • Thank you very much for your comment! You raise some very important questions. Yes, much of Hungarian history painting after 1849 can probably be interpreted – at least to some extent – as a comment on the lost War of Independence and the subsequent period of oppression. It is, however, very hard to judge whether specific individual paintings were interpreted this way when they were first exhibited in the 19th century, because there are few sources. Magazine articles couldn’t explicitly mention the subject because of censorship – on the other hand, they still often referred to it through thinly veiled allusions. The first major history painting exhibited after 1849 depicted a scene after the disastrous battle of Mohács against the Turks in 1526 (the painter was Soma Orlai Petrich, and he exhibited it in 1851), and it would be hard to imagine that this depiction of a national catastrophe, a great defeat, did not conjure up the more recent such catastrophe in the minds of contemporary spectators.
      I think it can safely be said that in such paintings the Turks often stood for the Austrians (I don’t think, however, that them sheltering Kossuth played any part in this). Viktor Madarász was a special case because he had a very rebellious personality, and had no qualms about depicting conflicts with Austria in the 17th and 18th centuries. In one of my posts here (A Feverish, Youthful, Poetic Frenzy) I discussed a case where he first exhibited one of these paintings with a title that referred to the Turks – as a ruse -, but later put up a sign next to it explaining the real subject. This also shows that censorship, while severe, was not really “totalitarian”.
      As for Ujházy’s picture: it certainly refers to the War of Independence, in which the painter had served as a volunteer. I’m afraid I don’t know much about the circumstances of the creation of that picture, and its subsequent fate. Ujházy was an exhibiting artist throughout the second half of the 19th century – he lived a very long life -, although he did have to withdraw somewhat in the years immediately following the War: in those years he lived in Vienna in relative obscurity.
      If I can help you any further with your research, please feel free to send me an email at the address specified in this post.
      And finally, a practical issue: it seems to me that you have only signed up for the comments on this post. If you wish to sign up for the blog itself – I would of course be very glad – you have to click on the “Follow” button on the top right-hand side of the “Home” page.
      Thanks again for your kind comments and insightful questions!

  4. Congratulations on your blog! I must be one of the exceptions, since I attended a semester of Hungarian art (19th-20th centuries), taught at an undergraduate level (while I was already preparing my master) at the University of Crete, Greece. Of course, that’s all it was, an exception, due to my professor’s (Nicos Hadjinicolaou) passion for Hungarian art. I’ll never forget the experience. Language is indeed the greatest obstacle (being Greek, I am painfully aware of language obstacles). As an art historian working in the European periphery (Portugal) and interested in history painting of the nineteenth century (and especially how it relates to politics and formations of national identity), I find your blog an invaluable source and hope we will be able to exchange opinions in the future. Again, congratulations on your initiative.

    • Hello and thank you for your kind comments! It is great to hear that you studied Hungarian art. Was there any art work or artist that you particularly liked or found particularly interesting?
      I also hope that we will be able to exchange opinions. I am planning a post on history painting – I hope I can finish it soon, but unfortunately I am busy with other things at the moment. It would also be interesting to talk about our experiences as historians of the art of the ‘European periphery’. Do you work on Portuguese or Greek art?

      • It’s been ten years or so, but the artistic personalities of Munkácsy, Ferenczy and Rippl-Rónai stood out for me.
        My doctoral thesis is on Portuguese history painting of the beginning of the 19th century (although I tend to consider it as the end of the long eighteenth century). I am looking forward to your post!

  5. I cannot thank you enough for this. My father’s family is from Hungary, so I have always had an interest in anything Hungarian. Art is a passion of mine and for my art history class, I wanted to research Hungarian art, but there is very little information. After coming upon your blog, it was a relief. I now get to see about my culture and about one of my passions, art. So again, thank you.

    • Thank you very much for your kind comment! It’s great that you are reading up on Hungarian art, and I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. Please stay tuned – new post coming soon, after a little hiatus.

  6. Hi Nora! We met at the AAH conference in London; I’m Nina from Cambridge. Just discovered your fabulous blog and have signed up for it.
    I hope you had a good journey back home!

  7. A very good idea to give more knowledge on hungarian art history and hungarian artists. I like it very much. Anyhow I also would be interested in the history of the 20th century with focus on expressionist artists. There is still room to explore and write. Please let me know -if possible – who takes care about that time period. Anyhow I will follow your blog:)

  8. I am a latecomer to this blog, but I am so glad to read all your posts now. I just finished a Masters degree at the University of Toronto where I was focusing on Hungarian history between 1867 and 1918. I wrote a paper about Benczur and the genre of history painting in Hungary, and I read XIX. Századi Magyar Művészet as part of my research. It’s so great to see this blog, since there’s so little in English concerning Hungarian artists, especially the lesser-known ones. I just read that article you mentioned about Kotasz, and it was so interesting to learn about his works from that particular perspective. I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

  9. Looking at the previous comments I feel a little intimidated with my poor English, but anyway. As a Hungarian Studies undergraduate I find the topic of this blog exceptionally interesting. The posts are written with such a complex approach! Thanks to you I already know more then I learned from our history and culture classes (sadly).

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