Links related to Hungarian art and to the topics of my blog posts (to be updated regularly)
The Hungarian National Gallery – the largest collection of Hungarian art
The Hungarian National Gallery on the Google Art Project
Fine Arts in Hungary – a large web gallery of Hungarian art
Hungary on The Culture Trip, a one-stop website for travellers interested in the best local art and culture.
Virtual tour of the Károly Ferenczy exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery
Blog about the Ferenczy exhibition – in Hungarian, but with lots of pictures
Can you recommend any sites that offer a good summary of Hungarian history from 1800 onwards?
I’m afraid I don’t know any sites in English. I tried to google and found this at the Library of Congress: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/hutoc.html It looks like a good summary, although I haven’t read all of it.
Thanks! I’ll take a look.
Thank you so much for your email. I have been working on a problem which may or may not to be relevant to the blog. I do hope it is. I have been looking at the role that art and culture played in the search for national identity between 1867 and 1918 (and a bit beyond). I have worked initially on the Habsburg dynasty’s support of art and culture to buttress its objectives: crudely put, that the many ethnic and language groups added to the cultural significance of the state rather than diminished it. This was the ‘ Culture State [Kulturstaat] methodology.
Hungary and the Czech speakers in Bohemia/Moravia took different views. Both were ancient kingdoms, where the Habsburg monarch ruled as a a king and not as an emperor. After the revolution of 1848-9, Hungary and Czech Bohemia/Moravia followed diverging paths. In Hungary, under an especially forceful repression, the people fought back using indirect methods. Ultimately, because of an historical accident (defeat by Prussia), Hungary was able to achieve most of its political goals, whereas Czech Bohemia/Moravia was not.
Put crudely, after 1867, Hungary possessed state independence internally, while Bohemia/Moravia had no independent political identity. They lacked the power of the state to forward the ideology of the national state which the Magyars could now achieve through legislation and political action. They never gained that power under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.
The practical problem – the powerful German-speaking minority in the Czech lands – of course altered the whole political equation. While Hungary had the political power to consolidate a real state, the Czechs could only develop a virtual state. ( I have found the idea of the ‘semiosphere’ developed by the Russian semiotician Yuri Lotman very helpful in getting a sense of what that might mean). The Czechs developed all kinds of institution that carried the burden of national identity through cultural means. Not only that, but they evolved a set of criteria as to what ‘Czechness’ meant and how it could be sustained.
And that is where my ignorance and linguistic deficiency comes into play. Through the period from the last quarter of the 18th century, until the 1840s, there seems a strong sense of similarity – the rebirth of the vernacular languages etc. After 1867, was there a significant change? Of course, all the ‘normal things’ happened. National culture advanced: museums, galleries, libraries, were built, actors acted, painters painted , writers wrote, musicians and singers performed in Hungary as they did in the Czech lands. And I guess that by 1896 a lot of thought in Hungary had gone into evolving the content that became the Millennium Exhibition.
But was there same strong ideological commitment within the Hungarian national state to retelling the story of the Hungarian nation as there in the Czech virtual state, where national identity could only expressed through cultural production?
Here, specifically, is the role (or non-role) of history painting. Did the relevance of history painting die away in Hungary after 1867, to be replaced by the (vaguer) idea of the nation expressed through the art of the landscape? What strikes me is the persistence of the Czech national history and mythology in painting even beyond the end of the nineteenth century. Moreover, that content extended across into other arts forms in particular into opera and music. Of course there was history painting in Hungary ‘for’ the 1896 event but was this an exception to the trend ?
Now a final thought, and I apologies for this long and rambling response. But that is the beauty of the Hungarian Art History blog. Looking at the culture/cultures of the AH Monarchy, does it look like this? We have two real states (Hungary and “Austria excluding Bohemia and Moravia” ) that used cultural policy in what became the ‘normal’ practice of the 20th century – public subsidy and support for cultural purposes – as a kind of ‘soft power’ for purposes of prestige. Do we have a different pattern in the Czech lands? Style and content become directly relevant to the ideology and identity of the (future) state, across all forms of art and expression. Adherence to the norms could not be enforced by state power, of course, but the cultural institutions – national galleries, national theaters, national opera houses – could exercise their own powerful controls.
I appreciate that all this speculation may be of limited (or no) interest to the other participants in the blog. If you don’t want to put it up, I will quite understand. I would be very interested in any thoughts or advice you could give me.
The conclusion is as follows. Karl Krauss said (memorably) that the Dual Monarchy was a ‘research institution for world destruction’. This can certainly be applied to its cultural structures. The first was the output was the Habsburg ‘Culture State’, which was a new version of what they had been doing for generations, but now directed at a wide public audience. The second was the Czech ‘ culture of the nation’.
This contained a formula of national identity in a virtual future state. It anticipated (in embryo) cultural hegemony in the Soviet Union and later in the People’s Republic of China. The Habsburg case and the Czech case lie on the same spectrum. The third case – Hungary – I am finding it difficult to place on that spectrum. I think we can see how culture was used by the Habsburg administrations and by the Czech nationalists. But what was the function of fine art and culture generally in Hungary?