Magyar Nemzeti Galéria English

Aktuális időszaki kiállítások

The Civilised Nat ion

The Blosoming of the Nation

Establishing the nation involved supporting all kinds of creative endeavour from the start, including the realisation of educated citizens' potential for having a civilising influence on their environment. Government sponsored and communal building projects modelled on European patterns, the establishment of representative cultural institutions, and the desire to launch public entertainment and sports events-all that belonged to the grandiose ambition to bring about the "blossoming of the nation" cherished constantly since the 18th and early 19th century, the time of György Bessenyei, József Kármán, Ferenc Kazinczy, Ferenc Kölcsey and István Széchenyi. The programme of catching up with the civilised West thus became a call for comprehensive modernisation. It was the optimistic vision of early capitalism, whose burning enthusiasm was also captured by artists. The attainments of the city-itself a pulsating and open cosmos-and its dwellers gradually became the source of a fresh aesthetics: artistic creation. Civilisational accomplishments grew to be just as emblematic elements of our national identity as the castles, the typical Hungarian landscape, or the costumes. Immortalised by artists, with images frequently reproduced and displayed, they remain engraved on our collective memory.

The Vision of Decay

The metropolis became the source of a new sensation of life in the last third of the 19th century. While earlier it seemed to extend the promise of convergence to a lifestyle similar to that enjoyed by Western Europeans, a yardstick by which the nation could measure its own level of development and competitiveness, Hungarian thinkers and artists began to sense its much darker aspects early on. The Hungarian scene at the end of the century became the subject matter of disillusioned artists. It was the first time for painters to include the impersonal and dramatically inscrutable city with its apparently soulless facilities and typical figures in the world of painting. The slaving worker, the jobless tramp, and the sometimes diabolical highwayman became grotesque counterparts to the figure of the vigorous peasant living close to the soil. The street where these "survivors" pass their days also becomes a feature of the era, an authentic space, just like the new social institution of the soup kitchen. The scene of people queuing in József Egry's picture is a first in its kind: a pathetic sight conveying an air of reportage.