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The "Light-painting" of Franz Anton Maulbertsch (1724-1796)

Franz Anton Maulbertsch was the most talented and original artist of Central European baroque. Born in Langenargen by Lake Constance, he was first taught by his painter-gilder father. At 15, he enrolled at the Imperial Academy of Art in Vienna. In 1750 he won the grand prize of the Academy in painting and later became member of several academies. From the 1750s he was a successful fresco and altarpiece painter with a populous workshop to satisfy growing demand. His - at times visionary - painting luxuriating in light and colours became more sober from the 1770s, in line with the neo-classical current of the baroque style.

Maulbertsch's work is connected to Hungary with a lot of threads. One of his earliest altar pictures went to Kolozsvár; in 1754 he sent a huge painting for the high altar of the Cistercians in Zirc. In 1757 Márton Padányi Bíró, bishop of Veszprém invited him to paint out the entire parish church of Sümeg: it turned out to be one of his greatest achievements. From 1763 he worked in Bohuslavice (Bogoszló, Trencsén county), then in Komárno (Komárom), Majk, Székesfehérvár. He painted the grand frescoes of the1770s in Vác, Győr, Insbruck, and Dyje (Mühlfraun) in Moravia; from 1781 he worked in Bratislava (Pozsony), Pápa and the episcopal palace in Szombathely. In 1791 bishop János Szily engaged him to decorate the cathedral of Szombathely then under construction. The work had to be completed after Maulbertsch's death by his pupil Josef Winterhalder.

The eccentric genius as he was regarded exerted a great influence on his contemporaries; his works were collected and copied already in his lifetime. The 20th century rediscovered him - Oskar Kokoschka claimed to consider him as the forerunner of his expressionism. The scientific monograph on Maulbertsch by Klára Garas appeared in 1960 in Vienna and Budapest - this exhibition is a tribute to her in the year of her 90th birthday.

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