Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Munkácsy in Transylvania

Posted by Andy Hockley on 19 July, 2007

Csikszereda has been playing host to a much hyped up and amazingly professional exhibition this year (it finished last weekend). This was an exhibition of the paintings of Mihaly Munkacsy in the Miko Var (the castle depicted on the front of a bottle of Ciuc beer for those able to take a look at such an artifact). The whole thing was not only professionally presented, but well organised, and, amazingly, advertised. I know that last one doesn’t sound like much of a deal, but here things rarely get publicised until they’re more or less over. The posters for the music festival in Tusnad happening this week appeared yesterday for example. But the Munkacsy exhibition was publicised widely with large banners everywhere (and not only in Csikszereda but as far away as Marosvasarhely (Targu Mures) – there has even, I’m told, been transport laid on from various corners of Transylvania for people to attend.)

So, anyway, enough about the novelty of having something well organised in the town, and onto the thing itself. Who is this Mihaly Munkacsy, you may be asking yourself. Or at least you probably will be asking yourself that question if you’re not Hungarian / linked to Hungarians in some way / an art history expert. Mihaly Munkacsy, or Munkácsy Mihály if we are to be more accurate, is Hungary’s most famous painter. I won’t bore you with his life story, since you can read it on Wikipedia.

His style isn’t really to my taste to be frank (one of my favourite paintings at the exhibition was one of him by a Rippl-Rónai József). But that’s not to say it wasn’t interesting and there were one or two pictures that really catch the eye. Some of my favourites are unavailable on the Internet (or at least I can’t find them with 5 minutes Googling, and that’s as much effort as I’m prepared to put in). His most famous paintings are referred to as the trilogy – three pictures depicting the trial/crucifixion of Christ (you can look at all three of them here). Two of them were here in their full glory while the third, “Ecce Homo”, which a young James Joyce apparently raved about when it came to Dublin, was only here in final draft form, rather than the actual painting itself. “Golgotha” was the most interesting as there was also a display of photos that he took to help him compose the picture, including one of himself crucified(yes, he strung himself up on a cross and had someone take a picture so he could use himself as a model). The best bit of it, I reckon, is these two blokes in the foreground wandering away from the scene having a chat. It’s refreshing realistic to imagine that while this moment might be the defining moment in Christianity and therefore be very important in the larger picture of Western civilization, at the time presumably it was nothing very special at all, for many more than a handful of people.

Anyway, not quite sure of the purpose of this review, except to maybe highlight the works of someone mostly unknown outside of the Hungarian speaking world.

(Oh, and while we were there, our crap mayor came in guiding a Romanian tour party around the exhibition – something which he did in Romanian. This a far cry from his behaviour at the end of last summer which I reported here. You see he can speak Romanian when it suits him.)


One Response to “Munkácsy in Transylvania”

  1. GadjoDilo said

    I remember liking Munkacsy much more when I was in the national art museum in Budapest – still an impressive painter though if one can get beyond the rather stilted postures. Speaking of (not) advertising these things, in February there was a fascinating and well-chosen art exhibition in Marosvasarhely/Tirgu-Mures (nice gallery there too), but hard to hear about (at least in Cluj). Keep the information coming!

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