A seminal figure of Hungarian painting with an international prestige, Béla Czóbel influenced the development of his native country’s art almost from the beginning of his career, in a manner already recognized by his own contemporaries. Along the way, he also left his impression in several of the centres of European modernism. A year after his arrival in Paris, in 1904 he won the Académie Julian’s drawing competition, while he also took part at several exhibitions, and from 1906 he was regularly featured in the fauve section of the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants. He was one of the reformers of the Nagybánya artist colony, and he was a member of the Budapest group, The Eight. Later he joined the modern artists of the Netherlands, and made his home in Bergen, only to become involved in the work of the German Die Brücke group as well. He had important solo exhibitions in Paris, Berlin and New York. In 1940 he permanently moved to Szentendre. In addition to the largest Hungarian public collections, his works can be found in several of the world’s leading museums.
Czóbel was the first painter to have a museum dedicated to him in Hungary in his own lifetime. Many have contributed to the collection – including his own daughter, Lisa Czóbel – since the Museum was opened in 1975, but the permanent exhibition changed little over the decades. However, when it came to creating the concept of the new permanent exhibition after the 2016 renovation of the museum, the emphasis was not on permanence. The core material itself, which selects from the holdings of the museum, will be renewed year after year, and a room will now be dedicated to Czóbel’s graphic works, which will receive more attention than formerly. Additionally, and in a break with the former practice, works from private and public collections will be on deposit and will be integrated into the structure of the permanent exhibition, adding nuances and new insights to what is an exceptional and formidably rich oeuvre.
The new exhibition presents the stages of the painter’s career in a chronological order, with sections dedicated to the different locales. We introduce his start in Nagybánya, his Fauvist period in Paris, his output at the time of joining The Eight, his time in the Netherlands, and the Berlin years of his association with the German Expressionists. His subsequent return to Paris was followed by a long period, the acme of his career, when he moved back and forth between the French capital and Szentendre.
This year the focus of the restaging is on research.
The Museum’s core collection itself presents a number of misteries we are working to resolve, while most of the pieces that have been lent to us this season also pose questions; what is more, some of these works were thought to have been lost, or were even unknown to us, until they resurfaced recently.
The new exhibition seeks to address essential problems of art history and museology, questions of dating, attribution and provenance, the identity of models, and so on. Notes accompanying the works offer insights into new research findings, and as in former years, we provide a view behind the scenes with pieces taken out of storage only recently. We even show you the verso of one work or another.
The exhibition, now in its 4.0 installation, continues to be centred around such periods of the oeuvre that are not, or are barely, represented in the Museum’s collection. This year again we have been lent quite a few works from the early periods, which were made in Paris, Nagybánya or Bruges, and our display of the Berlin period has been complemented with true masterpieces. For the first time, we devote a particular attention to the post-1925 periods in Paris and Hatvan, and present a work that has very much to do with Szentendre, but has arrived from Paris.
Once again, we are grateful to those who lent us works!