The Austro–Hungarian Monarchy as an art scene | Scholarly conference

Special aspects of cultural life, art patronage and canon in the last decades of the 19th century

The Austro–Hungarian Monarchy as an art scene

Special aspects of cultural life, art patronage and canon in the last decades of the 19th century

Scholarly conference

Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest, Auditorium

24 February 2017

Free admission

Simultaneous interpretation into English will be provided


On the turn of 2016–2017 the Műcsarnok celebrates the 120th anniversary of the opening of its building with a series of events entitled 120 years of art. This ensemble of exhibitions covers issues of place, value and canonisation in the splendid halls of the Műcsarnok. At the initiative of artistic director György Szegő, who has curated numerous mutually interpretative, reinforcing and synergic exhibitions in the conjoining spaces of the institution, these shows seek to evoke the painting of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The First Golden Age takes a look at the painting of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, in conjunction with which a series of exhibitions pay homage to important modern artists also celebrating a round anniversary. We have therefore invited leading Hungarian painters and sculptors to present their latest works at the Gardens and Ateliers and Reward Show organised concurrently with The First Golden Age in the aisles of the Műcsarnok.

The First Golden Age, which has attracted huge public interest, is the most important of the concurrent historical and contemporary anniversary art exhibitions. Organised in conjunction with this exhibition, the scholarly conference The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy as an art scene seeks to reconsider and expand our perspective of art and the art scene of the latter half of the 19th century. The invited lecturers talk about the historical and art-historical research of the past two decades, which has led to a kind of re-evaluation and a subtler image of the period. Historicism and Realism, not unlike end-of-century Modernism, were all part of a continuous modernisation process, and the shifts in style, as well as the choice of theme in the artworks, were influenced by yet uncharted political and cultural-sociological factors. The dialogue initiated by this conference seeks to reconsider European cultural spaces, revisit the art of Historicism and Realism/Naturalism, the periods preceding Modernism, and to discuss in that context the issue of canon-formation. The conference also provides opportunity to include in the re-evaluation process issues of state sponsorship and private art patronage in the context of art in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

Grouped in three focal areas, the talks will cover issues such as which social groups supported the activity of the National Hungarian Fine Art Society? How has art-historical research in the past decades assessed this self-organised institutionalised process that determined the period? Why has the profession neglected the research of Realist/Naturalist painting?

The scholarly views of the invited lecturers will hopefully answer any open questions.

11 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.

Welcome speech by György Szegő, artistic director of the Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest

Gábor Gyáni: The changing appraisals of Mitteleuropa and the Habsburg Monarchy

Ever since Friedrich Naumann introduced the term Mitteleuropa in the early 20th century, numerous concepts of Central Europe have been in circulation, which date from between the two wars and as recently as the 1980s. Recent ones include an Austrian–Hungarian–Czech version that covers the area of the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy; a Polish concept moves the borders of the region farther east. The historical evaluation of the Habsburg Monarchy (Austro–Hungarian Monarchy) is different in every nation’s historiography, and these keep changing over time. Gábor Gyáni’s talk deals with historiographers’ changing appraisals of the economic performance of the Monarchy.

Gábor Gyáni (1950), historian, university professor academic, research professor of the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, teacher of the Eötvös Loránd University and the Central European University. His main area of research includes 19th and 20th-century urban and social history and the history of mentalities in Hungary, as well as historiography theory, narrativity and historiographical rhetoric. He is the author and co-author of over twenty books.

Ferenc Miszlivetz - Izabella Agárdi: The Glory of the Golden Age and the Shadows of the 20th Century

The era in which the Műcsarnok was established is customarily – and with good reason – referred to as The Golden Age. The conference speakers seek to answer the question: what social and political milieu engendered the birth of this special creative and cultural space in the second capital of the Monarchy? The exact timeframe of the period is a subject of debate among historians and art historians alike, but there is a clear consensus about its brilliant achievements. It was unquestionably a great era, and it eventually came to an end, but it is yet to be determined what message it conveys to posterity, whether that message can be carried on, and if so, what form it can take in a new century?

Ferenc Miszlivetz (1954) is a sociologist and a full professor. He is a professor at Pannon University, and the director of the Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg. He has held a Jean Monnet chair since 1997, and he has been the President of the Hungarian Social Sciences UNESCO Committee since 2012. His areas of research are democracy, civil society, regional and European studies, globalisation and sustainability. He is the author of Reframing Europe’s Future: Challenges and Failures of the European Construction, which was published by Routledge in 2014.

Izabella Agárdi is a historian, a researcher at the Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg, and a senior lecturer at Pannon University. Her main areas of research are 20th-century oral history, cultural history, and women’s studies. She was one of the editors of Making Sense, Crafting History: Practices of Producing Historical Meaning, published by Pisa University Press in 2010. She is currently working on the monograph titled On the Verge of History: Women’s Life Narratives from Romania, Serbia and Hungary, which will be published by Ibidem Press in 2018.

Katalin Fenyves: Artists, patrons, art critics

Who were they, what was their background – what values did the players of Hungarian artistic life represent at the turn of the last century? To what extent are the theories of modernisation, nation-building, national homogenisation and assimilation appropriate tools in interpreting their activities?

Katalin Fenyves (1952) associate Professor at the Budapest Metropolitan University and lecturer at the Jewish Theological Seminary – University of Jewish Studies, editor of Műértő. Her main area of research includes social history, and issues of new culture and gender research. Her monograph Képzelt asszimiláció? Négy zsidó értelmiségi nemzedék önképe [Imaginary assimilation? The Self-image of four Jewish generations of intellectuals] was published in 2010 by Corvina.

1.30 p.m. – 3.30 p.m.

Rudolf Klein: Behind the scenes of the secession – lines of force, groups and influences

János Gerle mapped the political geography of fin-de-siècle architecture. Behind the groups and tendencies that he modestly referred to as lines of force, the artistic/political trends of turn-of-century Hungary emerge, even within the Secession. Before the change of the political system in Hungary, Gerle naturally had to avoid dealing with the role of the Jewry in the Secession. Rudolf Klein’s talk will be chiefly dedicated to this topic.

Rudolf Klein (1955), architect, is a theoretician and historian of modern architecture. His special interest is the link between architecture and ideas; the interaction of civilizations in the field of architecture, (19th century Orientalism, Japanese influence on 20th century western modernism, Judaism’s influence on modernism), architecture and ethnic or confessional identity in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is author of ten and co-author of three books in the field of architectural history of modern times. He has published over 50 reviewed papers. He teaches at Szent István University, Ybl Miklós Faculty of Architecture, Budapest.

Peter Urbanitsch: Patrons and Patronage for the Fine Arts in Cisleithania during the last decades before World War I.

The lecture will deal with people and institutions engaged in the process of patronage and sponsorship (the Emperor and his court, various institutions of the state, the lands and greater communes, the aristocracy , the bourgeoisie). Shifts between these groups as far as their relative importance for patronage is concerned as well as different forms of supporting artists (direct commissions, purchase of individual works of art, general sponsorship) will also be dealt with.

Peter Urbanitsch (1942). Studies of history at the University of Vienna and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, London. 1967 PhD at the University pf Vienna. From 1968 until retirement in 2007 working with the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Author and Co-editor of the multi-volume collaborative series “ Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918” [The Habsburg Monarchy 1848–1918]. Curator of various historical exhibitions, among them two exhibitions on the era of Francis Joseph and Austria’s “millenary exhibition” in 1996 (title: 996–1996, ostarrichi–Österreich). Numerous articles on the political, cultural and social history of Austria and the Habsburg Monarchy from the 18th to the 20th century.

Alexander Klee: The k.k. Monarchy - A cultural space in Europe

The Danube Monarchy has been in the second half of the 19th century a particular cultural space. A basis for this common sense was the educational system, which even influenced art.

Alexander Klee (1964) has been the Belvedere’s curator for the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century since 2010. A founder member of the Adolf Hölzel Foundation in Stuttgart, he is in the process of compiling Adolf Hölzel’s catalogue raisonné. With numerous publications on Hölzel, Emil Jakob Schindler, Georg Karl Pfahler, and artists of the Classical Modernism period, his research focuses on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He curated the exhibitions “Hans Makart Painter of the Senses”, “Cubism – Constructivism – FORM ART”, “Sin and Secession –Franz von Stuck in Vienna” and  “Vienna–Berlin: The Art of Two Cities” in collaboration with the Berlinische Galerie.

Emese Révész: The old Műcsarnok – a new space for the art public

A hundred and forty years ago, in September 1877 Franz Joseph and heir apparent Rudolf ceremoniously opened the building of the old Műcsarnok (today the Hungarian University of Fine Arts). The magnificent palace had been built by the National Hungarian Fine Art Society, financed to a lesser extent by the state and the city, and primarily by charitable patrons. The endeavour was supported by artists, who had contributed works for a charity auction. The talk deals with the background of this exemplary project of patronage.

Emese Révész (1967), art historian, assistant professor at the Hungarian University of Fine Art. She has published several books and articles on the illustrated press of the 19th century, the history of Hungarian tertiary art education, and the history of Hungarian graphic art.

4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Andrea Maleta: The Beethoven Music Room

The talk deals with the Beethoven music room in the Villa Scheid in Vienna, and the history of the six large-sized paintings by Auchentaller in the broad context of the Viennese Secession and Jugendstil, exploring its origins also from an art- and cultural historical perspective.

Andreas Maleta (1951) studied in Vienna and India and became a photojournalist and a documentary filmmaker for Austrian and international media, specializing in the Middle East and India. Studying of the work of J.M. Auchentaller aroused his interest in the art and culture of Vienna around the turn of the century. He founded the “Gallery punkt12” in Vienna, currently devoted to exhibiting and promoting the “Victor & Martha Thonet collection” of which Auchentaller is a substantial part.

Katalin Jeserü: Modernity in turn-of-the-century Czech, Polish and Hungarian writings about art

Comparison of terminology and emphases in writings from contemporary Krakow, Prague and Budapest papers: similarities and differences.

Katalin Keserü (1946), art historian, professor emeritus. Main area of research: 19th-century and fin-de-siècle Hungarian art and its international context. She has published numerous monographs, books of essays, collections of source texts in her field, and has organised exhibitions and organised conferences in Hungary and abroad.

Ilona Sármány-Parsons: Dilemmas of the Canon of 19th Century Painting from a Central European Perspective

The first international summaries of 19th century European painting appeared in the 1890s. The best of these mapped the national schools of Europe and tried to provide an overall perspective. A decade later, instead of the historical summaries, normative canon construction gained the upper hand, and this narrowed the perspective radically by focusing exclusively on  stylistic-formal aspects of painting. On this basis it constructed the autonomous form-based value-system of most 20th century narratives. This lecture will discuss this process and its implications for our contemporary discourse.

Ilona Sármány-Parsons (1949) is a Hungarian art historian based in Vienna. She worked at the Institute of Art History at the Hungarian Academy for ten years. She has taught at the University of Debrecen, Central European University in Budapest, the University of Vienna and University of Nottingham. Her special field is the art and architecture of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph. She has contributed studies and books on this field and these were published in English, German, French, Czech, Russian and Japanese.



The First Golden Age | Painting in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Műcsarnok

Scholarly curator: Ilona Sármány-Parsons

Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest, Budapest XIV., Heroes’ Square

2016. November 22. - 2017. March 12.

2017. February 24. 11:00 - 18:00

Kunsthalle Auditorium

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