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Magyar Imagination: Selections from the Salgo Trust Donation of Hungarian Art

ImageJane Voorhess Zimmerli Art Museum

Dec 09, 2007 - Mar 30, 2008

To celebrate the recent gift of works of art from the Nicholas M. Salgo Collection of Hungarian Art – the largest and most important representation of Hungarian art of the 19th and 20th centuries outside of Central Europe – the Zimmerli will present over 150 works representing the breadth of the collection from the 16th through the 20th centuries. This exhibition marks the first time that an overview of this important collection has been presented to the public. Styles represented include 19th-century academic painting, plein-air painting, Secessionist (Art Nouveau), 20th-century avant-garde, works in the nativist style of the interwar period, and contemporary painting and sculpture.

Among the notable pieces in the collection are five works by Mihály Munkácsy, the most important Hungarian artist of the 19th century; Mother and Two Children, an 1869 painting by Pál Szinyei-Merse representing one of the earliest examples of Central European Impressionism; a portrait by József Rippl-Rónai, who worked in France as a member of the post-Impressionist group known as the Nabis; and abstract paintings by the significant modernist Janos Mattis-Teutsch.

Another intriguing aspect of the Salgo Trust collection, though currently less known than the art collection, is its Salgo Trust’s excellent holdings of historical maps of Hungary and central/south-eastern Europe – including significant items extending back as far as the 16th century. There is also a growing collection of rare books and publications, particularly Secessionist (Art Nouveau) books and publications of the early 20th century avant-garde.

The Magyar imagination reflects the particular mental vision of the world constructed by Hungarians, one that is both closely related to, and distinct from the world view of other European nations. Stemming from a geographical region and millennial state formation historically bounded by the Carpathian Mountains (as well as the linguistic space defined by the Magyars’ highly distinctive language, and therefore mode of thought), it is a conceptual view that can be placed between the tragic, and highly politicized vision of Russian culture, and the more aestheticized and pastoral vision of the French, to name just those two traditions strongly represented by the Zimmerli’s current holdings.

The materials received from the Salgo Trust will form the basis for a comprehensive program of collection, research, and teaching of Hungarian visual culture at Rutgers University, through the planned establishment of a Center for Hungarian Art.

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