2009-06-10

Hungary - Budapest - Retrospective exhibition of Jozsef Borsos

Lady with a Lornnette -1856

József Borsos is at once one of the most well-known and most unjustly forgotten Hungarian painters of the 19th century: while some of his emblematic works are often reproduced and popular, the whole of his oeuvre is relatively unknown to the public. This may partly be due to the fact that Borsos had lived and worked in Vienna for twenty years (from the beginning of the 1840s to 1861), and thus became somewhat isolated from Hungarian art life. He studied in Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller's private school, and was also influenced by Friedrich von Amerling, adopting a rich, graceful, masterly manner of painting. He was popular with the Viennese society, and received commissions to paint portraits of members of the high aristocracy, e. g. Prince Paul Esterházy, while the Emperor also purchased a still life and a genre piece of his. The recognition was not ephemeral: the quality of his artistic output makes him one of the most important Hungarian Biedermeier artists even in retrospect. Our forthcoming exhibition aims to introduce him to the public by putting an ample selection of his works on show, and we are also going to publish a scholarly catalogue of his oeuvre, thus providing a new point of departure for art historical research. Light will also be shed on an even lesser-known phase of his carreer: after giving up painting and returning to Hungary, he became a successful photographer.
To achieve this goal, we will loan paintings by Borsos from many Hungarian museums and private collections, but also from the collections of institutions abroad (Austria, Slovakia, Croatia). Most of Borsos' works fall into distinct, traditional genres: he mainly painted portraits, still lifes, and conversation pieces. Following an introductory section which will present the figure of the artist through documents and contemporary portraits, the works will be arranged in these categories in the exhibition. An emphasis will be laid on the typical Biedermeier motifs which he adopted and elaborated creatively, in his own personal style. Thus, the exhibition will present Borsos as a strong artistic personality who is deeply rooted in his age; to compliment his works, it will also show paintings by Austrian and Hungarian painters who had worked in a similar style and treated similar subjects. We aim to present not only the artist but also his context: the influences and parallels which provide an opportunity for comparison, and help to define the character of this intriguing artistic personality.
The exhibition will show 80-90 paintings by Borsos, which will give a thorough overview of his relatively small oeuvre. This selection will be complemented by about 20 works by other artists, as well as documents related to Borsos' life. His photographic oeuvre will be represented by c. 200 photographs.

Hungarian National Gallery - 18.06.2009-25.10.2009