The Budapest Műcsarnok is celebrating its 120th anniversary with a jubilee exhibition. The exhibition, ‘The First Golden Age’, which opened on Monday, showcases a selection of masterpiece paintings from the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
You can get a 20% discount if you visit Műcsarnok and the exhibition, which is open until the middle of March with your Budapest Card
Among the countries of the former dual monarchy – beside Hungary and Austria – museums from the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Croatia collaborated to create this exhibition, which features nearly 200 works of art. The date of the opening is symbolic; 21 November, 2016 marked the centenary of the death of Franz Joseph.
Since its opening, Műcsarnok has always been open to exhibiting fine art from the entirety of the Empire. A significant majority of the currently exhibited works have been seen previously at the institution. Open-minded politicians at the end of the 19th century envisioned that culture, including art, should play a very important part in the life of both the nation and the individual.
The National Hungarian Fine Arts Society, which would eventually run the Műcsarnok, received significant support from the state after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867.
Completed by 1896 and successfully adapting to changing functions over the ages, the building was intended, firstly, to provide a regular exhibition opportunity for Hungarian artists and, secondly, to provide an institutional background to connect the Hungarian art scene to the international mainstream inside and outside of the Empire.
Franz Joseph’s reign was a time of constant modernisation in Central Europe, culturally as well as economically. The national schools of painting produced works that were considered outstanding by the European artistic standards of the time. The era of Franz Joseph was truly a golden age for the arts, and painting in particular, in the Empire.
Presenting an overview of four and a half decades of painting, the jubilee exhibition The First Golden Age divides the main stylistic trends into periods (historicism, realism, and various modern trends) in chronological order, exploring Hungarian, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Croatian painting.
Showcasing many masterpieces of the era, one particularly interesting and spectacular section is a collection of monumental works by the ‘3M masters’, Hans Makart, Jan Matejko and Mihály Munkácsy.
These three great artists depicted themes betraying different historical perspectives and world-views with similarly brilliant colour schemes, affording viewers a special experience, and revealing why they were considered the ‘painter celebrities’ of the Empire’s historicist era.