Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka – a lonely art travel in time and space

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka (1853-1919) is a Hungarian painter whose life is as bizarre and distinctive as his works.

He was born in a small town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which town today is on the territory of Slovakia and has around twelve thousand inhabitants. As of his thirtieth year he was a pharmacist in his hometown.

They say that at that time he once dreamt a strange dream, in which a mystical voice told him that he would become a great painter, as great as Rafael.

Believing the dream, Tivadar embarked a tour of Europe and visited the Vatican galleries. He then returned to Hungary, where he worked for another dozen years at the pharmacy to collect money for his further travels.

After 1890 he managed to visit France, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, North Africa and the Middle East (Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria).

His most famous works Tivadar painted only for a period of several years, between 1903 and 1909. Apart from their huge size, his paintings are distinguished by a strong individual style, influenced by the famous Renaissance painters and by his many travels abroad.

Tivadar made several exhibitions in Paris and other cities in western Europe, where he was recognised as a painter with an original style.

His works are characterised by exceptional expressiveness, with a renaissance knowledge of the perspective and icon-influenced colour vision. He barely uses contours; his drawing is soft and renaissance-like. The colours are fresh and saturated. Tivadar uses the white colour in a very specific way. In his paintings the white objects are emphasised unobtrusively, but at the same time categorically.

The backgrounds are usually landscapes in which a renaissance adoration of nature and its cosmic power is felt. This is especially evident in the depiction of mountains and trees. As if painted by a student in the school of Andrea Verrocchio!

Tivadar has a very original vision of the role of heaven. In many of his paintings, the sky occupies almost half the canvas. Besides white, gray and blue, he very often uses red and yellow for the sky, and it in great proportions. The sky is like a separate, very important character in his artistic productions.

I call them “productions” because his works resemble theatrical or opera performances. They have some dramatic, very strong storyline, often with a biblical twist, but with no direct connection to biblical legends and heroes. On some paintings you can build decors of spectacular opera performances and I assure you; the emotion will be very strong!

One can say for sure – his work is difficult to confuse with those of another artist, which is one of the manifestations of the great talent.

Art critics relate stylistically his paintings to post-impressionism, expressionism, symbolism, magic realism, and surrealism. Given that he left only about one hundred and fifty paintings, it is a remarkable stylistic variety!

Interestingly, the fact that Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka  is absolutely self-taught; it is not known about him to have been trained by anyone else.

He remained misunderstood and underestimated in his homeland. He has been considered strange because he was a pacifist, a vegetarian, a non-smoker and lived extremely modestly and ascetically. He tended to go into pathos in conversation and firmly believed that he has had a mission – to develop the art of the Hungarian people to an exceptional level.

In his life, however, he failed to sell any picture. In his last years he lived lonely, misunderstood, unhappy and did not paint anymore. After his death, he was completely forgotten.

His paintings were found by chance by an architect who came to his studio, looking for a rented apartment. He carried the works of Tivadar to the Fine arts school, where he was a lecturer.

In 1949, the paintings of Tivadar took part in exhibitions in Paris and Brussels.

The interest in his art was revived in the seventies  of the last century when his collection of works was moved to  a museum with his name in the city of Pécs, southern Hungary  and thus his paintings were stored for the future.

I choose to show you his painting “Riders by the seashore”,  painted in 1909 year.

On the shores of an isolated sea bay we see riders women and men, some with their dogs.

The horses are slender, elegant, with elongated heads and limbs. They look a little unreal, like in a dream.

The riders have typical postures for riding, but they’re sitting somehow rigid. Men are strangely alike. Women – too. Everyone is focused on themselves and on riding.

The cliffs are high, striated, cold-emitting. No greenery is visible. The trees stand lifeless.

The sea is slightly waved, somehow strangely collapsed in itself and very lonely.

The sky stands as a décor without any emotional involvement in the painting.

From this painting it spurts such incredible loneliness! The lack of vitality and emotions in it causes a feeling of cold and loneliness. Interesting how the lack of emotions can give birth to such a strong emotion?

Perhaps the Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka  will remain in the history of art precisely with its uniqueness, grandiosity and lack of sensitiveness. A lonely stranger in art.

You may see the paintings of Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka here at Wikiart.

The big lonely heart of János Balázs

János Balázs (1905-1977) is Hungarian painter (and poet) of gypsy origin, with expressive paintings and unusual life.

Art critics classify his works as “naive art” and “surrealism”. Sometimes they compare him to Paul Gauguin, but in fact his works are absolutely unique. His paintings are recognisable at first glance, as with the great artists.

János Balázs is a talent self-taught and self-made in everything. He attended school for only two years. He was born in the gypsy neighbourhood of Alsókubin in Hungary, and moved with his family to Salgotarjan, where he remained for the rest of his life.

He participated in the Second World War, but was most of the time a prisoner of war, and at that time he read a lot – Homer, Shakespeare, Balzac. He also has been well acquainted with the Hungarian classics.

After his return home, János Balázs lived alone and barely met other people. He lived quite poorly and made money for living by collecting and selling coal from local mines, gathering herbs and mushrooms in the woods.

Only the children from the gypsy neighbourhood, who have liked to talk to him and listen to his fairly tales, visited his poor house.

János Balázs started painting at the age of sixty-three.

The gypsy children, his friends from the neighbourhood, were the first impressed by his paintings. They began to wear the necessary materials and paints.

He died extremely poor and lonely. The painter left behind about 300 paintings that are becoming more and more valuable to art lovers and merchants. Most of his paintings are in private collections, but some of them can be seen in the Hungarian Museum of Naive Art and in the Art Gallery in Salgotarjan.

What makes János Balázs’s work so valuable?

There is a naive emotionality in them, absolutely untouched by civilisation and the predominant way of life.

Closeness to nature bordering to Shamanism. Relationship with the primary forces in this world, with eternal energies and human symbols.

We remain wordless feeling the great power of human nature, for we understand how unique and powerful the human being is, if he can encompass and visualise the world in such an incredible way, only through the wisdom of the old books, obtained in loneliness.

It is amazing how this could happened in the second half of the 20th century in the center of Europe.

Голямото самотно сърце на János Balázs

János Balázs (1905-1977) e унгарски художник (и поет) от ромски произход, c експресивни картини и необикновена съдба.

Арт критиците причисляват творбите му към стиловете “наивизъм” и “сюрреализъм”. Понякога го сравняват с Гоген, но всъщност той е абсолютно уникален. Картините му се разпознават от пръв поглед, така както се случва с големите художници.

János Balázs е самороден талант, самоук във всичко, посещавал е училище само две години. Роден е в циганската махала на Alsókubin в Унгария, и се премества със семейството си в Salgotarjan, където остава до края на живота си.

Участва във Втората световна война, но през повечето време е военнопленник, като в този период чете много – Омир, Шекспир, Балзак. Запознат е в детайли с творчеството на унгарските класици.

След прибирането си у дома живее усамотено и почти не се среща с други хора. Прехранва се по най-различен начин – събира и продава въглища от местните мини, събира билки и гъби в гората. Посещават го само децата от ромската махала, които обичат да разговарят с него и да слушат приказките, които той им разказва.

Започва да рисува на шестдесет и три годишна възраст.

Децата, неговите приятели от махалата, първи се впечатляват от картините му. Те започват да му носят нужните материали и бои за рисуване.

Умира крайно беден и самотен. Оставя след себе си около 300 картини, които с времето стават все по-ценни за арт любителите и търговците. Повечето от картините му се намират в частни колекции, но част от тях могат да бъдат видени в Унгарския музей на наивното изкуство и в Художествената галерия в Salgotarjan.

Какво прави работите на János Balázs толкова ценни?

В тях се усеща една наивна емоционалност, абсолютно неизкушена от цивилизацията и преобладаващия начин на живот.

Една древна близост до природата, граничеща с шаманско преклонение. Връзка с първичните сили в този свят, с вечни енергии и човешки символи.

Човек притихва пред великата сила на човешката природа, защото разбира какво уникално и силно нещо е човешкото същество, щом може само с помощта на знания, събрани в самота от вечните книги, да обхване и визуализира по такъв невероятен начин света.

Удивително е как това се е случило през втората половина на 20 век в центъра на Европа.