Collection of Paintings
Two-thirds of the approximately 650 paintings in the collection comprise portraits of writers and poets, yet there are works which do not seem to be linked to literature (landscapes, interiors, paintings with a historical theme, etc.) which were mostly in the ownership of writers. The oldest paintings from the 18th century depict predecessors of Kazinczy; however, the most of the collection comprises works by 20th-century artists.
The collection is based on the heritage of the former Petőfi House, thus it comprises several representations of the poet Petőfi, including works by Soma Orlai Petrich, Gyula Benczúr and Viktor Madarász. Yet he also inspired several 20th-century and contemporary artists (Viola Berki, Tibor Csernus, Béla Kondor, István efZámbó, etc.).
Outstanding works from Mór Jókai’s large estate are included, such as the Russian Vershchagin’s painting dedicated to the writer, a landscape by Károly Telepy and Historic Game of Tarot by Artúr Ferraris.
Several well-known, highly valuable paintings used to belong to Endre Ady. In particular, the paintings by members of The Eight (Lajos Tihanyi, Dezső Czigány) are outstanding. The masterpiece The Spiritualist by Lajos Gulácsy is one of the museum’s most valuable paintings and was acquired from the estate of photographer Aladár Székely. Paintings by great Hungarian writers, such as those by Imre Madách and Mór Jókai, are special in the collection.
The collection of paintings is constantly growing with contemporary artists’ portraits of writers and works inspired by literature.
Collection of Graphic Art
The collection includes some 10,000 works. The two main groups of partly 19th-century and mostly 20th-century and contemporary graphic art comprise portraits of writers and poets, and illustrations for literary works. A large part of the portraits are 19th-century lithographs and engravings, while the illustrations are graphic works and title page designs made for volumes mostly by Hungarian and less frequently by foreign authors (e.g. works by János Kass, Károly Reich and Ádám Würtz). Individual sheets of graphic art and hommage embody literary themes which have been inspired by concrete works of literature or a writer’s oeuvre (e.g. graphic art by Tibor Csernus, Béla Kondor and Lajos Szalay). Besides illustrations and portraits, a special section of the collection includes drawings by writers and poets who, in addition to writing, were also artists or drew occasionally, such as Géza Csáth, Mór Jókai and Sándor Weöres. The collection also includes drawings and prints depicting memorial places of literature, townscapes, fashion, ex libris, caricatures of writers, as well as visual poetry art and picture poems. Finally, artworks which were bought by or presented to writers and which decorated their homes also represent part of the collection. Their relation to literature may not be indicated by their topic but rather by their origin and their nature of a relic, yet in given cases their quality exceeds that of a strictly literary illustration, for example graphic artworks by Dezső Czigány, József Nemes Lampérth and Attila Sassy.
Collection of Sculpture
The sculpture collection, which is varied in technique, style and genre, includes more than 600 statues and statuettes. The majority depict Hungarian writers and were made by the most outstanding sculptors of the 19th and 20th centuries. A smaller part is represented by works and hommage inspired by literature, such as Tamás Fekete’s Tree on the Great Boulevard in memory of Árpád Tóth and the small sculpture Dorothy and Family go to the Ball by Mihály Schéner. The collection of sculpture also includes several designs of tombstones and monuments, such as Béni Ferenczy’s design for Babits’s grave, Géza Csorba’s for Ady, Fülöp Ö. Beck’s for Madách, as well as a copy of the iconic monument of Attila József on the Danube bank sculpted by László Marton. Some 30 casts of life and death masks rendering the facial features of noted writers make up an independent section of the collection. It includes one of the oldest works in the collection, Ferencz Kazinczy’s life mask, which was sculpted by József Schmelzer in Kolozsvár on 16 August 1816.
Collection of Coins and Medals
The collection includes 3,000 medals and plaquettes with a literary theme made in very different styles and materials with different techniques. Fragments of ancient round coins from Géza Ottlik’s estate represent the earliest pieces, yet the majority were made by 19th-21st-century artists, and most of them depict writers’ portraits.
Of the core collection Károly Gerl’s medal made for Mór Jókai’s 50th jubilee as a writer, which the artist was commissioned to make in Vienna in 1893, must be highlighted. In Hungary the sculptor Fülöp Ö. Beck was the first to make modern artistic medals and he was friends with the writers of the journal Occident. His medal portraits included that of Ady, Babits and Osvát, and the collection also has his works rendered of Petőfi, Arany, Kazinczy and Vörösmarty. Medals of Kölcsey, Móricz, Petőfi and Ady by Béni Ferenczy can be found in the museum. Several plaquettes of Ady and Petőfi made by Pál Pátzay, as well as nearly 30 works of a literary theme by Walter Madarassy for example, about Balassi, Csokonai, Ady and Arany are also represented. Literary illustrations have appeared on medals since the second half of the 20th century, which is well shown by the ironic, illustrative silver medal of Ady by Walter Madarassy. The borderline between small sculpture and medals seems to have become blurred by today and that can be seen in Antal Czinder’s work inspired by Ady, and the glass and bronze artwork Hommage à Dante by Mária Lugossy. A nice example of experimenting with forms is the plaquette breaking through angular shapes of Gézá Bereményi by Eszter Balás made in 2001. A large section of Klára Herczeg’s small sculpture and medals with mythological and biblical subjects, which were donated to the museum by the artist, can be found in the collection.
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