Crossroads – artists in Nagyvárad in the interwar period

Exhibition at the Holocaust Memorial Centre

Belated Homecoming, the first exhibition of the Art in Exile series, opened in the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Páva Street, Budapest, in the spring of 2011. It aimed at rediscovering artists who, due to their origins, were not able to remain in Hungary during the 1920s and 1930s. A second exhibition was planned for spring 2011 presenting art in connection with Nagyvárad (today Oradea in Romania) a town which used to have a large Jewish community. In 1944 Nagyvárad had the biggest ghetto in Hungary after Budapest. The town’s artists founded art schools after they had travelled and finished their studies. They learnt in the best studios and with the best masters. The exhibition presents the fate of some of these artists. They all lived either temporarily or permanently in Nagyvárad. Alex Leon turned to drawing after obtaining a master’s certificate in tailoring and began making lithographs in 1927. His oeuvre came to an end when he was conscripted for forced labour, resulting in his senseless and cruel death at a still undetermined date. Ernő Tibor had a more traditional career as a painter. He first presented his paintings in Nagyvárad in 1909 following his studies at the Budapest School of Drawing and the Julian Academy in Paris. The next year he had a solo exhibition in Budapest. He became a member of the Holnap (Tomorrow) Society. In the 1920s he worked in Nagyvárad and also spent some time in France and Italy. Settling in Nagyvárad he opened a school for painters. He was forced into the ghetto in 1944 and deported to Auschwitz and Dachau, where he died nine days before the liberation of the concentration camp. Móric Barát suffered a similar fate. In the summer of 1944 he was deported at the age of sixty-four to Auschwitz, where he was immediately sent to the gas chambers. He also began his studies at Budapest’s School of Drawing, after which he went to Munich and Berlin in 1903-1904. He worked as a graphic artist in Germany for some time. On his return he worked in Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureş) and then opened an art school together with Alfréd Macalik and Ödön Mikes Münich in Nagyvárad. He had exhibitions in Budapest and Marosvásárhely in 1912 and 1921 respectively. He painted landscapes, figurative compositions and nudes in oil and pastels, but lithographs also played an important role in his oeuvre. To avoid a tragic end, the couple Hugó Mund and Gizella Dömötör chose to emigrate. After having been guests of the Nagyvárad bishop between 1920 and 1924, they moved to Nagybánya temporarily. In 1931 they emigrated to Argentina. Mihály Kara (Krón) is the only sculptor among the artists. He studied in Budapest and Florence. After the failure of the 1919 Hungarian Council Republic he went to Nagyvárad where he was commissioned to create public monuments. In the middle of the 1930s he moved to Yugoslavia to work and later emigrated to Palestine. The oeuvres of these extraordinary artists displayed at the exhibition are all connected to Nagyvárad, a town which has always been open to the reception of modern ideas. It had an important gallery housing the Ipolyi collection.