We invite visitors of the Memories of Forgetting to travel through time. The exhibition, which covers nearly half a century from the 1860s until the breakout of World War I, has lessons to offer us even today. The art collection from which the photos and documents originate, as well as the venue where this material is presented, are the same as the subject they refer to: the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. We endeavour to tell stories that show, in a new and unusual context, the events and happenings of – as well as artworks from – this supposedly well-known period, which have fallen out of the habitual canon but are nevertheless real. Within the framework of the exhibition, these remnants of the past are lifted out of the obscurity of forgetting, or unveiled by reinterpreting the memories and mementos that have been left to us and reanalysing them from a new perspective. Artworks that have been unknown till now, or forgotten, or shown in a new form for the first time, are presented in service of this undertaking. We tell these stories of the past using pictures, by confronting the magic of photography, which renders a once-existing light environment perceptible to us, with nuanced analytic work. These two gazes – of the photographer from the past and of today’s viewer – are turned into one another, like the video feedback, potentially generating an endless number of new, dynamic shapes. In other words, by viewing the exhibition, the possibility of recalling experiences and stories that point beyond the showcased material is open to all viewers.
Upon beginning the project we asked the following questions: Who collected photographs? How were they used and for what purpose? Who at the Hungarian Royal School of Model Drawing and Teacher Training (the institution which preceded the Hungarian University of Fine Arts) was engaged in photographic activities? What did they think of this new medium? A study of the University’s written documents is not the best way to seek answers to these questions. However, it can generally be said that the photographs ended up in the Library by various means from various sources. Initially, they originated from artists who taught at – or were connected with – the institution, and then there was a period where they were more typically gifted to the school. It was only at the end of the century that purchases became common, by way of institutional acquisition from various distributors.
Of the future master teachers of the School of Model Drawing, Bertalan Székely (1835 – 1910) was the only one who engaged with photography at the theoretical level – at least to the extent of a brief, problem-formulating study, published in 1863. Upon reading together the responding article by Miklós Barabás (1801 – 1898) published barely a month later with Székely’s text, it quickly becomes clear that Barabás’ interest lay in perspective, three-dimensional vision and stereoscopy, while Bertalan Székely’s query concerned the depiction and visual representation of movement (“persistence of vision”) – which is why he later reached out to Étienne-Jules Marey. This interest of his is probably the reason the Art Collection of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts includes photographs and books by Eadweard Muybridge, as well as photographs and Tachyscope strips by Ottomar Anschütz. In both cases, we are talking about two, slightly different images: if we look at the two photographs separately with our right and left eye, we enter virtual reality; our brain creates the illusion of space. If, however, they are placed in front of our eyes one after the other in rapid succession, we will experience the illusion of movement. In the context of everyday life, the stereoscope can traced back to the former and motion picture to the latter.
Over 400 early photographs contained in the HUFA Art Collection by authors such as Giacomo Brogi, Carlo Naya, Robert Rive, Giorgio Sommer and Paolo Lombardi were collected by sculptor Adolf Huszár (1843 – 1885), who purchased these (more or less systematically) during his travels. These are photos of antique sculptures – both original and plaster reproductions – as well as modern sculptures in modern cities: the metropolis provided receptive terrain for the proliferation of public sculptures – the “public art” of the 19th century – and, in this respect, Huszár had a pioneering role in Budapest.
Here, we might pause to ponder how the photograph – this “flyer-like image created and distributed by apparatus” (Vilém Flusser) – is exceedingly easy to transport: it can even be sent in a letter. The spreading of photographs was facilitated by the postal service, which became speedier with the increasing development of railway networks – and, thus, they unavoidably became part of everyday life. Franz Liszt purchased photographs at the Vereshchagin exhibition held at Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest and sent them to Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein; Viennese professor Carl Rahl, under whom Károly Lotz (1833 – 1904) studied, in a letter written in support of his former student, stated that he had already seen photographs of the sketches for his painting. The demand for photographs increased not only on the part of magazines, but in personal communication as well; in affluent families, the walls and desks were filled with photographs, people gave photos taken of them (visiting cards) as presents and collected pictures of their acquaintances in photo albums. And, of course, they correspond with pictures – it is by no accident that postcards as a form of communication came into existence during the times of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
The earliest photographs in the HUFA Art Collection pertaining to the operations and teachers of the School of Model Drawing can be brought in connection with Károly Lotz’s artworks. While he only became officially part of the teaching faculty in 1882, he had been cultivating relationships with the leading teachers of the school – Gusztáv Keleti (1834 – 1902), Bertalan Székely, and Gusztáv Morelli (1848 -1909) – for quite some time. The photographs, as well as Lotz’s sketches that are still preserved today, are connected partly to his earliest commissions, and are partly reproductions of finished wall paintings. There are also a few photos which may have been taken during the preparatory phase of the Lotz Album, published in 1898.
The three earliest pictures – which were later painted on and are thus the most peculiar pieces of the Art Collection – were almost certainly taken in the early 1860s. Lotz’s lithographs were distributed in the form of photographic reproductions. There is a single reproduction of the sketches for the cherubs at the Vigadó painted in 1875 that, based on the flipside of the photo, is most likely attributable to Antal Simonyi, but the first group of photos dated from 1862 to 1875 was not necessarily taken by the same photographer.
The photos of the HUFA Art Collection can in part be linked to the mural works from the first period of Lotz’s oeuvre in Pest and Buda (from 1873, Budapest): Redoute (Vigadó), 1863, Károlyi Palace, 1864, Liptay Palace, 1872, University Library, 1875, and the Hungarian National Museum, 1874. The photos depict the sketches of the murals, perhaps for the purpose of simpler demonstration. What makes them especially interesting is that the majority of the two hundred original nude drawings found in the Art Collection can be clearly matched up with these works.
Mihály Stróbl, son of Alajos Strobl (1856 – 1926), writes the following in his book: “During his stay in Vienna – probably for the purposes of generating some income – Alajos Strobl stood model in various compositions for a company who made nude art photographs and also supplied the Academy with these photographs for study purposes. Unfortunately, these photographs were destroyed in a fire in 1929.” (Mihály Stróbl: A gránitoroszlán. Egy magyar szobrász élete a Magyar–Osztrák Monarchiában. Strobl Alajos életútja. [The Granite Lion: Life of a Hungarian Sculptor in the Hungarian-Austrian Monarchy – Alajos Strobl]. Alajos Strobl Memorial Foundation, 2004. p. 41.) In the family album, however, a visiting card from a 20-year-old Alajos Strobl (1876) has been preserved, which, according to the company marking on the flipside, was created in Dr. Hermann Heid’s studio in Vienna. The photographer who supplied the art academies with nude art photographs happened to be Dr. Heid – known in Hungary as the master of Georg Klösz. They both came from Germany, from Darmstadt. The Art Collection of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts contains up to two hundred nude art photographs from Dr. Heid’s studio, which were probably brought to Budapest after his death. Approximately twenty of these photos are of Alajos Strobl; based on a visiting card issued for him, his face can clearly be identified.
The largest set of nude studies in the Art Collection (Inv. No. 1895) were photographed by Dr. Hermann Heid, while the photos stored under Inventory Numbers 1477, 1789 and 5564 were all taken by Gaudenzio Marconi (1841–1885). There is also a smaller group of photos (Inv. No. 1711) that were taken mostly by Dominik Stahala (? – Vienna, 1918). (For the latter information, I would like to thank Michael Ponstingl.) Thus, in addition to the photographs from Taormina, previously identified as the work of Wilhelm von Glöden (1856–1931; Inv. No. 4070), the other photographs can be attributed to their makers as well.
At the School of Model Drawing, exhibition constituted the proper form of presenting publicly the activity of the institution. Of the different shows held at various venues and dates, the School’s appearance at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair is of special significance, as it was clearly the event that occasioned the commissioning of two photographic albums, which serve as exceptional documents of institutional self-representation.
At the Paris World’s Fair, it was Mór Erdélyi who photographed the event; in these pictures, the aforementioned two albums – which have been preserved in the Art Collection in their original form – can also be identified. The larger album, which presents the School of Model Drawing and Teacher Training, contains seventeen photos and four blueprints. There are also separate pages that contain second copies of the same series. In addition, photographs that did not make it into the album have also been preserved, which bear Antal Weinwurm’s stamp, indicating that he was the photographer. While the photographs of the other album portraying the Women’s Painting School appear more spontaneous – which may have resulted from the character of its subjects – these are nevertheless posed compositions. However, by using a new method of grouping we can discover a number of image-pairs or the movement of the portrayed people can be followed for the duration of the photo session. Also the studios and even certain individuals can be identified. The Women’s Painting School was previously led by Károly Lotz, and then, in the academic year 1897/1898, Course Director and teacher Lajos Deák-Ébner (Pest, 18 July 1850 – Budapest, 20 January 1934) who is shown in one photograph of the album, assumed the post.
In the second half of the 19th century new image types, inventions like the panoramas, cycloramas and stereo pictures, were made for entertaining the masses and became internationally fashionable. The only chance entrepreneurs had for gaining profit from their investment was to make sure enough people visited these attractions and purchased these special photographs. While cycloramas were too difficult to realize on a DIY-basis, creating stereo photographs became unusually popular in amateur circles as well as in the context of private and family photography. Although, similarly to cyclorama pavilions, the stereoscopic “Kaiserpanorama” was a public spectacle for the metropolises, there was a fundamental difference between the two approaches. While visitors of cycloramas did not need any special tools or devices, which allowed them to be captivated by the illusion of pseudo-three-dimensional space together as a group, stereo photographs could only be enjoyed on a solitary basis, by a single person at a time. Just as virtual reality today, 19th century stereoscopy also required a special apparatus and the individual’s ability to immerse him- or herself in the illusion of three-dimensional space. Supposedly, there is a small percentage of people that cannot perceive stereo images, which makes the spatial effect created with the stereoscope even more exclusive in terms of its accessibility. Cycloramas – which were often set up in tents and sometimes painted with imperfect technique – began their decline with the increasingly widespread availability of motion pictures, which, as of the 1900s, dazzled viewers with more and more sophisticated and effective products.
From the HUFA Art Collection, the exhibition features Gusztáv Morelli’s four-metre long, woodcut reproduction of the first cyclorama realized in Hungary, a composition entitled The Arrival of the Hungarians by Árpád Feszty (among others), as well as Antal Weinwurm’s photo series of the so called Bem–Petőfi Cyclorama. Anna Barnaföldi’s new work (Go to Hell!) invokes the strange spectacle of the Cyclorama of Hell in the realm of virtual reality, based on the relevant documents that have survived into present day. The stereo photographs are rendered accessible, in a number of different formats, by Anna Peternák’s presentations of Mrs. Alajos Strobl’s pictures. In addition, an original stereoscopic device complete with original photo set will also be showcased, allowing viewers to compare the stereo-experience and technical solutions available then and today.
Throughout his life, Alojzia Kratochwill, wife of sculptor Alajos Strobl, took photographs regularly. After having discovered the stereotechnique, she created “Sun Sculptures”(a term we use here is borrowed from the mount board of the Underwood & Underwood company) to document everything she found interesting: travels, summer vacations, exhibitions, art studios, visitors at Mulberry Garden, bathing, Christmas, and marble mines. Mihály Stróbl’s detailed family history serves as our main source of reference with regard to the Strobl Family. Mihály Stróbl describes how his mother was introduced to photography: “Mrs Strobl purchased [in 1900] a then-fashionable stereo-slide series depicting the famous sights of Paris, which had a great role in inspiring her to switch to three-dimensional photography a few years later. Otherwise, she was introduced to the science of photography by painter Ede Balló, who was my father’s friend from Liptószentmiklós/Liptovský Mikuláš. As a result, from the turn of the century onward, a lot of photos were taken, which our family is still in possession of.” (Ibid. page 95)
In the brief biography that appears in the same book (entitled The Granite Lion), Marianne Strobl is referred to as Maria Strobl (perhaps because there was more than one Mariann in the family). Her remarkably beautiful album in the Art Collection of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, is linked simultaneously with the main profile of the M. Strobl photo studio, the documentation of factories, plants and constructions, as well as with the Strobl Family itself, as it covers Alajos Strobl’s visit to Ruszkicza/Ruschita, and shows images of the Széchenyi statue of Szeged (carved from Ruschita stone). All twenty-nine photos included in the album (named after the marble mine of Ruschita), visibly bears the red stamp of Marianne Strobl’s studio.
The discovery of Marianne Strobl’s photo studio, as well as her acceptance into the ranks of exceptional international artists from the history of photography, were recent events that occurred in connection with the exhibition of the Viennese Photoinstitut Bonartes and the publication of the accompanying catalogue (Ulrike Matzer, Marianne Strobl, “Industrie-Photograph”, 1894–1914. www.bonartes.org ). The exhibition featured an album commission by a family which also contained a photograph of the temporary studio setup in the castle that was to be documented, also showing an assistant and Josef Strobl, who was Marianne Strobl’s husband and colleague. As the family recalls, Josef Strobl – József Strobl Jr. (Krakow, 31 March 1852 – Vienna, 25 May 1922) – was a photographer and, after their marriage, he and Marianna Strobl must have worked together. There is one photo we can attribute to him with utter certainty: the photo, which Joseph Strobl signed by hand in 1892, shows Alajos Strobl and his sister Zsófia, and is considered to be the first example of a photographic representation of Mulberry Garden.
There are numerous photographs of exceptional beauty – taken between 1900 and 1914 in Liptóujvár-Őrtűz/Liptovský Hrádok and Budapest’s Mulberry Garden, and marked with Marianne Strobl’s studio stamp – in the family’s possession, a portion of which were featured in an illustrated edition of The Granite Lion¸ albeit without indicating the photographer’s name (Stróbl 2003, pp. 8, 55, 75, 80, 85, 87, 91, 94–95, 144–145, 161, 170). Since, according to family memory, József was the one who mostly kept in touch with the family, the photographs dated 1900, 1912, and 1914, stamped “M. Strobl” could have also been taken by him – although determining authorship in the case of a photograph that originates from a well-functioning photo studio requires a certain degree of caution. At least three phases of photographic processing can be distinguished: the first phase, when, through the lens, as per a specific setting, the plate is exposed to light, is followed by the second phase, when the negatives and positives are processed in the photo lab (here the chemicals and timings are important) and finally, someone has to authorize the finished positive. At this point, the photo or mounting board can be stamped, or the photo can be pasted onto the studio’s generic mounting board with the company logo. From what we have seen so far, it has become clear that, in the 19th century, photography studios still operated as a continuation of the traditions and usual hierarchy of medieval guilds; larger studios could employ even dozens of workers. With the end of World War I it all disappeared without a trace.
Stefan Zweig, in his book entitled The World of Yesterday, offers a sensuous description of the contagiously enthusiastic mood that infected nearly everyone upon the breakout of war, whereby any clearly reasoning voice raised against the war was deemed almost sinful. As this general atmosphere or buoyant optimism seemed to suggest, people felt like they could finally participate in History with a capital “H”. There appeared to be a seemingly reasonable need to record this important historical period, which was most likely also shared by Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, as indicated by its commissioning of two different photographers to document its conversion from an institution of education to a military hospital. After the 1900 albums, this was the second of such a photographic commission deliberately decided on and placed by the Academy for the purposes of self-representation. And Antal Weinwurm once again chosen as one of the two photographers. The second agent was a young journalist, a woman called Lili Fabinyi. A portion of her photos were already published in 1914. From the 1914/1915 yearbook of the Academy, it also becomes apparent that the conversion of the buildings – both on Andrássy Avenue and in Mulberry Garden – started as soon as the war broke out, as a result of which the academic year only commenced in January 1915, in various other locations: “The building of the Hungarian Royal Academy of Fine Arts, located at 71 Andrássy Avenue has been converted into the Hungarian Royal Military Hospital. The facility, providing medical care to wounded soldiers, opened its gates on 27 September 1914, with a capacity of accommodating 336 patients. 15 beds are reserved in a separate hall for high ranking officers, while the remaining beds are set up for the treatment of wounded soldiers, as well as members of the Military Guard and the Territorial Army.” (page 79)
The image series featured in the yearbook includes a strange photograph of the building under 71 Andrássy Avenue, with a flag bearing a red cross. A positive of one of Weinwurm’s photographs (originally taken in 1900 for the Paris album) was used, with the flag simply painted onto the façade of the portrayed building. This photo symbolically connects, as it were, these two institutional commissions (1900 and 1914), resulting in a unique photographic image, for not only the (then-)present, but the future as well – awaiting remembering and decoding. The Paris album was intended for international viewership, while the military hospital series was photographed for the benefit of posterity. Thus, in contrast to the majority of the photographic material in the Art Collection, these pictures were not intended exclusively for “internal use”, but, similarly to the rest of the photos, as per the original objective, the hospital series was created “for the purposes of study, rather copying”. The yearbook has nothing to say about how the war itself, though it was indeed historic, unfolded in a manner very different from what would have been expected based on the aforementioned, rather naïve, expectations. The war dragged on, the military hospital remained continuously operational, and the courses of the Academy could only return to their usual location after six years, among completely changed circumstances. At that point, no one was any longer interested in 19th century photographs – and it remained so until the late 20th century, till the subsequent visual revolution, that of the digital world. And is perhaps for this reason that these photographs have survived for almost a century, hidden in folders and boxes, locked in drawers and cabinets, untouched.
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