GULÁCSY. The Prince of Na’Conxypan. The Art of Lajos Gulácsy (1882–1932)
The retrospective exhibition of Lajos Gulácsy, one of the most unique figures of twentieth-century Hungarian art, opens in the National Gallery from 6 April 2023. The large-scale show of some two hundred works, including eighty-four paintings, reveals the diversity of Gulácsy’s profound art by highlighting new contexts. Besides the many well-known masterpieces, visitors can view several recently identified works. His paintings, drawings, and illustrations are complemented by Gulácsy’s manuscripts, photographs taken of him and characteristic works by his contemporaries.
Lajos Gulácsy, a middle-class youth from Pest, traversed the entire history of art in his works: he was a Florentine knight from medieval times, a Venetian marquis, a flamboyant rococo dandy, an ascetic monk and a spiritualist magician, inventing new names for each of his imaginary journeys. Louis, Lodovico, Luigi Gulaxy, and the Prince of Na’Conxypan. He produced most of his oeuvre in Italy, where he returned several times after his first trip to Rome in 1902. Gulácsy pursued his studies in Venice and Florence, and he painted in Genoa, Chioggia, Como, and Bellagio, but also travelled to Paris in 1906. He wrote poems, short stories, art reviews and even a novel, and also designed stage sets for the Thália Society, advocating modern theatre.
Upon receiving news about the war, Gulácsy, a man with a fragile mind, had a nervous breakdown and, after a brief period of recuperation, he eventually needed permanent care from 1919 and was then a patient in a psychiatric hospital from 1924 until his death.
Gulácsy’s painting, distinguished by a peculiar character, evoking dreams, historical ambiances, and visions, was admired by many but, although he had several collectors, he spent his life amidst financial strain. “I live in this world half dreaming. With one eye, I stare into the illusion of sweet, mendacious phantasms; my other eye is always open to reality,” he wrote about himself. Our exhibition seeks to emphasise this dual character of Gulácsy’s oeuvre: one is represented by the world of dreams and ambiances, humorous, kind and silly beings of the country of his imagination, Na’Conxypan, and the other by subtle landscapes of a passionate observer of nature and drawings of simple figures of everyday life, attesting to the artist’s profound knowledge of the human soul.
Gulácsy was a child of his age not only through his dreams and historical nostalgia but also through his artistic erudition. His style bears the influence of the sensitivity of the Secession and the Pre-Raphaelites, the mystery of symbolism, and, at times, even the effortlessness of impressionism.
Our exhibition presents the many colours of Gulácsy’s oeuvre arranged in several sections, its connections with the art of the past and the present, and with his contemporaries. Gulácsy’s self-portraits, his home, Italy, and the artistic periods he evoked are shown in separate chapters, and so are his theatrical and literary connections, his illustrations, his drawings of Na’Conxypan, as well as the last period of his oeuvre with images of war that convey with dramatic force the artist’s ever-gloomier state of mind.