After 1956, thanks to the political thaw a modernization of the Hungarian canon of socialist realism took place. However, the modern and nationally oriented view of socialist culture was confronted with an ideologically motivated fear of nationalism and bourgeois revisionism, which also fueled official hostility towards the forces of popular naturalism and ‘decadent’ surrealism. Consequently, in the early 1960s a significant part of Hungarian art criticism was still dominated by the dated political aesthetics of Zhdanov that fiercely offended new realist tendencies, like the work of Tibor Csernus and his followers. One of their critics labeled the new realism of Csernus ‘surnaturalism,’ others supported their painting under the umbrella terminology of ‘magical realism.’ The paper investigates the different aesthetic ideologies and interpretations concerning such artists as László Lakner, László Gyémánt, György Korga, Gyula Konkoly, and Csernus himself. Beside the analysis of their avant-garde, ‘formalist’ sources, the paper also attempts to shed light on their realism, based on the classical figurative tradition of painting from Piero della Francesca to Edouard Manet. Beyond the more or less ironic use of the cold war imagery, this ‘traditionalism’ could even legitimate their ‘decadent’ formalism. However, their secret classic and modern references and their unique illusionism or a kind of magical socialist realism have never got the official stamp of approval.