The importance of the decorated artefacts of folk culture was first emphasized by positivitic theories of the mid 19thcentury. Gottfried Semper stated a straight connection between the genesis of arts and the evolution of civilisation. Due to his impact, ornaments were often considered as a medium of a peculiar „language“or „grammar“for ethnic contents, the primary forms of which were supposed to be stable and not subject to temporary changes. According to this theory, Folk art keeps this primary state of ornaments and evolution means a process towards individualisation in the sense of national styles. This theory has been influential in the raising of taste for ethnographic objects. Following the 1851 World Exhibition in London the institutions of decorative arts were created first in England and than on the continent. The Museums for Arts and Crafts collected among others models and patterns for embroidery and other arts. In the course of this process separate museums were founded for collecting popular artefacts. In the first ethnographic museums the dychotomy of urban and rural civilization was first expressed. The present essay analizes on the exemple of Hungarian decorative art the process of collecting national ornaments, beginning with the first publication by Károly Pulszky (1878) conceived in Semper's terms. The following discussion was determinated by an early influence of the theory of Alois Riegl, represented by the drawing teacher József Huszka, who elaborated an approach to Hungarian folk ornaments as a genuine prehistoric tradition not influenced by historical styles and interpreted as symbols. The artistic interpretation of the folk culture was widespread by the volumes on Hungarian Ethnography edited by Dezsõ Malonyay. In the same time, the system of Gottfried Semper also determinated the foundation of the Hungarian Museum of Applied Arts and the separation of an ethnographic collection in the Department of Antiquities of the Hungarian National Museum. Plans for an autonomous Museum of Ethnography during the 1870–1880-s were realized in 1898 as the collection of the Ethnographic Museum comprising universal ethnologic and Hugarian materials as well were located in a separate building. Since the early 20thcentury ethnographers began to interpret folk artefacts not as objects of aesthetic value but on the basis of their systematic situation in scholarly ethnography.
The paper is about the set of drawings and documents by Ödön Lechner and Gyula Pártos for the Town-hall of Szeged dated to 1881–1883 (Hungarian National Archives, Csongrád-Csanád County Archives, Szeged [MNL CSML], Collection of Building Plans and Documents of the Municipality of Szeged, marked Lecher Ödön, Pártos Gyula: A Szegedi Városházhoz készített tervek, rajzok és iratok, [Plans, drawings and documents for the Szeged Town-hall], XV.2b. 45. d.-49.d). The elaborated theme includes ground-plans, rosette, baluster and skylight plans, detail plans of staircase and main cornice, plan of the roof of the main staircase, 37 drawings of ornamental sculpture, window pillars, window frames and rail chains, painter’s stencils signed by Ödön Lechner, two façade versions, tower detail, details of the main portal, drawings of the vault around the clock, of the ornaments of room doors and cornice elements. The building logbooks, list of submissions to the competition with code-names and the contracts signed with the building contractors are also valuable sources.
In addition to eighty drawings of diverse sizes and techniques, the collection includes the construction documents, accounts, correspondence, building logbooks, planning competition calls, and a colour plan for the tiling of the Szeged Town-hall now in the Architectural Collection of the Kiscelli Museum of the Budapest History Museum (inv.no. 117). I evaluate the drawings both within the conception of an architectural work and also as separate graphic sheets, and try to describe their background in terms of the history of architecture, art and ideas.
I am led to conclude that the Szeged Town-hall was the first project to manifest Lechner’s ambition to lay the groundworks of a national architecture based on the more abstracted and universal basic forms of folk art but keeping abreast of European tendencies. The drawings are invaluable in that they add more information to the chronology of Lechner’s artistic career and lend stress to the fact that folklore and local history researches, the intellectual approach, the synthesis of local and international achievements, a thorough knowledge of the history of ceramics, the redefinition of traditions played at least as important roles in creating the concept of a building as individual intention and creative imagination.
The paper was supported by the Ernő Kállai Art Historical Research Grant.
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31. 9 × 12 cm black and white photographs of the interior show that the pillars were painted with plane, ornament like decoration compiled of motives inspired by Hungarian folkart, typical for certain national streams of the native Secession
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