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Mokry-Mészáros Dezső Mikroszkopikus Látványra Építő Munkáiról

Microscopic Formations About The Works of Dezső Mokry-Mészáros Based on Microscopic Images

Művészettörténeti Értesítő
Author:
Anna Váraljai

Abstract

In the 19th century, the concept of unconditional objectivity and authenticity was linked up with the techniques of photography and microphotography. As Robert Koch declared, the sight provided by the microscope was more authentic and real than what the eye could see, yet he modified his photos of bacteria by drawing so as to render their spatial features more spectacularly. In addition to the deliberate changes to promote scientific authenticity, another subconscious mechanism, the working of the imagination, must also be considered. The microscopic images also stimulated the fancy of scientific researchers, for the scientific images also had an abstract, fictitious character. As they elicited associations and carried aesthetic qualities, microscopic images soon became popular and widely reproduced souvenirs. They spread first in Switzerland, a few years later in Germany and Austria, providing new sources of inspiration for artists seeking novel ornamental trends around the turn of the century.

Dezső Mokry-Mészáros was the first artist in Hungary and one of the first ones in Europe to paint pictures inspired by microscopic images in 1904. Born at Sajóecseg in 1881, Mokry was a self-taught artist also well versed in the natural sciences. In 1903 he enrolled in the agricultural academy of Magyaróvár where he studied microbiology, botany, the use of the microscope under the guidance of the great scholars of the age. He acquired the difficult skill of microscopic drawing at that time. Apart from the mentioned aesthetic aspects of microscopic images, his pictures inspired by the microcosm were probably also influenced by publications of the microbiological results of his age as well as by vitalist philosophy. His first series, Life on an alien planet reveals that he knew Gusztáv Moesz' writing on the “micro jungle” of the living waters published in 1902 with vivid graphic illustrations. The vitalists traced life from water as its prime source and since the recent findings of microbiology appeared to confirm these ideas, Mokry exposed to the spectator the luxurious jungle of a secret underwater population invisible to the naked eye. The realism of his microscopic motifs is so strict that I managed to identify a lot of his ornaments of zoological and botanic origins (28 tissue sections, microscopic creatures). The working of the imagination is not detectable at the level of motifs but at the level of composition. Mokry juxtaposed fatty tissue and fungi spores, diatom and pollens in his pictures in ways that never occur in nature. He developed a picture structure from arbitrarily elongated formulae to evoke some underwater scenery often extending to the frames he had made himself. Although the actual use of the microscope and of the microscopic images ended around 1910, this motivic stock became fixed and he drew on it for his pictures on prehistory. Dezső Mokry-Mészáros died in Miskolc in 1970. A smaller part of his works — some 180 — are in private collections, the majority being in public museums including the Herman Otto Museum, Miskolc, the Hungarian National Gallery and the Museum of Naïve Art, Kecskemét.

Dezső Mokry-Mészáros was the first artist in Hungary to probe the microscopic world for new motifs, becoming the forerunning and for a long time the only representative of a western trend that popularized microscopic images as aesthetic values. The historical review of the emergence of the microscopic image as an aesthetic object, the identification of the motifs of microscopic origin and the comparison of the motifs with contemporaneous scientific publications have made it clear that Dezső Mokry-Mészáros' works can only be interpreted in full in an international context.

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Lechner Ödön rajzai a szegedi városházához

Ödön Lechner’s Drawings for the Szeged Town-hall

Művészettörténeti Értesítő
Author:
Anna Váraljai

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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