With the victory of the Hungarian Workers’ Party – the communist party – in Hungary in 1949 the “reform” of the institutions of tertiary education including the Academy of Fine Arts and Academy of Applied Arts took place, meaning their transformation upon Soviet models. In daily training, in teaching the techniques of drawing and painting, they returned to the copying of plaster casts, which had already been discarded by the free school of Simon Hollósy in Munich in the 1880s for the benefit of a naturalist approach. This principle was promoted further by the art colony of Nagybánya started in 1896, and it was the guideline when after 1920 the Academy of Fine Arts was reorganized. The traditional academic approach had its roots in J. J. Winckelmann’s Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture published in 1755, while the nature-centric thought of free schools could draw on J-J. Rousseau’s Émile, or on Education (1762). In the seething period of Soviet painting in the 1920s an increasingly strengthening current among the greatly diverse trends was the one announcing the slogan of “heroic realism”; it was represented primarily by the Society of Painters of Revolutionary Russia (AHRR). N. B. Terpsikhorov’s The first slogan was painted in 1924; it shows an artist painting the Leninian slogan All power to the soviets! on a red tapestry at the foot of the plaster replicas of the Venus of Milo and the Borghese gladiator.
In addition to the guidance provided by Soviet advisers visiting Hungary in the 1950s, several Hungarian artists could study at Russian academies; they recalled that the basis for learning socialist realism was precise draughtsmanship and the requirement that a work be completed. The demand for high quality socialist realism weighed down upon the teachers with mature ideas socialized in earlier decades and often receiving the badge of “formalism” and on students having to interrupt their art studies for the world war as unattainable. Making copies – in painting and sculpture – was not only part of the training process, but also satisfied the demand of public institutions for representation: replicas of several famous Soviet works, including portraits of Lenin and Stalin were ordered for decoration in buildings, and the program of a museum for the state collection of copies was also deliberated.