István Farkas (1887-1944): Hungarian Modernist

First Major U.S. Retrospective of István Farkas Comes to Graduate Center Gallery
Hungarian Modernist and Leading Ecole de Paris Painter Rediscovered


The Art Gallery of The Graduate Center will present the first full scale retrospective to be shown in the United States of the work of István Farkas (1887-1944). A modernist who was a prominent École de Paris painter between the two world wars, Farkas returned to his native Hungary where his mysterious works ultimately presaged his own death at Auschwitz. Encompassing an extraordinary group of 50 paintings, watercolors and drawings, the exhibition will be presented September 20 through November 5, 2005. There will be an opening reception on Monday, September 19, 5 to 7 pm. The gallery is located in the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 12 to 6 pm.

Between the wars, Farkas created a remarkable body of work. One of the most important critics of the period, André Salmon, in his monograph on István Farkas, stressed the artist's "ability to express dreams with the most complete symbols of reality." Comparing the coherence and integrity of the Farkas oeuvre to those of Matisse and de Chirico, Salmon wrote that "Farkas is unlike anyone else. He comes from one school only: his own."

Farkas was regularly featured at Marcelle Berr de Turique's legendary Galerie Le Portique, along with Matisse, Chagall, Modigliani, Dufy, Zadkine, and Utrillo. Much of the acclaim the artist received as a prominent figure in the École de Paris was forgotten after his departure from that city in 1932, and upon his return to Budapest, he did not participate in contemporaneous groups or movements.

But Farkas, who kept pace with his eminent contemporaries in Paris, now created an independent world, one in which were linked the culture of the vanished Austro-Hungarian monarchy--of Musil, Rilke, Kafka, and Freud--and the modern existence evoked by the early existentialist writers. Farkas forged a deeply personal and symbolic visual language during this difficult and ultimately tragic period. In his paintings, he often depicted a mysterious universe populated by alienated, ghostly figures and hostile objects which can be interpreted as both meditations on the frailty of human existence and premonitions of his death.

More limited showings of works by Farkas have been seen in Chicago, in an exhibition presented by the collector Chester Dale (1930); in Amherst, in the permanent collection of the Mead Art Museum; and in New York, in a rotating survey at the Jewish Museum (1999-2001), but this exhibition represents the first complete survey of his work in the U.S.

Submitted on: SEP 20, 2005

Category: James Gallery