October 25: Magyar Nouveau

2012/10/25 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1896 the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts (Magyar Iparművészeti Múzeum) opened.

Begun in 1893, the Museum was Budapest’s answer to similar institutions opened in cities like London (Victoria and Albert) and Vienna (Museum für angewandte Kunst) that showcased what William Morris had called the “Lesser Arts”–furniture, textiles and other crafts–normally not a part of proper hoity-toity fine arts museums.  In Budapest the institution had specific and special political weight.  The handcrafts celebrated local Hungarian (rather, Magyar) traditions as Hungary celebrated its Millennium in 1896–indeed, the inauguration of the museum was the final event in the millennium celebrations that had begun in May in Budapest, taking place in churches, learned institutions, cultural centers, military venues and royal palaces across the city and occasioning the opening of the grand new city park.

The architect chosen for the museum was Ödön Lechner (1845-1914).  Schooled in Budapest and at the Schinkel academy in Germany, he spent some time in Paris during the late 1870, witnessing starts of Art Nouveau, before finding success as a practitioner in Budapest.  Lechner channeled all of the progressive developments across Europe that accounted for the various flavors of Art Nouveau, called szecesszió in Hungary.  Craft traditions of ornament were melded to academically sound plans built of traditional and new materials like iron.  Lechner drew from a the great variety of historical mythologies, including Persian courtyards, Mongolian carpets, Magyar embroidery and contemporary Zsolnay tile (even on the dome!) in his design for the Museum which is as much a display of “applied art” as the collections inside.

Image: the museum (Clio’s)

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You are currently reading October 25: Magyar Nouveau at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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