The Hungarian National Gallery’s Rippl-Rónai and Maillol – The Story of a Friendship is the first exhibition focusing on the friendship and fruitful working relationship of the two artists. The decade they spent together in Paris, from 1890 until 1900, had a lasting influence on both of their careers.
The show is centred around works created during this period, placing next to each other the pieces made by them at the same time. This curatorial decision makes it easy to notice the similarities in their subject choices and style, even for a non-professional eye.
When they met in Paris in 1890, József Rippl-Rónai had just left his first master, Mihály Munkácsy, and started experimenting with symbolism, while Aristide Maillol (later famous for his sculptures) was still discovering painting as an art form. Works from this early period include the Hungarian artist’s “Woman with a Birdcage” and Maillol’s “Profile of a young woman”.
The two oil paintings, though significantly different in their tones and ambience, reflect the same approach to art and the influence of symbolism; the desire to depict a reality sought in dreams and the unconscious.
As Maillol gradually turned away from painting and towards creating carpets, a section of the exhibition is consecrated to presenting these works, which undoubtedly inspired Rippl-Rónai too. One of the most famous embroidered carpets of the latter artist and of Hungarian textile art, “The Girl in Red Dress”, is on show as well.
While it does not lower the artistic quality of the carpet depicting an elegantly posing woman in a garden, Rippl-Rónai, according to the habits of the era, only designed the picture itself – the embroidery was carried out by women.
His graphic works and carpet plans also have their own part in the exhibition, corresponding to Maillol’s own graphic art. The most intense cooperation between the two artists happened during a three-month period in 1899, when Maillol invited his Hungarian friend to his estate in Banyuls-sur-Mer, in Catalonia, Spain.
One of Rippl-Rónai’s major works, “The Portrait of Aristide Maillol”, was made during his stay there. Dominated by shades of grey, the canvas depicts the painter looking out of the picture, directly at the observer. Despite the greyish atmosphere of this picture, the visit to the Catalonian village inspired Rippl-Rónai to experiment with more vivid colours in the future.
This displaying of the expressive portrait presents a unique occasion for Hungarian art enthusiasts to appreciate it because it has not been in the country since it was sold to France in 1936.
The decade of strong artistic cooperation ended in 1900 when Rippl-Rónai left Paris and moved back to his home town, Kaposvár. After this, they kept each other updated about their personal and professional achievements in letters, sending each other the catalogues of their shows.
During these years sculpture became Maillol’s main occupation, and examples are featured in the exhibition. The French artist also long planned to visit Rippl-Rónai in his home country but the outbreak of the First World War made this impossible. Their friendship lasted for further decades without meeting though, until the death of the Hungarian artist in 1927.
Presenting 140 works from Rippl-Rónai, 45 from Maillol and an additional 20 made by their painter friends, the show is a comprehensive display of the deep friendship and professional relationship between the two men. On show until April 5, the works will be carried to the Musée Maillol of Paris in 2016, enhancing the cultural links between the artists’ home countries.
Rippl-Rónai and Maillol – The Story of a Friendship
Hungarian National Gallery
Szent György tér 2, Castle District
Until April 5
Full ticket: HUF 2400