Thursday, January 7, 2010

Forgotten Master: Gyula Benczúr

Gyula Benczúr (1844 – 1920) was a Hungarian painter and teacher, known for his history paintings and portraits. He did some work for "mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria. He taught in Weimar, Prague and Munich and worked with Karl von Piloty.

In his historical painting “Recapture of the Buda Castle in 1686” he uses a dramatic gesture of a the triumphant invader on a white horse, with a fallen soldier in the foreground. Note the repoussoir figure on horseback at the extreme left.

“Baptism of Vajk” uses Rembrandtesque lighting and a lot of variety of paint texture.

Ridges of paint, fairly loosely applied, suggest the heavy brocaded sleeve.

"Arrest of Ferenc Rákóczi II at the Fortress of Nagysáros" is a good example of shapewelding of the light masses.

More samples at Wikimedia Commons
Wikipedia entry on Gyula.
Thanks, Valentino Radman.


Ian Swain said...

Excellent post- thanks!

jeff said...

Thanks for posting this.
This man was one great painter.
I can see he loved Rembrandt and Rubens.

The light effect on the religious work is outstanding.

Saskia said...

The “Baptism of Vajk” is currently on display in the Pallazo Venezia in Rome! When I saw it I wondered about this artist I'd never heard of.

Erik Bongers said...

How come this painter is forgotten?
Those two faces are magnificent.
He truely is somewhere between Rubens and Rembrandt!

Miłek Jakubiec said...

It's great how you throw those great painters out there for us readers to see. Thanks for reminding me about this one. But James, why do you call him forgotten? I saw these paintings in life this summer in Budapest. They were displayed in the National Gallery in positions of great prominence. Gyula Benczur is known to most people in Hungary, not only art lovers. I think he'll be remembered for a long time.

Darren said...

An interesting site on Hungarian artists is here:

tayete said...

Thanks for revealing this master, I had never heard of him.

Don Cox said...

Off topic.

I got a copy of "Imaginative Realism" yesterday. Very impressive, a top class book.

We are starting an MA course in Concept Art here at Teesside University (UK) soon, and this book would be ideal for the students to buy. (Not that it is easy to persuade students to buy books - they expect to find everything on the web.)

Steve Somers said...

I'd love to see a James Gurney painting this size. A great big dramatic scene with characters, creatures and architecture. Next time you have a year or two of free time, that is.

I also just bought Imaginative realism, and love it! I only wish it were a weekly TV show I could paint along with.

James Gurney said...

Milek and Saskia, I'm glad his work is exhibited in Europe. Are there books on his work there? Maybe "Underappreciated" would be better than "Forgotten," because I don't think he's too well known in other regions.

Off the Coast of Utopia said...

Benczur is one of my favorites. In fact the Hungarian painters of the 19th century are amazing. If you are anywhere near Budapest you must go visit the National Museum to see the incredible amount of work.

Off the Coast of Utopia said...

James, I have one of his books. I will scan and send you some off the images along with some of the other Hungarians. I have high res shots from the museum that my gal took this summer.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Utopia! I would love to learn more about the Hungarian realists, especially Benczur!

James Gurney said...

Valentino, who told me about Benczur, isn't able to post comments, but he sent me an email to say that the best (and most recently published book on Benczur can be found at this link:

Gordon Napier said...

Thanks for bringing this very impressive artist to light. It's unfortunate that the classical and romantic painters of late 19th century Europe were consigned to obscurity, not least because of modernism-embracing art historians obsessed with the 'Avant-Garde'. Still it allows for some pleasurable rediscoveries.

Saskia said...

A quick antiquarian search turned up a number of books. Mostly they cover more artists than him, or a specific topic though. There's are some books about hungarian 19th century painting/the national gallery that I'd be interested in, to get an overview. The monograph you linked really appears to be the best choice for Benczur's paintings.
There are letters as well. *laughs*

Gregory said...

Thank you for this comment Mr.Gurney,
Benczúr is one of my favourites,so great that you made a post on him,because with this he might not be so "forgotten" anymore.

Yes hungarian people know who Beczúr is (i am hungarian myself),but not many know him outside of Hungary.

and i can tell you his work is definietly worth to see in real life,so much better then the reproductions!

here are some Benczur drawings:

even though Benczúr is my facourite hungarian painter, Mihaly Munkacsi is definietly worth to mention as well !