Naturalism and national identity in the context of empire: the Nagybanya Artists' Colony and the Glasgow Boys

Szalay, Klaudia (2010) Naturalism and national identity in the context of empire: the Nagybanya Artists' Colony and the Glasgow Boys. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis sets out to provide a systematic comparison and contrast of two groups of Naturalist painters: the Nagybánya artists’ colony and the Glasgow Boys. My aims are to undertake a comparison of the works produced by the two groups using not only stylistic analysis, but also paying attention to the political and social environment; I therefore interpret and compare a range of features of the Scottish and Hungarian colonies. There are four main questions to be addressed: (1) Why the Scottish and Hungarian artists located their main artistic activities in the countryside and what this meant; (2) the reasons for their interest in the art of Bastien-Lepage; (3) the extent to which each group aimed to develop a new national art; and (4) how and why there were similar contemporary responses to the art of the two groups. This study was prompted by a sense that the available literature on nineteenth century Naturalism, and on art colonies in particular, does not attend to the specific Hungarian and Scottish contexts. I believe this local or national context is of utmost importance in the creation and understanding of meaning. Accordingly, despite being at opposite ends of Europe, the political situation of Hungary and Scotland offers an opportunity to explore how the art, while participating in international styles, generated specific meanings. By considering the charged political and cultural environments in both countries, I aim to provide a new and more nuanced explanation for the motivation behind the setting up of the groups and for their critical reception.

In Chapter 1, I review the literature on both the Glasgow Boys and the Nagybánya colony, and indicate some of the prevailing interpretations that have been placed upon the two groups.

Chapter 2 explores the relationship that developed between the Fine Art Academy in Budapest and reactionary tendencies among the Hungarian political elite. In this context, I will also examine links that developed between the new bourgeois intelligentsia of Budapest and more progressive artistic endeavours from Nagybánya. A theme discussed here is the role of landscape in the formation of national identity and how this was interpreted during the period c. 1895-1906.

Chapter 3 examines the formation of the Hollósy circle in Munich whose members were closely involved in the founding of the Nagybánya colony in 1896. By offering an analysis of the cultural sources and the new aesthetic ideas of the Hollósy circle, I examine these artists’ links to specific circles in Budapest and indicate the extent to which their art was posited in opposition to the official institutes and Budapest’s conservative interest groups.

Chapter 4 explores the deep relationship between city and country in Hungary and identifies the paradox whereby an ostensibly rural colony became a vehicle for the values of the new urban bourgeoisie deployed in their battle against the rural gentry. In this context, the chapter reframes dominant art historical paradigms that have viewed the founding of the colony in 1896 as a romantic flight from urbanism rather than a strategically conceived act of rebellion against the Academy.

Chapter 5 covers the history of the Nagybánya colony from 1897 including the critical reception of its first exhibition, which occurred in Budapest that year. It discusses some of the contemporary interpretations of the colony’s artworks and the Nagybánya painters’ role and significance in the Hungarian art scene.

Chapter 6 examines the milieu, early prehistory, and establishment of the Glasgow Boys and suggests a series of artistic and conceptual parallels with the Nagybánya colony. It explores the conditions which prevailed in Scotland during the 1880s and 1890s and their similarity to the conditions under which the Nagybánya colony began, taking into account the tension between the Glasgow Boys and the Academy in Edinburgh. In this context, the academic tradition of Highland landscapes is juxtaposed with the contemporary urban and agricultural scenes favoured by the Glasgow painters. A notable parallel between the Glasgow Boys and the Nagybánya painters is the development of a new class of urban patrons seeking a new national art. Hostile criticism by official artistic circles of both the Glasgow Boys and the Nagybányans was also often couched in nationalistic terms, the new art in both cases being accused of having a ‘foreign’ character.

Chapter 7 offers examples of direct contact and influence between the Glasgow Boys and the Nagybánya colony and further investigates parallel motivations in the work of the two groups. In comparing some of the contemporary writings of the artists, I indicate both a kindred outlook and a shared desire to re-articulate larger issues concerning the formation of a national art. The chapter thus explores parallels in the terminology, art, and aesthetic convictions of the Scottish and Hungarian groups. A theme of this chapter is the unique function and adoption of French Naturalism, which in both countries was enlisted in the service of national identity.

In my conclusion I observe that both groups developed in self-conscious opposition to establishment values, an agenda furthered by the adoption of new standards and techniques. Moreover, I note that both Glasgow and Nagybánya were recognised by their respective urban supporters as departing from the orthodox imagery and styles of the Academies, and as advocating a new concept of national identity.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired
Keywords: turn-of-the-century, artists' colony, Naturalism, national identity,Hungary, Scotland, Nagybanya, Glasgow Boys
Subjects: N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Stirton, Paul and Wieber, Dr Sabine
Date of Award: 2010
Embargo Date: 8 October 2013
Depositing User: Ms Klaudia Szalay
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2166
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:52

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