Zichy’s Drawn Heroes – exhibition

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2016/06/15 - 2016/10/28


Decorative albums illustrated by Mihály Zichy in National Széchényi Library

”Zichy, just like Gustave Doré, is an extraordinary genius ... whose talent compares to a crater always on the verge of eruption.”- Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), the great French poet and critic wrote about him.

Since the 1880s, next to Mihály Munkácsy, Mihály Zichy has been considered as the second best known artist of the Hungarian fine arts, the number of whose graphic artworks can be measured in thousands, but only a minority of these works is known in Hungary.

He never painted arty fruit bowls or flowers, and seldom was he inspired by natural landscapes. Even in his early works, he endeavored to present pain, suffering and deep human tragedies.

Between 1847 and 1906, with the exception of some years spent in Paris and occasional short stays in Hungary, that is, for nearly 50 years the artist worked for the imperial court of the Russian Tsar. The exhibition aims at presenting this period of his work as well.

Specialty of the exhibition will be the illustrated coronation album of Tsar Alexander II, Emperor of Russia from 1856, the other copy of which, available for the general public, can be seen in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The second part of the exhibition includes Hungarian literary works published in decorative editions illustrated by Zichy. Although almost all of his life Zichy had wanted to win fame and respect via painting a gigantic painting, finally he realized that he could do his best by illustrating literary works. That is why he took on the task of illustrating decorative editions of The Tragedy of Man by Imre Madách, Ballads by János Arany and the works of Sándor Petőfi.

In the co-ordinate, text-image unity composition of literary works, his drawings are fully equivalent to them. These were the works that could win immortality for Zichy in Hungary.

Even in his lifetime a decorative album presenting his career and works was published, an autographed edition of which will also be shown at the exhibition, together with illustrations of several other books (including the Garay Album, the Album of the Martyrs of Arad, an epic poem by Georgian author Shota Rustaveli and the publication entitled Az Osztrák – Magyar Monarchia írásban és képben (The Austro-Hungarian Empire in Writing and Images)). On top of several other drawings, visitors can get acquainted with drawings depicting the famous, suffering Demon of Russian poet Lermontov, which were made at the special request of Grand Duke Nicholas.

Presented will be the book entitled Tizenkét illusztráció Faust-hoz (Twelve Illustrations to Faust), where the artist added hand-written lines to his pen drawings illustrating the poem, and visitors can also have a look at the first work illustrated independently by Mihály Zichy, the first edition of A leányvári boszorkány (The Witch of Girl Castle) by Géza Zichy.

In addition to decorative albums, the exhibition will present photographs from the Manuscript Collection of National Széchényi Library, related items of the Zichy correspondence and a document hallmarked with his name, a music sheet featuring 18 songs by Hubay, kept in the Music Collection of NSZL.


The exhibition will be open until October 28, 2016, Tuesday to Saturday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Roundtable discussion and guided tour: at 3 p.m. on Tuesday September 27, 2016, Ceremonial Hall

Date and time of guided tours:

September 20, 2 p.m.

September 29, 11 a.m.

October 14, 11 a.m.

October 21, 11 a.m.

Invitation card (in Hungarian)

Facebook event (in Hungarian)

Content on Mihály Zichy in NSZL’s blog (in Hungarian)

Images of the exhibition

News items on the exhibition (in Hungarian)