Passuth Krisztina – Szücs György – Gosztonyi Ferenc szerk.: Hungarian Fauves from Paris to Nagybánya 1904–1914 (A Magyar Nemzeti Galéria kiadványai 2006/1)


GERGELY BARKI Róbert Berény, the "Apprenti Fauve" "We were then labeled Fauves, [i. e.j Wilds, and we, too, came under fire. " 1 Besides Béla Czóbel, it was Róbert Berény (18 March, 1887 - 10 September, 1953) who best qualified for the distinction of being the most Fauvist among the "Hungarian Fauves." 2 In international art history, Béla Czóbel has been listed as a member of the French group "Les Fauves"; as for Robert Berény, art critics working for contempo­rary Paris papers also mentioned him in connection with the Fauves, considering him as a quasi-member. In subsequent international lit­erature on Fauvism, Czobel and Berény were very nearly the only Hungarians to be named. 3 Hungarian art historians have tended to em­phasize Cezanne's influence on Berény's artistic perspective, focusing on the works he produced as a member of the group Nyolcak: even his monographer has given less attention to his Fauvist period. 4 The rea­son behind this is that many of his paintings have to this day been in hiding; it was only during the past few years that several of his works emerged, making it clear that Berény's Fauvist period was probably one of the most important phases in his entire artistic oeuvre. In early 1905, at the age of eighteen, Berény went to Paris, where he made the acquaintance of a few Hungarian painters already living there. It was here that he met, among others, those artists with whom he later founded Nyolcak, an art group of Avant-garde principles. Along with his friends, he enrolled in the Julian Academy, quickly becoming one of the best drawers there; however, he only visited the studio of his master, Jean-Paul Laurens, for four months. 5 Thanks to the financial support of his well-to-do family, he was able to rent a studio on Montparnasse. 6 He was nevertheless more attracted to the art dealers and the exhibitions, to the works of Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and, above else, to the paintings made by the just emerging Fauves, which he first saw in the halls of Salon d'Automne in 1905. The works he painted in 1906 already reflected this influence. His palette, which earlier on had shown the in­spiration of Rembrandt and Munkácsy, suddenly became more colour­ful, his treatment of forms and space more daring and more modern. This year, just as in every year between 1905 and 1911, Berény went 1. Róbert Berény: Self-portrait Showing Anger, cca. 1907. Cat. No. 39. home for the summer. 7 On his return to Paris, he took part in the Salon d'Automne, 8 his first ever exhibition, with some of the compositions he had made during his vacation in Buda and Tahitótfalu. He was merely nineteen at the time. In addition to his father's portrait, he sent to the exhibition the portrait of a writer with the monogram M.F., 9 as well as a "grayish portrait study". 10 In connection with the latter painting, it was suggested that it was identical with the portrait of a man, which was uncovered a few years ago, probably depicting his friend, the well­known critic, György Bölöni. 11 (Fig. 2, Cat. No. 3) In addition to the three portraits, Berény also exhibited a painting en­titled Enfants dans le Jardin (Fig. 5), now held in the Magyar Nemzeti Galéria. This is the same painting, which has only recently been shown