Péter N. Horváth

Aurél Náray, the lonely painter

 

In my opinion, art as a religion is one of the last things. I have always believed so. Only a few people could forgive me this, at the best, they could only excuse it for me. The hostilities experienced in the course of time embarrassed me so much that I could not judge whether I was a painter enough or not. One thing is for sure, though: I have roughly built up the foundation in myself, which is necessary for being an artist, and now I feel that I can actually start working.

 

These thoughts indicating a not ordinary self-recognition and assessment of situation are from Aurél Náray. The painter put down these sentences in the autumn of 1936, almost half a year after the 25 th anniversary of his career start. Besides a certain level of sound determination, we cannot find a hint of the joy of arrival in his lines. These words much rather give us an impression about the deep breath of preparation. Let us have a closer look at what fate and art is hidden beneath this name of a slightly threadbare memory. What can we find out about this person, who judged and felt himself so "beginner" at the age of 53? [Photo of Aurel Náray - around 1935]

 

Aurel Náray - around 1935

Aurél Náray was born on 27 th February 1883 out of wedlock. At this time, his is father, Iván Náray [1843-1915] had already been a well-known poet and translator of literary works under the Aladár Benedek name and had been living in marriage with baron Karolina Büttner [1846-1917] for ten years, who also worked in the field of literature. This condition cannot be ignored taking the historical era and their social situation into consideration. Knowing this, the particularities of the mental constitution and art of Aurél Náray can become much more understandable. About his mother, we only know that she is of Austrian origin and at the time of the birth of Aurél, she was a maiden, living in Vienna. The little boy was living in Vienna until the age of five (?)

 

According to all indications, his father registered Aurél under his name only thereafter, around the end of the 1880's. From this time on, for about 9-10 years, Aurél was being tossed about between relatives in the South and Budapest. During this period of time, he only finished the first four years in elementary school, and he did not complete any other official school even later on. We can read in his autobiography of 1925 that even when he was a little child, his only dear pastime was drawing. At the age of 12-13, he was already pretty good with the brush and the paint, since he painted "signboards" for local craftsmen and tradesmen in Nagykikinda and Nagybecskerek.

 

Two years later, he went to Budapest again. Then he met the same age Dezső Cigány. They made the decision together to find a master in the person of a dignified artist, beside whom they could get the hang of painting. They chose Zsigmond Vajda. Zsigmond Vajda [1860-1931 (academic painter)] was working on the frescos of the Parliament building, for whom the two novices most probably came in handy, who even received money for their work. Czigány [1883-1937 (avant-garde painter)] shortly got bored, and went to Munich to take his chance. Náray held out with Vajda for half a year, and then followed his mate.

 

In Munich , Géza Wágner, who at that time was an artist-teacher [1879-1939 (painter, artist-teacher)], offered Náray to help him in his artistic development. Having seen the talent and the scarce financial means of the young man, he even offered Náray accommodation and earnings. After a short time to think, Náray declined everything. This is the first shocking element in the examination of his career. However, we think that this hardly understandable step can still be well explained.

 

Náray was extremely quiet and retiring, almost abnormally secluded from his early age. His birth conditions as well as the tormented first one and a half decades of his life further strengthened these attributes. His early developing character made him avoid all superficial attachments. He could suspect that he would have to pay one day in return for the offered benefits.

 

We cannot either ignore the fact that the behaviour patterns pertaining to the targeted art career, which at that time were almost compulsory (light-headed lifestyle, indecent manners) also scared him away. Furthermore, the atmosphere of art education, which he found impudent, industrial and shameless, also filled him with strong aversion. Another thing happed after the conversation with Géza Wágner, which he later remembered like this:

 

And as if faith had wanted to give me some satisfaction, 10 or 12 days after this case, there I stand, in front of Hollósy. He thoroughly examines my drawings for a while, then looks at me and tells me never to enrol in any school.

[Simon Hollósy 1857-1918
(naturalist - realist - plein air painter, artist-teacher)]

 

A month later Náray returned to Budapest . His first painting, which we can see was made at that time, namely at the age of 16-17, the value of which is increased by the fact that it is a self-portrait. [ Picture no. 1: Juvenile self-portrait (Ifjúkori önarckép ) ] The work of art, which is in a rather tired condition, can still be well examined. The picture is surprisingly educated, in fact a little too scholastic, but above all, remarkably direct and open. The way of presentation is staid and clean. It has something from the ambition of the creation for eternity. The dark brown background and the not much lighter tobacco-coloured overcoat highlight the ordered, bright face and the blond hair. The young look, which is absorbed considering his age and the closed lips reflect analytic earnestness. The whole picture reflects a surprisingly mature manly sorrow, which is not a kind of pretended, youngster despondency. At this time, this young man was a genuine painter. He uncovered a thorough character delineation of himself for the viewer, while presenting the character of his predominant mood. We can also discover a certain soft but stubborn determination. We do not know any other work of his from this period.

 

He made a few hesitating attempts until the age of 18 in order to fit in some kind of an artistic education, however he arrived at a strange decision. We quote his own words again:

 

I loved free and undisturbed absorption so much that I did not take care of easing the poverty and the misery even when I might have done so with little effort. - I have been up to the design school once. There were some persons, I did not know, who invited me in. I looked around, saw the naked model and some kind of a rude joy spreading across the room. The situation had a profane blow, I saw a factory like thing there, and I felt that my heart and my mood is more important to me than art, which I could not love any more, if I made it so official, and if I took aim at it as a career for livelihood in school classes. Who and what will compensate me, if I am absorbed in a group. I did not have a grain of sense for anything, I was sad and they were happy, what could they give to me; they, the happy cannot teach me how to express my sorrow.

The insults I experienced then and later I do not wish to talk about.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I was over eighteen, I knew that art was in a hard and ungrateful position. I withdrew from the insults and the arguments. My attachment to art was changed by another attachment, the one to myself. And I felt that this one was more sacred, and if great art exists, then it can only be fed from this kind of attachment. Everything is dead, where individual willing is insulted and thwarted, and you must not and cannot search for anything else than life, the universal base, where everything is dead. -

- I haven't been a painter for ten years. Actually, occasionally I painted for fun, and in the terrific struggles for a mouthful of bread, and I was estranged from and unbalanced by the spirit, that was in fashion in the field of art. Faces became unfamiliar and I did not understand the milieu, in which I lived, but I knew that I could not even understand it, and I could never identify myself with the standpoints emerging from time to time.

[ Design school 1871-1920 (then operated under the name of College of Fine Arts - nowadays it is a university)]

 

So we can say that except for the half a year spent with Vajda and the one month spent in Munich , Aurél Náray did not take part in any form of traditional artistic education on the side of a master. Actually, his development was all the while led by the experiences of self-education and the objective internally set by himself. Examining his latter quote, we try to find out the reason, why he would have oddly been willing to give up himself and his career.

 

It was around the first years of the 20 th century. Art and especially fine arts in Europe had been troubled by changes for long years. Mostly Paris dominated. Actually everything would be relative and fashion like. Náray, the young painter had been looking around, but had not found any solid value or certain adjustment point. He had no paragon, at least we do not know of any. Let us not forget that he had two peers, in the persons of Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka [1853-1919 (prophetic symbolist painter, creator of the "sun-way painting")] and Lajos Gulácsy [1882-1932 (autonomous, secessionist-symbolist-surrealist painter)], who, although within different context, go back to the art of Raphael [1483-1520 (Italian renaissance painter and architect] for a starting point.

 

Náray cleared up, searched and found this level within himself. He discovered the basis, on which he could build general art, while adjusting to himself and to the ideal conception carried in himself. He divined something from the gathering aspiration of the isms. Being a lonely person, he longed for a one-person journey; he chose one, and drew back for a while. It is difficult to judge the level of seriousness of his decision subsequently, but as we could read, he finally kept on working. Our conviction is that from the very bottom of his heart, he could not ever have been able to give up his vocation. Since we only have a few references to the private life of Náray, we cannot find out what provided his living during these years, besides his occasional works done for sales.

 

In the beginning of 1910 however, he took part, on external encouragement, in the spring exhibition of the Art Gallery (Műcsarnok) [built between 1895-1896 (which is still the most ranked exhibition place of Budapest ] with his Lazing around (Lustálkodás) . His work was deemed suitable for the exhibition. From this point of time, Aurél Náray was a regularly exhibiting artist.

 

This turning point did not in the least mean giving up his earlier principles. It was much rather about trying to achieve some kind of a social rank. He probably needed this because at this time, or not much later he got married. This private life element can be deduced from the fact that his first returning model could be seen on his drawings and painting around this time. Characteristically, we only know about this dark haired and dark eyed lady with a pondering expression that her name was Katica.

 

It is easy to conclude the financial situation of the painter and his young consort from the subject of the work called Dinner of the tenants (Albérlők ebédje). The picture was showed at the spring exhibition of 1911 of the National Society of Hungarian Fine Arts (Országos Magyar Képzőművészeti Társulat ) [1861-1945]. Unfortunately we know nothing else about this painting, neither about the one year earlier Lazing around , than that it was an oil painting. However, we know two works from 1912, which well illustrate the feature of their creator that would later on characterise his whole career. His work called Lilies (Liliomok), we only know from a bad quality, contemporary black and white print, however the Yellow flowers (Sárga virágok) can still be found in the storehouse of the Hungarian National Gallery) (Magyar Nemzeti Galéria [established in 1957]. We can see Katica in the dark room on both, which might have provided the scene for the Dinner of the tenants too. The model is sitting in almost the same position next to the table on both pictures. Only the "cutting" of the picture, the minor accessories and the carriage of the head of the portrayed person are different. It is important to be noticed now, because later on Náray would paint his preferred forthcoming female figure and the majority of his other themes almost in a series, with a hardly changing background and in a hardly changing setting.

 

Examining it closer, with reference to the Yellow flowers , we can see that the artist applies a simple and clear presentation and an almost over-particular interpretation, just like in case of his juvenile self-portrait. [ Picture no. 2: Yellow flowers ] However its colours are mellower and its lighting is softer. The whole picture spreads the atmosphere of the intimate early spring evenings with still heated rooms. There is an interesting detail on the right top section of the canvas, which is a seemingly old, relatively large, fully visible artist marking and date. The work got to the Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum) [established in 1906] already in 1913 by way of a state purchase, and arrived to its current location along with its Hungarian material.

 

During these years, the state and the capital city - with a little exaggeration - competed with each other to purchase Náray works. That is why the National Gallery has nine Náray paintings, besides the Yellow flowers . There might have been an advanced trust in the background of the acknowledgement of the talented career starter... These successes did not especially make the artist happy either, who was convulsively protecting his artistic independence. Nonetheless, the summer of 1913 gave him the first reactions from beyond the borders, and it does matter from where. In the June issue of THE STUDIO,an English artistic periodical published in London , there was a reference to Náray in the context of the Budapest artistic life. In recognition of his works, it related them with those of Munkácsy, and published one of his paintings portraying Katica. [Mihály Munkácsy 1844-1900 (the most well known Hungarian academic painter abroad)]. With this "Munkácsy comparision", the author probably wanted to highlight the "Hungarian" character of the young painter, however the quoted work of Náray rather spreads an English rural, pre-Raphaelite charm.

 

The work selected for publication gives food for thought because Náray appeared at the exhibition of the National Saloon (Nemzeti Szalon) [1894-1960 (the association of Hungarian artists and patron of the arts operated under this name)] with the theme of the Revellers (Mulatozók) in two versions. And if THE STUDIO had published one of these, it would have had a much more "Hungarian" impact. However this theme of Náray never became an idyllic genre painting on any of his pictures made from beginning to end. The English periodical probably wanted to make a more jolly impression on the readers, than what the Revellers would have done.

 

Kép információkért kattintson! Besides others, we know a quite early version from the beginning of the 1910 from this theme. [Picture no. 3: Revellers -1] The picture, in spite of its apparent unsophisticatedness is quite oppressive. The main character is a quite drunk young man between twenty-five and thirty-five, but is still capable of standing. So for safety's sake, he strongly leans, with his right hand, on the shoulder of the older apathetic kinsman sitting in front of him. Our man, while sawing the air with his hat in his left hand, is still yammering. The most terrible thing is that although there are four other persons in the room, they completely ignore him. There is no sympathy, neither jeer. At the back of the table, two of them try to understand each other in the midst of the roaring. And the Gypsy musician, sitting almost with his back at the viewer, burying himself in his violin is trying to wheedle some divine tunes from his instrument in this situation. While avoiding all forced interpretations, let us take note of the fact that there is "incompletion" on the face of the central character referring to some kind of a mental disturbance or intellectual backwardness. In this theme of Náray, we can always see a serious social criticism. He presumably have had such experiences as a child. Not as if at that time tippling had not been a trend in the towns, but he made the atmosphere of the rural poor pubs as an archetype, and such a strong memory, which made his brushes move again from time to time.

 

We have mixed feelings watching his earlier successes in comparison with his remembrance from this period. Such personalities encourage him, as Gyula Benczúr [1844-1920 (mainly historic painter of academic style)] and Gyula Rudnay [1878-1967 (national romantic - realist painter)]. And he also had some other, not named supporters in the cultural government. He does not by any chance utilise the benefits aimed at him stemming from goodwill. However, after the publication of the English article in 1913, he feels more and more malice and envy around himself. This is how he describes it:

 

The situation has become more and more frosty. I had forty Forints, when it broke out. The masks came off, and in the penetrating trouble I saw and got to know things, about which I again do not wish to talk. Why would I touch people, little ones, maybe big ones and those who have already passed away since then. It is gone. - There are deficiencies, about which it is not proper to talk.

 

After the beginning of the First World War, the way of Náray's painting changed. His brushstrokes became raw. His rendering became more blotted. Years later, he, himself explained this phenomenon with his worries and the temporary weakening of his concentration ability. This is how he writes about this:

 

My eyes weakened so much that I could not concentrate on one point even for a moment. This weakness lasted for three years. I could paint only if I thought it all out in advance; I mixed the colours with a casual look and placed them quickly on the canvas. This is how I painted the 'Tale of the lily' - 'Christ on the crucifix' and many other pictures, which were displayed in the exhibition of the Art Gallery . I could keep thinking on why I got such a treatment. I do not deserve and I cannot explain it either as a great artist or as an insignificant painter.

 

One thing is for sure, namely that his presentation became more and more relaxed as the years went by. The first creative period of Náray ended in 1914.

 

Kép információkért kattintson! His changed presentation can be well seen on a painting portraying Katica. [ Picture no. 4: Katica with a musical instrument (Katica hangszerrel) ] The portrait of the woman holding a balalaika-like musical instrument in her hand in front of a background of a maturely growing green garden is made up of much more free brushstrokes.

 

In the following four-five years, the painter took part in certain exhibitions with unbroken energy considering the war. Because Náray, as we know, did not join the army (perhaps because of his unfitness?), and kept clear of engaging in politics all his life.

 

By the end of the 1910's his characteristic themes had all developed except for one. The portrayal of women would always be in majority. The portrayal of amoretti and children is closely linked to this, in which the "weaker gender" gets the lead likewise. Furthermore, he enriched his message with idyllic and imaginary landscapes and sometimes a flower-piece.

 

Kép információkért kattintson! Nevertheless, we can draw the least individual lessons from the latter ones, we still find it interesting and worthy to introduce a nice piece from this subject. [ Picture no. 5: Flower-piece (Virágcsendélet) ] We should notice the firework-like energy of the flowers as well as the light and blot conditions of the shiny flower-stand and the rumpled kerchief next thereto...

 

From his landscapes, that we found, we present an early piece, which the Capital Art Gallery (Fővárosi Képtár) [established in 1907] bought directly from the artist. Out of the details of the piece, the sleazy foliage of the trees with the sky showing in between the branches deserves special attention. In this case, we can se an advanced autumn; he would often use similar "scenes" in the background, however in an early spring "cover". [ Picture no. 6: Autumn scenery (Őszi táj) ]

 

As of the second half of the 1910's Náray was severally tried to be convinced to give up his artistic independence. The National Society ofHungarian Fine Arts [1862-1945], which occasionally supported him, acknowledging his talent, would have really wanted him as a member. However, Náray, although he respected some members of the society, for example Gusztáv Magyar Mannheimer [1859-1937 (realist-romantic, virtuosic painter)], who was extremely well-intentioned with him, did not sympathise with the majority. This is what he said about this later:

 

Kép információkért kattintson!

Try to imagine the spiritual state of an artist, who works lovingly, who does not give people knowledge, or work, but heart, and who, in order to create feast, deeply moved feelings and dreams, lives trusting the innocent intention and finds himself faced with unreasonable intrigue. And he is obliged to notice a so dark conscience, which, by leaning on power and organisation, acts against a lonely, dreamy individual, alien from all organisations. How to feel being acknowledged, and why to respect an artist society, which speaks frankly about artistic politics all over? Can a person be an artist, who finds that this shameful idea is reconcilable with art? Can human art develop in the crossfire of such a "snake logic"?

 

In November 1921, he could exhibit the richest selection of his career until that time with thirty-nine paintings at the exhibition of the National Saloon. Náray, besides his characteristic themes, started a new chapter, the world of the Holy Scripture. Out of his four works in this theme, the figure of Jesus appears on two. Further on, this proportion became more and more stressed in favour of the Saviour. The figure of Jesus has a special significance from the aspect that the artist modelled the figure of Jesus from himself all the while, at the same time starting a long series of self-portraits.

 

The secluded man of intensified sensitivity and a never-ending state of suffer living from this, at last found a field as a painter, where he could portray his mental depth without having to level the accusations of shamelessness against himself. A significant piece of this self-revelation, the masterly beautiful, Jesus head with a crown of thorns originating from that period of time tells everything about this. [ Picture no. 7: Christ (Krisztus) ] Instead of a long analysis, we only would like to draw the attention to the radiant quality of the halo brought out by just a few lines. From the character of the signature placed in the right bottom corner, we believe that the creator was aware of the value of the work of art.

 

1921 was not over yet, when in December, Artúr Elek [1876-1944 (art historian, art critic, journalist, writer.)], one of the most recognised art critics of the time, expressed his appreciation of the art of Náray in a loving and warm manner in a long writing on the columns of the NYUGAT (WEST) [1908-1941 (the most significant periodical of the Hungarian literature and art in the 20 th century)]. From this time on, whenever he wrote about him, his feelings did not change at all, and the rate of his acknowledgement even increased. For the first time, Artúr Elek highlighted two significant elements from Náray's art. Firstly, he recalled how the artist was able to portray a rich selection of atmospheres only with one model (Katica). As a second observation, he mentioned that the unfolding Biblical element was promising. We can say that the painter realised every hope of the critic set on him.

 

The next three years were characterised by the usual ethical and financial fights. Besides exhibiting in Hungary , he exhibited one of his paintings in Holland and several others in Romania . We do not know any details about these works. Only one thing is for sure, that at an exhibition in Temesvár, three of his works were bought by people from the higher Romanian social circles. (The buyers were the queen, a minister and a representative.)

 

In the second half of 1924, Náray went to America . We know for sure that he exhibited his works in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh , but he might have gone to other towns as well. The local press liked him; nevertheless he was disappointed again as regards the morals and the finances. Certain, not verifiable references suggest that he stayed with his mother, who emigrated in the meantime, and her family founded there. The painter later on made a few more attempts in the New World . Sometimes he spent there even half a year, but we know from his statement made in the beginning of the 1940's that he never made peace with the overseas atmosphere and scale of values.

 

The Alliance of Spiritual Artists (Spirituális Művészek Szövetsége ) [1925-1945 (the group was not established based on style but on ideology)] was established in 1925. It was the first gathering, the objectives of which he agreed to, therefore he joined it. In the middle of October, Artúr Elek wrote about Náray in the NYUGAT. He thought that the painter was more acknowledged abroad than at home. He believed that the reason behind was that his success could not be compared to anyone else's. In the middle of December, THE STUDIO wrote about Náray again. This time, it published two of his paintings along with the interpretation of Artúr Elek. The titles of the paintings are extremely typical and give food for thought. On the first one, we can see Katica with a racked face, and is called Tragic daydreaming (Tragikus álmodozás) . The other work with many figures was the Ridicule of Christ (Krisztus kigúnyoltatása) . We believe that both subjects refer to the situation of the couple. We do not know where the original paintings are in this case either, but examining the frayed print, it looks as if Katica had a hidden disease. We do not know when exactly, but in the following three years, Katica died.

 

Náray took part in several group exhibitions in 1926 and 27. Two other significant events happened in 1927. A new fine arts and applied arts periodical, the A MŰ (THE WORK) was established [1926-1945]. Here is a thought from the writing of the editor in chief detailing the intents of the periodical:

 

The A MŰ is for everyone! It is built on the healthy view of life of "to give and to accept". - To gather constructive forces to - almost wordlessly and imperceptibly - combat all harmful protections and the creature of the even more harmful injustice

 

The words of Miklós Krivátsy [1898-1982 (sculptor, artistic writer)], almost directly relate to the artistic experiences of Náray. Therefore, the fact that the quoted article was followed by a theoretical analysis from the pen of Aurél Náray is not by chance. In his essay called About creative art (Az alkotóművészetről), the painter protected the visionary creation method resting on the spirit against the picture preparation copying nature with quite emotional sentences. The following issue of the A MŰ published the thoughts of Náray in the leading article. ( The light of art - A művészet világossága ). The next section of his writing represents his unchanged standpoint on art:

 

In a nutshell, we can see that many ones expect the transforming activity, which thus leads to the ultimate objective from culture and thus art. Then they push on culture and art itself. However - every action strengthens the condition, which it originates from.

It is sure that the final-ultimate opportunities of art do not unfold by aiming at art, itself. Because nowadays art and thus culture takes the highest rank as some kind of an exclusive unity, and when protecting it, they ignore the basis, from which the tree of art gained real nourishment for the growth.

The basis of art is man!

 

And we have to add that Náray meant the undamaged, slightly idealised man , who "originates from above". The periodical even published one of his paintings in this issue. (Self-portrait - his model was still Katica.)

 

Kép információkért kattintson! The other significant event from 1927 was that Náray was awarded a silver diploma at the annual ecclesiastical exhibition. We do not know for exactly which of his works he got this honour. It might have been one of those, which were published as coloured picture postcards. We do not know where the originals of the works are, which we found in this format. The theme of three is secular ( Muse - Merengés, Blue lake - Kék tó, Cosy home - Kellemes otthon ), and the theme of two is related to Jesus ( Resurrection - Feltámadás, Jesus at the well - Jézus a kútnál ). [The postcards were issued by the Hungarian Rotophot Society (Magyar Rotophot Társaság)]

 

Let us have a look at the one, which is most likely to have received the diploma. [Picture no. 8: Resurrection ]. We can see the resurrected Christ stepping out of his rock grave beneath the sky, which suggests that it is rather night than dawn. There is a blond girl angel sitting to his left in an everyday position, who could even be the "sister" of Jesus. We can see two differently behaving Roman soldiers in the front of the picture. One is rather indignantly taken aback, while the other lowers his head with clasped hands, having seen the resurrection. Examining it from long decades, this Resurrection is still, fresh, alive and is above all trends. And exactly this fact of being above all trends represents the essence and the major value of the art of Aurél Náray. The fact that his works were published on picture postcards manifested the not slight increase of his rank.

 

Having a look at the Náray of the 1920's, the fact that his pictures were visionary was more and more typical. Therefore, it was not by chance that on the occasion of his first speak through the press, he took the imaginary work, relying on internal sight under his protection. We believe that such inclinations were, besides his seclusion, even enhanced by the early death of his young wife, Katica. A significant proof of this is the work made in commemoration of his wife
[Picture no. 9: In remembrance of Katica (Katica emléke)].

 

The slightly rising meadow, overgrown by green lawn is enclosed by sparsely standing trees. We can see the cloudy, purplish grey curtain of the sky at the horizon through the crystal-clear morning air. Katica is standing in a deeply moved posture and with a deeply moved face in a purple dress with white wristband at the right side of the picture, the nearest us. Her head is environed by an irregularly contoured "woolly" halo.Kép információkért kattintson!Katica is looking, with an amazed look, at the harpist girl sitting opposite her just a few steps away - at the left side of the picture. The girl, who is also dressed in purple, plays while being lost in her peculiar instrument. This harp is like as if it grew from a young rosebush straddled by the legs of the girl. And it looks as if the strumming of the chords of the instrument made red petals fall on her dress. We can find the "superficial" features of Náray's model, "succeeding" Katica, and becoming stable, in the "unelaborated" face of the playing girl. In between the figures of the two women, slightly farther in the picture, four little girls holding hands are dancing a self-forgetting dance, while their hair fly about. In the heat of their dance, some kind of a shaggy red shawl is fluttering with the frolicking girls. Examining the whole picture, we get the impression of secession and symbolism, two trends, which had not gone out of fashion for the great public. On this canvas of Náray - whether he wanted or not - the influences of these two styles are well represented.

 

The complete interpretation of the meaning of the painting would be quite long. As for us, we believe to see the presentation of the peculiar meeting of past and future. The artist might have painted the dancing children in remembrance of his children (daughters) hoped for from Katica, but never actually born.

 

We have reasons to believe that the new female character, which determined his longest period, lasting until the end of his career, appeared on his paintings in 1928. This year was also characterised by foreign successes. In the summer, a large-scale fine arts exhibition was opened in Rome . Among others, Náray's beautiful picture "gently breathed by the colours of the spring" was sold. The picture called the Portrait of a charming young girl (Bájos fiatal leány arcképe) was bought by Mussolini [1883-1945 (dictator prime minister of Italy that time)]. We know the work only from the news. Based on the descriptions, we have to think about an early work of his new series. As we have established in connection with the picture to the memory of Katica, this new character of Náray was introduced by the "harpist girl". As if this female character was the immaterialised "spiritual portrait" of his deceased wife. The originally "incoherent" features received a more and more solid outline as time went by and did not lose their dreamy character, except for a few ones. Information (from the family), which seems to be consistent, suggests that this "model" did not even have a real life earthly double. The power of loneliness, sorrow and innocent spiritual desire might have shaped this character so living (?)

 

Kép információkért kattintson! Most of the time, Náray placed his model created by himself in imaginary sceneries, reminiscent of landscape gardens. Therefore the plant-character of the girl's spirit was especially emphasised. Mostly he painted her with a violin, a harp, or a baby - generally a girl - in her hands. The violin, as the most sensitive and human musical instrument could even be the symbol of the painter. A beautiful piece of his long series: The small musician girl (A kis zenészlány) [picture no. 10: The small musician girl ]. As we know, Náray was quite good at playing the violin. - Painting child or children represents his endless crave for a family.

 

Still in 1928, at the end of the year, there was another Hungarian fine arts exhibition abroad, this time in Stockholm . The Swedish media primarily praised Náray's ecclesiastical works. The Hungarian exhibition committee bought one of the artist's female study pictures, and gave it to the Malmö Museum.

 

In 1929, Náray exhibited mostly at the exhibitions organised by the Society of Independent Artists (Független Művészek Társasága) [operated between 1924-1945]. Besides, he also took part in a Hungarian exhibition in Nürnberg. And in July-August, an ecclesiastical work of his, the Group of saints ( Szentek csoportja) was exhibited in the Barcelona World Expo.

 

Kép információkért kattintson! In the second half of October, only a few days after the critic of the BUDAPESTI HÍRLAP (BUDAPEST NEWSPAPER) [1881-1938 (political daily paper)] missed the "nimbleness" and "colourfulness" of his painting, the Society of Independent Artists awarded Náray for one of his works with a silver medal at an exhibition at the National Saloon. It is not surprising that this work was also an ecclesiastical one, the title of which was From now on you will fish people (Ezentúl embereket fogsz halászni) . Unfortunately we do not know anything else about the painting. Instead, let us have a look at another of his works made around this time, the title of which is Christ teaching in the boat (Krisztus a hajóban tanít) [Picture no. 11: Christ teaching in the boat ]. The picture well represents the development of Náray in painting group scenes. The majority of the work is comprised of patches of colours, which arrange in their proper places from only a certain distance. Except for the spumous blue, turning into the dark, of the water waving in the background, the picture is dominated by brownish black, yellowy white and dirty grey. To the right from the centre of the painting, a motionless crowd standing on the terraced shore, is listening to Jesus attentively, who is talking to them, while sitting with two other persons in a small sailboat dancing on the waves. Only the small child in white dress moves slightly right in front of the figure standing out as an exclamation mark and a dark counterpoint from the group of people standing on the shore. All figures are roughly sketched compared to Jesus. The hands of the Saviour are also out of proportion, however the dark sail breaking out upwards from the field of sight of the picture, right behind Jesus nicely highlights the figure of the "Master" in bright clothing. The work was bought by the capital city.

 

The year 1930 brought Náray two more silver medals. He got the first one in February at the Barcelona International Modern Art Exhibition, and the second one in October from the Society of Independent Artists for his work called the Sermon on the Mount (Hegyi beszéd) . Between these two points of time, his works were exhibited at the spring exhibition of the Art Gallery and an exhibition organised by the Alliance of Spiritual Artists. Talking about the latter one, the critic of the BUDAPESTI HÍRLAP gave voice to his dissatisfaction again and requested a clearer intention, a more solid structure and "less leaded" colours from the artist, obviously misunderstanding and judging the more and more characteristic individual style of Náray as lack of style. His works were seen among the contemporary materials of the Venice International Exhibition at the end of November.

 

The strengthening of his financial situation is represented by the fact that in 1931, Náray bought the apartment, in which he lived for the rest of his life. The unostentatious and not large, but proper middle-class home was situated at the mezzanine floor of a recently built five storey building in Buda, in the immediate vicinity of the Tabán Cemetery (Tabáni Temető).

 

With regard to the 1930's, Náray's art became more and more accepted in Hungary as well. Keeping up with the growing number of exhibition options, his works could be seen at many exhibitions both in the capital and in the country. His popularity was still unbroken abroad.

 

Kép információkért kattintson! In comparison with the events so far, only in the autumn of 1936 was there a significant event in Náray's career. A new exhibition place, the MŰTEREM (STUDIO) was opened in Budapest led by Kálmán Kató [1876-1946 (postimpressionist painter)] in the Kossuth Lajos street (which was the most elegant route of the capital at that time). The first opportunity to fill the room with pictures was given to Náray in the middle of November. There were sixty-four pictures for sale at his exhibition. Artúr Elek praised the painter in an acknowledging tone of voice usual from him in the columns of the ÚJSÁG (FRESHNESS) [A. Elek had been working at the paper since 1908], especially highlighting his ecclesiastical paintings. The critic of the BUDAPESTI HÍRLAP hidden behind the "Y.E." sign did not fall out of his role, and gave voice to his new complaints. He blamed Náray for working for popular art-dealers for subsistence, thus harming his art. In spite of the fact that we cannot agree with this opinion, we have to mention that this time the theme of the Revellers was missing from the selection. The reason for this is not clear, because Náray did not abandon this theme.

 

During the passing years, he overcrowded the skimpy rooms of the pub scenes with more and more persons. [Picture no. 12: Revellers - 2 ]. The larger the crowd and the denser the smoke got, the persons giddying therein became more and more lonely. These figures became more and more unkempt and patch-like. However, there is an open door in the background, it is covered up by someone, so there is not much chance to escape. We consider the fact that, as we know, none of the versions of the Revellers got in any public collection typical. Only some appeared sometimes in the selection of the recently flourishing art dealers and auction houses.

 

Kép információkért kattintson! We have seen several versions of the female figure developed from the "harpist girl" recently. Just like in case of the other Náray works, we can say that it is a typical and unmistakable piece of the 20 th century Hungarian painting. An especially beautiful piece is the Madonna , which is floating half way between the ecclesiastical and secular presentation. [Picture no. 13: Madonna ]. The work does not require any special explanation; we would only like to draw attention to the glory shaping from the fleecy cloud above Maria's head, which avoids showing off, however tells everything about the players.

 

In the second half of the 1930's and the beginning of the 40's, the works of Náray were still present at different exhibitions, both in Hungary and abroad. Even the English royal family had some of his works. And outside of Europe , the Prince's Museum in Bombay and the Johannesburg Gallery in South Africa got Náray paintings.

 

The MŰTEREM organised a one-man show for him from the works of the previous year in the spring of 1941 and at the end of 1942. On both occasions, the whole selection of the themes could be seen - including the Revellers too -, as well as certain scenes in several versions. The comments on Náray from the press were getting better. Artúr Elek had the leading role on these two occasions as well.

 

A descriptive booklet on Aurél Náray written by János Bende was published in 1942 in the series of the "biography of artists" issued by the Creation Fine Arts and Applied Arts Cooperation (Alkotás Képzőművészeti és Iparművészeti szövetkezet) . The deficiencies of the booklet might have arisen from the secluded character of the artist.

 

Náray's career did not have any special turns during 1943 and 44. As we know, the last exhibition, on which he took part was in April-May 1944, organised by the Alliance of Spiritual Artists. During the bombings against Budapest , his studio close to his home in the Németvölgyi út, was destroyed.

 

A significant change in his private life was after a long time getting married again probably during the war. He married the 22 year younger Erzésbet Angyal in 1945. His only daughter, called Erzsébet, was born from his second marriage. The painter, living secluded after the war could only enjoy family life for two short years. Aurél Náray passed away on 29 th August 1948 . The direct cause of his death was lung inflammation. He was buried in the Budapest Farkasrét Cemetary (Budapesti Farkasréti Temető) [parcel no. 26/2, row no. 1, grave no. 14].

 

Kép információkért kattintson! Since we believe that the painter created the pieces of his art of abiding value with his ecclesiastical works, let us say goodbye to him with the monumental scene of the Resurrection of Lazarus ( Lázár feltámasztása).
[Picture no. 14]


author: Péter N. Horváth

 

 

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Schedule of pictures

 

Picture no. 1: Juvenile self-portrait
(Ifjúkori önarckép)
no signature
size: 38 × 26 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 2: Yellow flowers
(Sárga virágok)
signed, top right: Náray Aurél 1912.
size: 70 × 52.3 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[Hungarian National Gallery]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 3: Revellers - 1.
(Mulatozók - 1.)
signed, bottom right: Náray Aurél
size: 50 × 70
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 4: Katica with a musical instrument
(Katica hangszerrel)
no signature
size: 65 × 47 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, carton
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 5: Flower-piece
(Virágcsendélet)
no signature
size: 100 × 75 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, carton
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 6: Autumn scenery
(Őszi táj)
signed, bottom right: Náray A.
size: 46.5 × 67 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, pasteboard
[Hungarian National Gallery]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 7: Christ
(Krisztus)
signed, bottom right: Náray
size: 50 × 40 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 8: Resurrection
(Feltámadás)
signed, bottom right: Náray
size: 14 × 9 cm
reproduction; picture postcard;
issued by:
Hungarian Rotophot Society, Nr. 22
[Magyar Nemzeti Galéria Adattár]
[Data storage of the Hungarian National Gallery]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 9: In remembrance of Katica
(Katica emléke)
no signature
size: 92 × 78 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 10: The small musician girl
(A kis zenészlány)
signed, bottom left: Náray Aurél
size: 67,5 × 55 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 11: Christ teaching in the boat
(Krisztus a hajóban tanít)
signed, bottom right: Náray
size: 70 × 100 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[Hungarian National Galery]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 12: Revellers - 2.
(Mulatozók - 2.)
signed, bottom right: Náray Aurél
size: 55 × 68 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 13: Madonna
signed, top left: Náray Aurél
size: 100×70 cm
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[private ownership]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture no. 14: Resurrection of Lazarus
(Lázár feltámasztása)
signed, top right: Náray
size: 125 × 203 cm.
technique/material: oil-painting, canvas
[private ownership]

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