In the autumn of 2009 the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp worked out an exhibition on the oeuvre of Hungarian artist Lajos Vajda.
Lajos Vajda (Zalaegerszeg 1908 - Budapest 1941) was a leading figure in Hungarian art during the interwar period, an era characterised not only by modernism, but also by nationalism, totalitarianism and violent conflict. At the end of the 1920s Vajda developed a fascination with 'Russian Constructivism' and 'Socialist doctrine'. He joined the 'Munka Kör' (Work Circle), a group of artists, intellectuals and workers who shared a belief in an artistic renewal that was to coincide with a revolution in society.
Montages and Hungarian motifs
In 1930, Vajda moved to Paris, the epicentre of artistic innovation. There he would create
photomontages, a tested technique in avant-garde art circles for commenting on world events. The
compositions are reminiscent of the modern film editing technique pioneered by Russian avant-garde
directors such as
In 1934, Vajda returned to Hungary. He spent his summers in Szentendre, a small town and art colony on the Danube. Following in the footsteps of the composers Belá Bártok and Zoltán Kodály, Vajda drew inspiration from the archaic Serbian, Slavic and Hungarian motifs that he encountered on local tombstones and in the architecture of homes and churches in Szentendre. He processed these elements in a technique of transparent montage, which combined his earlier montage method with line drawing.
Some years later Vajda became increasingly isolated. He had lost his believe in the 'Munka Kör' and started creating barren, nightmarish landscapes inhabited by fiendish birds, apocalyptic monsters and ghastly human and vegetable forms. Vajda’s later work, dating from 1939 and 1940, consists of large drawings in ink and charcoal with little colour. They are Vajda's final depictions of a demonic world. Aged just thirty-three, exhausted after a brief period in a labour camp and suffering from tuberculosis, Lajos Vajda died in 1941. His work left a lasting mark on the avant-garde of his time, known under the collective name of the 'European School'.
The exhibition was accompanied by the publication Lajos Vajda. Touch of Dephts , a book on Vajda's life and work.
This exhibition was organised in cooperation with the PMMI Ferenczy Múzeum in Szentendre, the Research Institute for Art History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest and the Cultural Institute of the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary. It is was granted the support of the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture.