Mihály Munkácsy was born 170 years ago on 20 February 1844. Munkácsy was an Hungarian painter who lived in Paris and earned international acclaim with his genre pictures and large scale Biblical paintings. Mihály began his life as an orphan but completed it as one of Europe’s premier painters. His story is a true rags-to-riches tale. Originally, a carpenter’s apprentice; he went on to win international recognition, own mansions in Paris, marry a Baroness and hold grand parties that were reported in glowing detail in the press.
Adopted by a family of intellectuals, he was encouraged to pursue his artistic career. He studied for a while with an unknown provincial painter and made brief forays into various academies in Venice and Munich. He decided that he preferred to teach himself and set up a studio in Paris. By the age of 26, Munkácsy had won the Medaille D’Or from the Salon de Paris for his painting – “The Condemned Cell” and was well on his way to fame and fortune. His style is similar to that of old masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Velasquez and Turner. Refusing to acknowledge the Impressionists and scorning the avant-garde art movement which was becoming popular, he chose instead to devote himself to realistic landscapes, romantic candlelit genre paintings and sensitive religious works. He completed over 600 paintings including numerous large canvases.
Shortly after joining in on the festivities commemorating the millennium of the Hungarian conquest, Munkácsy became gravely ill. Around 1897 he entered a sanatorium and immediately underwent treatment. For almost three years he lived as an invalid in a hospital near Baden-Baden. On May 1, 1900 he died at the hospital in Endenich. He was later laid to rest in Budapest.
The above image is “Woman Carrying Faggots” (aka Reisigtragende Frau), oil on wood (1873) held by the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest (Budapest, Ungarische Nationalgalerie).