On the occasion of the 179th birthday of Mihály Munkácsy, the Museum in Békéscsaba pays tribute to his namesake with an exhibition.
The exhibition ‘Munkácsy Takes a Bath’ focuses on Munkácsy’s works created in Ostend, a Belgian seaside resort popular to this day, and links them to a multifaceted cultural history.
Gabriella Gyarmati, art historian and curator of the exhibition, said at a press conference Monday that the exhibition is based on three original works by Munkácsy. The museum in Békéscsaba owns a two-page graphite work titled Ostend. A watercolor titled Seashore, created on July 16, 1989, was lent by the Hungarian National Gallery, and a graphite drawing also titled Ostend, created like the first one around 1890, was also lent by art collector József Boda.
Gabriella Gyarmati at the exhibition (Photo: MTI/Rosta Tibor)
The exhibition shows how in the second half of the 19th century, the Belgian fishing village developed into the “queen of seaside resorts,” initially visited mainly by aristocrats, financiers, industrialists and merchants, as well as famous artists, but “democratized” in the 1920s, becoming a popular vacation spot for poorer sections of the population.
Enlarged postcards from the period show the luxurious trains that went to Ostend, the upscale hotels that were built there, and the summer residence of King Leopold II of Belgium, which was built specifically for bathing.
The exhibition also shows the scientific research that preceded the deliberate development of the North Sea resort into a world-class seaside resort, the bathing habits of the time, and Ostend’s high-end gastronomy.
Individual photographs show how popular so-called “carriage bathing” was, in which distinguished people who did not want to walk long distances into shallow water put on their bathing suits in changing rooms on horse-drawn carriages and went swimming in the deeper part of the sea.
Photo: MTI/Rosta Tibor
Finally, the exhibition gives an insight into the multicultural international success story of Ostend and shows what recreational opportunities awaited Munkácsy during his stay in the 19-23 degree Celsius waters of the North Sea.
According to director Gábor Bácsmegi, the exhibition is the beginning of a new series: every year on February 20, works by Munkácsy that have rarely or never been seen in public or in Békéscsaba will be presented.
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Featured photo via Facebook/Munkácsy Mihály Múzeum