Mihaly Munkacsy (Hungarian 1844-1900) Washerwomen beside a river 54 x 80 cm. (21 1/4 x 31 1/2 in.)

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Lot 29*
Mihaly Munkacsy
(Hungarian 1844-1900)
Washerwomen beside a river 54 x 80 cm. (21 1/4 x 31 1/2 in.)

Sold for £ 52,800 (US$ 72,647) inc. premium
Mihaly Munkacsy (Hungarian 1844-1900)
Washerwomen beside a river
signed 'Munkacsy' (lower left)
oil on panel
54 x 80 cm. (21 1/4 x 31 1/2 in.)

Footnotes

  • With a formidable 'rags-to-riches' tale which accompanied the story of his life, Mihaly Munkacsy made himself one of the leading figures in the artistic circles of both his native country and France, his country of adoption. Born in the Hungarian town of Munkacs (today Munkachevo, in the Ukraine) in 1844, Munkacsy became an orphan at an early age and was placed as an apprentice joiner by his uncle. His interests in drawing and painting led him to meet Elek (Alexius) Szamossy (1826-1888), a painter who had studied at the Academy in Vienna as a pupil of Carl Rahl (1812-1865). Accompanying Szamossy on his travels abroad, Munkacsy returned to Hungary and settled in Pest in 1863-64. There, he began to paint popular genre subjects. In 1865, he entered the Academy in Vienna, and studied with Rahl himself. Following many fellow Hungarian students, Munkacsy pursued his studies in Munich. Then, having been awarded a scholarship from the Minister of Culture of the new Hungarian government, Munkacsy was able to travel to Paris to see the 1867 World Exhibition. It was during this visit that he became acquainted with the work of Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), the leading member of the Realist movement in France. From Munich, Munkascy went to Düsseldorf (1868) to study with Ludwig Knaus (1829-1910), the genre painter.

    The year 1870 marked the beginning of Munkacsy’s international career; he was nominated 1st prize winner and gold medallist at the Paris Salon for his realistic depiction of The Condemned Cell. His subsequent move to Paris the following year enabled him to extend his group of artistic acquaintances and enter the circle of Hungarian émigrés artists, led by Laszlo Paal and the art patron Baron de Marches. From 1872 onwards, Munkacsy developed a close friendship with the Baron and his wife (whom he married after the Baron’s death), frequently visiting their estate at Colpach, in the Duchy of Luxembourg, near the Barbizon forest. Munkacsy’s painting then took on a rich palette of earthy greens and browns, with which he would compose some of the most important landscapes of his career.

    The present landscape records the same chromatic register, and it is probable that the painting belongs to this particular period of the artist’s life. In a very subtle manner, Munkacsy has assimilated the lessons of Courbet and the Barbizon painters and devoted this landscape with washerwomen to the ingenuity of their teachings. The oblong format provides the space for an elongated view of a scene in the daily life of country folk. The sun setting in a high sky casts its remaining light over the robust figures of these working women.
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