Feel at Homes: 8 memorial museums of Hungarian artists
Photo : Róth Miksa Emlékház
24/3/2015, 8:02 PM●5-minute article
From Claude Monet’s garden-ringed home in Giverny to Frida Kahlo’s Blue House in Mexico City to Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, we can learn a great deal about many world-renowned artists by visiting the memorial museums now welcoming the public in their former residences. Budapest also features many home museums dedicated to the creative Magyar visionaries that once lived there, from internationally treasured composers like Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók to locally cherished writers, actors, and visual virtuosos.
By passionately expressing deeply personal emotions through revolutionary poetry of love and loneliness, while fearlessly attacking the dishonorable status quo of belle-époque Hungarian society with his journalism, Magyar writer Endre Ady (1877-1919) earned an eternal place of pride in Hungary’s rich literary history. Nowadays anybody can visit the downtown-Pest apartment where Ady spent the final years of his life and wrote his last volume of poetry, shared with his beloved wife Csinszka; here visitors can admire Ady’s handwritten correspondence, personal photographs, and his humble home office.
Tucked amid the leafy Buda Hills, the palatial walled villa of cherished Magyar actress Gizi Bajor (1893-1951) now welcomes visitors to learn about her impressive work in the spotlight, along with the careers of three other prominent leading ladies of Hungary’s National Theater – Mari Jászai, Emília Márkus, and Hilda Gobbi – dating back over 140 years. While Bajor’s home museum is not preserved to appear similarly to when the actress resided here, the beauty of this neo-Baroque mansion and its surrounding garden create a genuinely dramatic setting for appreciating Hungary’s theatrical history.
Far from the city’s noisy bustle, Béla Bartók (1881-1945) rented a charming three-story Buda home in 1932, and here Hungary’s leading 20th-century composer and pioneering ethnomusicologist lived and worked in peace – until he temporarily left for the United States in 1940, and tragically could never return to his native country because of World War II’s onset. Bartók left behind many of his most prized possessions here, and so today this memorial museum is regarded as the world’s most complete monument to his life – relics on view include his folk instruments, eyeglasses, watches, waistcoats, and even a cigarette butt.
For over four decades, globally influential composer Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) lived in downtown Pest at the grand traffic circle that bears his name, and the four-room apartment where he and his family resided is now a fascinating public display that is largely unchanged from when the maestro filled these chambers with his genre-blending melodies. Here we can visit Kodály’s colorfully furnished dining room, piano parlor, and library filled with books on music history, ethnography, and Hungarian literary masterpieces, along with several folk instruments and early-20th-century recording devices.
Graceful Magyar writer Gyula Krúdy (1878-1933) penned eloquently transcendent vignettes of bourgeois life in Budapest, evocatively describing dining and drinking experiences at many fine restaurants across the city, so it’s appropriate that Hungary’s primary institution dedicated to the country’s hospitality industry now encompasses Krúdy’s former home in Óbuda. The chambers where he spent his final years are now decorated with placards presenting the hotels and rented rooms occupied by this oft-destitute wordsmith until settling down here, along with a recreated eatery based on Krúdy’s prose.
Towards the end of his extremely successful career as a musical virtuoso, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) founded his namesake Academy of Music and personally taught many of the 19th century’s premier Magyar talents. While he did not accept any payment for this work, he was provided with an apartment in the school’s original location on Andrássy Avenue, and to this day his chambers are preserved as a memorial to this supremely talented composer and pianist, furnished with many authentic accoutrements from Liszt’s life – from a silver music stand to a walnut writing desk with a built-in miniature piano.
During the booming construction of Art Nouveau buildings amid Budapest’s fin-de-siècle era, brilliant Hungarian applied artist Miksa Róth (1865-1944) crafted a multitude of the city’s most enchanting mosaics and stained-glass windows – including many still shining in the Parliament House. Róth’s own home in urban Pest is now adorned with vivid displays of his most renowned works, along with a recreation of his family’s private rooms with century-old furnishings. Now open again following comprehensive renovations, guests will be dazzled when walking through this luminous locale.
Perched atop Castle Hill with panoramic views across Budapest, the former home and studio of esteemed Magyar sculptor Amerigo Tot (1909-1984) is now occupied by the prestigious Koller Gallery, one of the nation’s most significant showcases of contemporary Hungarian art. Honoring the gallery’s prior resident – perhaps best known for his portrayal of Michael Corleone’s bodyguard in The Godfather Part II – a permanent memorial room now features several of Tot’s artworks, sculptural tools, and personal articles, along with sweeping views over the city and the gallery’s private statue garden below.