Tag Archives: Magyar Secession Haza

Racy PJs at the House of Art Nouveau

Budapest’s  House of Art Nouveau is a delightful conglomeration of the possessions of ordinary people during the period of peace and prosperity between the 1890s and the outbreak of the First World War.  This approximate period was known in France as Le Belle Epoque; i wrote about it in several posts about the Paris 1900 Exhibition.  The items I admired last spring in Paris were for the elite; the ones I admired in Budapest were decidedly more humble, but just as charming and thought-provoking.

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In fashion, the period began with Victorian primness and fussiness. The ladies above pose with an ivory comb perfect for hair styled in intricate billows, braids and loops.

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Who was this pretty lady?  The aristocracy had themselves grandly painted life-sized, in oils.  But members of the new middle class were happy to have portraits of their loved ones in humbler pastels and watercolors.


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At some point in the period, respectable women became more daring–possibly inspired by items like this exuberant little nude figurine on a dressing table.

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That new boldness led directly to fashions which would not have amused Queen Victoria. This evening dress looks like a precursor of the flapper dress that became popular in the 1920s.

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And at home, women enjoyed their new freedoms as much as when they were out and about.  On the door of the women’s restroom, I found this charming portrait of a woman wearing pajamas–with pants!  And lighting a cigarette from her bedtime candle! The world was changing, in Budapest as in other cities. The House of Art Nouveau is a delightful wander into the past, and a look at what the future would bring.

More Art Nouveau in Hungary

My apologies to those who received a post with no content.  I was trying to re-blog a post on “How to Travel in Winter” from one of my favorite travel blogs, “Picnic at the Cathedral.”  I’ll try again!

I’m just getting around to sorting my many photos of my first trip to Hungary, this past December. One of my favorite stops was the House of Art Nouveau in Budapest.  As I explained in a recent post, it’s not so much a museum as a collection of stuff that ordinary people owned, used and loved. Hungary enjoyed one of its few periods of peace and relative prosperity between about 1890 and the outbreak of the First World War.

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Furniture styles at the beginning of the period were staunchly conservative, even a little stuffy.  I’m not an expert, but I might call the bedroom set above a version of the “Biedermeier” style popular with the new middle classes of central Europe between about 1815 and 1850.

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The cozy dining nook above sits next to an Art Nouveau stained glass window original to the house. It looks ready for a cozy chat and a nice cup of coffee.

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Later in the period, the height of fashion was for furniture with fanciful flowing lines, like this dressing table.

I’ve seen much finer examples of Art Nouveau in the design museums of Paris and Vienna, but I love the common touch of the everyday pieces haphazardly crammed into Budapest’s House of Art Nouveau.

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And there’s a cafe, perfect for a quick meal while dreaming of the past.  The smiling waitress asked with great interest where we were from.  She thanked us profusely for coming to her country!  This friendliness is just one of the reasons why I love Hungary.

Art Nouveau in Hungary

Between about 1890 and the outbreak of the First World War, an artistic movement developed and spread all over Europe and even in the United States. It was called Art Nouveau (New Art) in French and Jugendstihl (Youth Style) in German.  In Austria, and especially in Vienna, it flourished as the Secession movement. Artists like Gustav Klimt, along with designers and architects, wanted to “secede” from the stodgy academic past. The emphasis was on flowing natural forms, and sometimes on simple but elegant geometrics.

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In Budapest, I visited the Magyar Secession Haza, known in English guidebooks as the House of Art Nouveau.  I wouldn’t exactly call it a museum; nothing is really labelled or explained.  It’s just an authentic house from the Secession Era, built in 1903, and stuffed from top to bottom with objects a well-to-do but not aristocratic family would own during the time period. It’s a place to wander and to conjure up the people who lived with these objects.

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Old photographs of ordinary people bring the past to life. Women pose coquettishly with flowered hats and elaborate bouquets.

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Who was this child?  Why the festive feather in his cap? Was this perhaps a photo taken just before he graduated to long pants?

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New production methods made elaborate (if not always tasteful) objects available to the middle classes. What is the object above? A candle holder? A four-foot-tall candy dish?  Hard to say, but it graced someone’s parlor.

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The figurine above would never be shown in a serious museum of decorative arts.  But I can see its appeal to the person who brought it home a century ago, during one of the rare periods of peace in Hungary.  This lady seems to celebrate youth, freedom and the sheer joy of life. The Art Nouveau movement also celebrated the right of ordinary people to own things they considered beautiful, whether they served a useful purpose or not.

The website of the House of Art Nouveau is at http://www.magyarszecessziohaza.hu/mainen.php