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Ruins of the Greek Theatre at Taormina

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka1904/1905

Hungarian National Gallery

Hungarian National Gallery

Csontváry’s painting of nearly 20 square metres is one of the best-known Hungarian works. Its appeal owes not only to its enormous size but also of the overmystification of the painter’s person. The peculiar life story of the painter, the well-nigh miraculous survival of his oeuvre all fed the emergence of legends around the artist. Yet he was very much the offspring of the turn of the century. His oeuvre united ina n idiosynchratic manner the universal individualism of romanticism and modernism’s search for collective ideals. Csontváry’s painting aimed at a thematic and optical totality. Roaming all Europe and the eastern Mediterranean in search for tgreat motifs, he depicted an almost encyclopaedic list of tourists sights. The unusual and conspicuous colourfulness of his pictures encompassing the entire spectrum derives from his special colour theory, his „solar road painting”. The ruins of the theatre at Taormina inspired several Hungarian painters from the mid 19th century. Csontváry depicted the ruins from the optimal vantage point that was discovered by the 19th-century romantic painters. Yet the colossal size, the resultant panoramic illusion and the decorative colur scheme displaying the impact of post-impressionism made it wholly novel and unique.

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