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Mária Barta: Early works

When discussing the art of Mária Barta, one often comes across the word ‘hidden’. Indeed, the early part of her oeuvre forms a chapter in the history of the Hungarian Avant-garde that draws attention to the undiscovered and exciting fragments of this period awaiting to be explored.

Mária Barta’s oeuvre has survived in fragments, as her works from her years spent abroad in the 1920s are barely known. Her return to Budapest in the early 1930s represent a turning point in this regard: a significantly larger number of works have passed down to us from this time compared to the earlier period, while a new genre, the collage, appeared in her art, opening a new chapter in her oeuvre.
The influence of the late Secession and naturalism, which characterized her earlier period, were replaced by reduced forms and a stylized approach as well as by a brief but all the more productive period of experimentation with the collage technique.
Making collages, or the technique of “drawing with scissors” (Henri Matisse) was a method of experimentation introduced by Avant-garde trends. The new genre remained popular throughout the twentieth century with its first Hungarian examples emerging in Kassák’s circle. Mária Barta’s collage art bears the influence of her impressions gathered in the 1920s in Vienna, Paris and Italy and is linked to the progressive tendencies of early-twentieth-century European art in several ways. The inspiration of Dance (1910) by Matisse can be seen in the evolution of her language of form and palette, and variations of the dance motif can be regularly observed during this period of her art.

A great many of her collages confirm that besides the dance motif Mária Barta’s imagination was deeply captured by the movement and objects of exotic peoples. This could also explain her attraction to progressive trends, whose representatives addressed this subject with the same passion as she did. Her faceless figures with their arms raised are depicted performing rites and are often repeated in the same composition as their own negatives, thus evoking the rhythms of movement and dance. This effect is further enhanced by her playful use of masks, which in some pictures conjure up archaic rituals and in others the world of modern fancy-dress balls. The sketchily cut-out figures often appear in imaginary, tale-like settings or simply float in barely indicated spaces, hence directing attention to the central motif of the composition.

Her collages are mainly made using bright monochrome colour paper, while, resulting from her experimentation with materials, some of her pictures contain decorative, metallic and shiny foil and textile cut-outs. The other important group of works in Barta’s oeuvre comprise oil paintings, which, rather interestingly, are closely linked to the collage technique of her paper works: Barta basically transplanted her previous compositional forms and motifs onto canvas and using the means of painting strove to create a similarly fragmented, schematic and stylized visual world. 

The exhibition and the catalogue is supported by the National Cultural Fund.