György Román

(1903 - 1981)

György Román's oeuvre is one of the most significant and captivating in Hungarian modernism. It reveals painting in terms of its classical myth of origin: as the embodiment of the desire to remember. Román's paintings invoke life-long fantasies and dreams, representing and incarnating memories and phantoms of a long-gone, but, it seems, endlessly recurring and haunting past.

Trying to situate and comprehend Román's oeuvre among the tendencies of modernist painting, we are confronted by the difficulty that none of the isms or trends provides us with an appropriate frame for the understanding of his works. Surrealism, Abstraction, Primitivism, Symbolism, Ecole de Paris, Expressionism, figuration or naivetè (none of these is apt enough to categorize Román's painting, while each one of these has something significant to say about it.

Most of the painters that Román could be meaningfully compared to stand alone in the midst of the various styles and streams of Western modernism. Román's haunting private mythology and his expressive colorism evoke the paintings of Marc Chagall. His caricature-like grotesque figurations recall Georg Grosz's portraits, his elliptic compositions suggest a link to Degas or Hans Marèes, while the frequently appearing webs of geometric or ornamental patterns emphatically associate him with Bonnard and with the Matisse of the 30's.

“I don't have a pictorial style, I don't even strive to have one.”, said Román, and indeed, he didn't need to. The idiosyncrasy of his painting, presenting itself without the slightest overtone of affected mannerism, makes any kind of classification, be it stylistic, historical or generic, utterly futile and hopeless. This exhibition of Román's work asserts that originality, this fundamental, if most controversial, element of the mythology of modernism can be fully achieved without the primacy of the production of a style.



Always respected among his peers, Román was discovered by the important Hungarian collectors of art in the Sixties. In the Seventies, his exhibitions brought him wide acclaim. After his death, his reputation kept growing, as he was taken up by a generation of artists that found in his oeuvre the cutting edge of the marginal, and saw him as an example to follow. Currently, he is considered to be among the handful of Hungarian artists of international relevance.

“Painting his dreams, György Román has no predecessors, and his followers keep running fast out of breath. I don't feel that I exaggerate in ranking this autochton painter among the great figures of not just Hungarian but universal art history. ”

— Janos Frank, 1998

Inquiries welcome. Exhibition catalogue available.