Preface (Catalogue of The City Gallery - Deák Collection)

Dénes Deák, this excellent collector, donated part of his collection - paintings, drawings, small sculpture and medals, altogether more than seventy works of art - to the city of Székesfehérvár in 1986. The material came to be shown in a temporary exhibition in Pelican House in the same year, arranged by art historian Márta Kovalovszky, the first de facto Director (1986-1994) of the City Gallery - Deák Collection, as the new institution was named. Having grown by way of a second donation to twice its original size, to 164 works of art, the collection was relocated in 1988 to its present home, the first floor of the building in Oskola street. In 1993, following the tragic and early death of the collector, the holdings expanded to several hundred works of art, in accordance with his will. In September 1994 the new permanent exhibition opened on a significantly enlarged area, incorporating further, reconstructed sections of the building. Save for minor modifications, this has remained the permanent exhibition to date, arranged by art historian Erzsébet Szűcs, appointed Director of the Collection in 1994. As the Ledgers testify, 864 of the altogether 1018 works of art had been in the ownership of Dénes Deák. The Gallery acquired merely 154 pieces by purchase, and from the artist colony in nearby Mór. Beyond a few artists of national renown, these 154 works comprise works predominantly by local artists. These works clearly differ in their date of production, their character, and often also in quality from the core of Deák Collection.

On the occasion of opening the first exhibition in Oskola street in 1988, Dénes Deák presented the works he donated to Székesfehérvár in a book, published privately. The introductory texts included an essay by Lajos Lóska and an interview by Miklós Hernádi, followed by an album of the artworks with comments on their aesthetic. For more than a decade, this well-conceived book, easy to handle, represented the holdings of the City Gallery - Deák Collection, whilst these holdings had grown sizeably. In 2001, with this book getting out of print, a useful leaflet of popularising aim replaced the book. The new leaflet, edited by Erzsébet Szűcs, was published as number 676 in the series Regions - Ages - Museums. Although it mirrored correctly the new holdings and altered circumstances of the Collection, the leaflet naturally would be no substitute for the present catalogue aiming to document the collection thoroughly, from various points of view, and in much detail.

As customary with collection catalogues, this new publication consists of essays, biographies of artists, comments on the artworks, and their illustration, representing mainly the over 400 pieces shown in the permanent exhibition. A few other important works - that are not permanently on show for technical reasons - are also highlighted; other pieces are listed in the catalogue section. The authors of the studies come from current generations of art historians working on Hungarian art of the twentieth century. Some of them have considerable expertise in research, whilst others are younger colleagues. We attempted to invite specialists to write each about their genre, age or artist. This having not always been viable, occasionally we settled on second best options. Apart from small corrections, the studies are published in the form as submitted by the authors. Editorial changes have been more significant in the biographies and in the aesthetic appreciation of individual artworks, where shortening some over-complicated essays, with insufficient empirical content, was imperative.

As a result of preparing the catalogue, a few interesting issues of attribution surfaced. In the lack of data, the monographer of Dezső Czigány disputes whether Csendélet (banánnal, naranccsal, halakkal) / Still life (with banana, orange and fish) belongs to the artist's oeuvre. Jenő Paizs Goebel's Kettős porter / Double portrait has now been proven to carry a VA sign - not quite imperceptibly in an upper corner. Thus, it will in all likelihood been painted by Albert Varga of himself and his artist friend. The authenticity of István Farkas' canvas, entitled Tengerparton lila ég alatt / On the sea shore, under purple sky (1934) has been questioned due to its character as compilation, poor quality and lack of data proving its originality. Similarly, further research is required to identify the originality of several works by László Mednyánszky Zsidó katona / Jewish soldier (1910s); Férfi fej / Head of a man (n. d.); Tájkép lovat hajtó férfival / Landscape with man spurring a horse (n. d.); Vonuló trén / Carts in motion (n. d). While editing the catalogue, attention was drawn to a Medgyessy relief laying by, recovered from the collector's apartment at a later refurbishment. Contrary to the opinion maintained so far that this piece comes from post-casting, the relief is now believed to be original, probably identical with the Lovas-relief / Equestrian (relief) of 1937 as featuring in the oeuvre catalogue edited by Katalin Sz. Kürti.

We hope that the catalogue of the Deák Collection will contribute to disseminating the values and significance of this collection of national importance among specialists in art and culture, the wider Hungarian public, as well as abroad.

Zoltán Nagy

© Városi Képtár – Deák Gyűjtemény • 8000 Székesfehérvár, Oskola u. 10. – deak@deakgyujtemeny.hu