Munkácsy and the town
Mihály Munkácsy and Békéscsaba
“It has always fascinated me that the views the town offers with its long, long streets and low, sprawling houses in a neat row are like those along the rue Rivoli in Paris. In the middle, where the streets intersect, two churches stand facing each other. Everything is wrapped in silence. There is a bell tolling melancholically…” This is how Mihály Munkácsy remembered Békéscsaba, his former home at the zenith of his fame in Paris.
An orphan, the painter went to live in Békéscsaba from Miskolc at the age of 8. István Reök, his mother’s brother, became his guardian, and no matter where life took him, his guardian’s place in Békés was always home for Munkácsy. Gizella, his younger sister also lived in the town at Mrs Sarolta Reök Steiner’s place in Gyula Street. The house has been a Munkácsy Memorial House - a unique example of its kind - since 1994.
“… this pretty house stood at the far end of the town… Broad steps led up from the yard. On the other side, a terrace looked majestically onto a large garden. My aunt, Uncle Steiner and Giza were already waiting for me on the steps. They all embraced me, which immediately made me feel at home”. This is what Munkácsy wrote about the mansion where he spent his first night in Békéscsaba and the very last days of his childhood. The building where he had fine food and played with his younger sister in the afternoon now houses his lovely paintings. Of the collection of his original works in the Hungarian National Gallery, 21 paintings that offer a glimpse at various stages of his oeuvre are exhibited here.
Built in 1914, the Mihály Munkácsy Museum in the vicinity of the Memorial House contains the painter’s relics and documents as well as the photos taken of him. One of the standing exhibitions, some of his paintings and some relics are on display in the Munkácsy memorial rooms. The original of the painting depicting the painter in ‘díszmagyar’ (a ceremonial dress worn by Hungarian nobility and later by other public figures) is also on display in the Munkácsy Museum.
Sculpted by Miklós Borsos in 1958, a bust of Munkácsy stands on a column outside the museum.
Unveiled on what is called the Promenade of Sculptures in 1975, another sculpture of him made by Tibor Vilt stands on the banks of the Élővíz Canal.
There is a memorial plaque marking the place where the house of cabinet-maker György Lang used to be, in the street that was the first to be named after Munkácsy. György Lang was the man who taught Munkácsy the trade of cabinet making.
Legend has it that the tulip box on display in the Slovak Museum in Garay Street was painted by Munkácsy during his apprentice days.
There is also a memorial plaque commemorating the painter in the splendid courtyard of the Town Hall.
Another plaque on the wall of the Fiume Hotel commemorates the painter’s last visit to the town.