The following is an article, written by the famous Hungarian art critic Karoly Lyka, published on the art magazine Művészet, which was eventually founded in 1902 by Lyka himself. This article represents a sort of Hungarian Secession style manifesto, and appeared in volume I of the magazine, in the year 1902. For that reason, it was one of the most influencing text in the development of the Hungarian Secession national style. The translation of this text represents a tribute to the Hungarian nation for the national celebration for the 15 march, 160 years after the 1848 independence war against Augsburg empire.
“We can affirm that in Hungary happened an event identical to what happened in other countries: the roots of both Secession and Hungarian Style (to use a common expression)is the same. Even similar, if not identical, is the fate behind their own short history. Consequently the Secession, in its origin, essence and effects, is identical to what is called Hungarian Secession.
Maybe this sentence sounds disturbing for who under the term “Secession” simply denotes foolish and madness.We, on the contrary are fiercely against this misinterpretation, and we think that the Hungarian artistic style is essentially the same the modern one proposed by foreign artists. Strictly speaking, we think that those tendencies correspond each other and couldn’t be disjointed.
Several consequences follow.
First, we have to admit we are witness of the birth of a radically new artistic movement, which is universal and which grows throughout the entire Europe, having the same characteristics in all those countries. Innovators declared war everywhere against the academic and traditional doctrines, everywhere they throw away the historical style, and everywhere try to develop freely their own artistic personality.
Second, we have to admit these universal and renewing artistic tendencies develop, in every single country, a particular national style. Freed by obsolete stylistic forms, the artists freely follow their individualistic impulses and are finally able to let their national and ethnic characteristics to emerge. Consequently, their artistic works are charged of a sort of national spirit. The innovators regard at this as one of their main goal, as a consequence of an highly developed national spirit.
Third, we notice an event which often occur in the history of art: even the more universalized artistic tendency, after some time, endorses the characteristic of a particular national spirit. The new tendencies too, have diffusion throughout the entire Europe. And there are also common elements in several aspect of culture, specially in literature, which have to be related to the spirit of our age. Notwithstanding those similarities, however there are some noticeable national differences, which are evident if one analyzes the most important works.
Fourth, we have to notice that the new tendencies, for its own being, help the birth of national styles as a natural consequence, if there aren’t negative influences such as the lack of talented artists. The new tendencies leave the artists to develop and express their own personality and peculiarities. For that reason, even unwilling, the artist in his work expresses even the characteristics of his own race. the similarities between the masterpieces of genial artists are the peculiarities of the national style.
Finally we can affirm that the Hungarian art, regarding the birth of an Hungarian style, never in history was in such a favorable situation as in present time. In this point of view it is in a more favorable situation even considering other nations. First because the historic tradition in the field of art is not so important, and consequently is fairly easy to try new roads. Second, because no past artistic tendency would permit such as an artistic freedom as the modern tendencies which spread within the entire Europe. [...]
We were pushed to write down these few lines after the contingency. The turning point was the fact that the Hungarian Parliament recently was involved on the same subject, concluding that the Secession style has to be rejected by Hungary because its differences from the real Hungarian style. Meanwhile the development of an Hungarian style was encouraged. The rules behind this development are mandatory because “under the name of Hungarian style often Secession style is meant” and because “this Secession style doesn’t correspond” to the taste of the ministry who engaged in this problem. This is the reason why we were constraint to face this question. And I say “constraint” just because our Parliament approved such a policy that, in the near future, will have influence in the state and government attitude toward artistic questions. This artistic magazine must consider such a decision under several points of view. We cannot be indifferent if, as a consequence of a misinterpreted definition, superior artistic interests are disrupted.
So, our goal is to consider the meaning of this programmatic declaration. And we are afraid of the fact that confronting a piece of art in Secession style with another in Hungarian style the confusion would augment. By our side we doubt that would be possible to have such an instrument which could record the supposed differences between Secession and Hungarian styles, or even which could measure the distance between these two styles.
This kind of mistakes, even if can give specific directions in the artistic production, can however cause several troubles to our art.”
Karoly Lyka, Művészet, I, 1902, pp. 164-180
translated from Hungarian by Mattia Moretti