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Lajos Kozma (Kiskorpad, 1884 – Budapest, 1948) is one of the most interesting and original artist in the history of the Hungarian Szecesszio. He studied architecture in Budapest when in his own 20th, even if his interests were also in the illustration graphics, in furniture design and in buildings decoration. This one will be the first of a series of articles on this exceptional and maybe rather unknown artist, maybe one of the most interesting figure in the history of Hungarian Secesszio.

In this article the work of Kozma as book illustrator is presented. Eventually, the article contains a digitized version of Révész Béla’s Találkozás Hamupipőkével, one of the most important piece of art as far as the book illustration during the turn of the century period in Hungary.

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As for Bela Lajta and Karoly Kos, the mainstream interest for Kozma was the Hungarian national artistic tradition (Magyar nepvuveszet). He studied the popular art in the rural area of Kalotaszeg and influences from those studies are well evident in his graphical works as well as his decorations for some Lajta architected buildings. However popular art wasn’t the sole source of inspiration for Kozma. He was very acknowledged of the work of the Wiener Werkstaette (eventually himself tried to proceed in the foundation of an Hungarian Budapester Werkstaette which, however, never reached the level of the wiener counterpart). and in particular of the geometric style of Josef Hoffman and of Koloman Moser. Geometrism in a black and white graphic which inherited some influences from the English Arts and Crafts tradition (William Morris, as far as the complexity of the lines are concerned) and of the later British symbolism (Aubrey Beardsley). In the comments included in the presentation of the Találkozás Hamupipőkével illustrations themselves, some evidences of strong influences from symbolist visions of Gustav Klimt and Ferdnand Khnopff are also noticed.

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The illustrated title page. As can be noticed, there are several elements of the Kozma own style. Human figure are draw with different line tickness. As in a dream, a flow of human figures are just outlined, with a very soft line. On the contrary, the character which are supposed to be real or at least in action in the drawing is on a black tick outline. This tecnique is typical of the style of Kozma. To be notice, the flow of the characters on the left are quite influenced by some works of Gustav Klimt.

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Surprisingly, what really seems to be the title page is really the second page here. To be noticed the very unique style of the characters, of course drawn by Kozma himself. This charset will be used by the author on several furtherdrawings as well as on drawings used for advertising for some magazines (for example, Muveszet and Magyar Iparmuveszet)

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The outlined nude figure here seems coming out from a dream: she is sensual even if the reclining head suggests a melancholic attitude. The rose, another typical element of Kozma, are in bold line, so they are the main figure here. But they are falling, as in autumn, underlining the crepuscolar taste of the entire scene. The city, sylized using a very few lines, is far from the scene, it doesn’t seem the scenario on which this dramatic scene takes place. Some japonisme influences are in the essential lines of the female body as well as in the roses. However the hermetism of this symbolic scene is completely due to his author.

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Some more new elements in the poetic of Kozma are here presented. The lines here are much more evidenced, bold and complicated. Geometric patterns have some inheritances from the Wiener Werkstaette style. However here the dominant line is curve without the sharpness of the viennese line. The patterns derive from the popular art he studied some years before. Birds and stylized flowers within the complex pattern are similar to the textile patterns of the hungarian countryside tradition. The warrior, completely inscribed in a agglomerate of these pattern recalls the Thaeseus of the famous Gustav Klimt’s poster for the first exhibition of the Wiener Secession.

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The popular heritage of the Kozma’s patterns is here even more evident. Even the function recalls the popular art, since the first square of pattern on the left serve as a plaid cover on the bed of the deadly female character. The mourning of the whole scene is also remarked by two other element. The flow of the lines on the right suggests a direction from low to the high, from the ground where human beings live to the heaven. The deadly character as well is in the right middle of the scene, suggesting her imminent departure. A clock is also inscribed into the pattern, a further symbol for the dead (the “end of the time”). Reflections on dead are quite common through the works of Kozma.

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Here the city occupies the most of the entiredrawing. It is a grown city, with houses just one close to the other. Maybe, it is Budapest in the turn of the century, during its outstanding expansion. The houses have some elements in common with some Egon Schiele’s painting, such as Dead City. But underground is the human work. The underground is dark but even in that darkness a tree is able to grow up. Symbol of human exploitment, this drawing is one of the most close to the subject of the book itself (that’s on the condition of the workers in the early years of the new century).

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This drawing seems a natural prosecution of the preceeding one. By an artistic point of view, the interesting topic here is the fact that the human figures are collaged with geometric patterns to form a large square dominating the drawing itself. The flow of dead female corps are brought into a cave the entrance of which has some patterns and geometrical disposal which recall the Bela Lajta’s Elephant Building in the Budapest zoo

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The composition here follow a geometrical structure, in particular a triangular one. The allegoric figure of the music and of, maybe, the poetry (since the figure just below the musician with the cello recalls the Poetry wall painting of Klimt in the Beehetoven frieze in the Secession building at Vienna) seem to celebrate the mourning of the city. A city which has no more attitude towards arts …

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Time for a dramatic separation … Again the melting between human figures and geometric patterns result in an outstanding rassemblement

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Here the floreal element is in first order. The plants on the right side are quite similar to the floreal pattern used by Odon Lechner in some of his building (for example, the Iparmuveszet building in Budapest). To be notice, within the floreal elements in the very low-roght corner, the bird which head is reclined on its body, a typical element of Kozma, a sort of signature of the artist. Several similar birds are present even in building facade ornaments due to Kozma himself.

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The totem composed by either natural, geometric and stylized human bodies are another invention of Kozma.

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The totem, again , here is composed just with floreal geometric elements. Female figure is either luscious and fascinating, and the males at her feet seem in adoration but the blind expression suggest they have some obscure desires as well … In the drawings of Kozma human figure are often blind, just as sculptured, in a sense that recalls the oeil aveugle of Ferdnand Khnopff.

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The most intricated pattern in Találkozás Hamupipőkével and, maybe, of the entire work of Kozma. The explosive fantasies of the author are collected into a single drawing. The eyes, which are a typical ornement even of Klimt, here look much more sinister. The unheimliche in this drawing can compete with certain drawings of Alfred Kubin. The richness of the lines recalls the british tradition and the preferred styles of Walter Crane (refer, for example, to Crane’s own “Decorative Illustration”)

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Again, flow of human beings. The carved body of the main character has some elements in common with the style of the youn Oskar Kokoschka

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The altar. Please notice how the lines within the drawing and the interconnections between the patterns suggest a continuity of the scene as a whole.

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