The most significant sign of the nationalist folk renewal during Bartók’s student years in Budapest was the creation of an artists’ colony, which included craftspeople, designers, and architects, in 190a at Gödöllő, a small town 30 kilometers northwest of Budapest. Its aesthetic philosophy was based on the later writings of Leo Tolstoy and on the ideas of William Morris and John Ruskin. Bartók’s awareness of the Gödöllő experiment can be inferred from the influence exerted by the colony’s celebration of Tolstoyan virtues. The display of allegiance to a credo of anticapitalist, antimodern spiritual simplicity among the Gödöllő circle, particularly in the case of the main ideolo¬gist of the Gödöllő group, the painter Aladár Körösfói Kriesch (1863-1920), was later emulated byBartók.
In 1907 Bartók exchanged the traditional nineteenth century-style Hungarian national outfit to which he had become attached (which he wore at his final recital at the Conservatory, despite the strenuous objections of his teacher, Thomán, who was understandably uncomfortable with its chauvinist and implicitly anti-Semitic symbolism) to a distinctly Tolstoyan outfit, characteristic of Gödöllő. Beyond the search for a simpler rural life as an alternative to the corruptions of urban industrialization and an allegiance to preindustrial artisan modes of production, the Gödöllő group was commit¬ted to documenting and emulating a "true" Hungarian folk art that predated 1848. This group of artists participated in a major study of rural peasant folk art. which ran parallel to Bartök’s and Kodály s re¬searches. A five-volume study was published, of which two focused on Transylvania. Bartók’s affinity for Hungarian folk furniture mirrored a fashion among Budapest intellectuals and artists dating from before 1905- The notion that the rediscovery of a vital rural folk tradition could function as a critical opposition to established Hungarian national ideology emerged in the visual arts before Bartók and Kodály began their work. Even the crafts done at the Zsolnay factory at the turn of the century, which Bartók certainly saw, reflect the ideal of a fusion between the folk Hungarian and the modern.8′- Members of the Gödöllő circle and the Nagybánya group, particularly the painters Sándor Nagy (1869-1950) and István Csók (1865-1961), shared the conviction thai in the synthesis between the rediscovery of a Hun¬garian rural folk tradition and Western aesthetic modernism a distinctly modern Hungarian art and culture would develop.
Gödöllő leading figure, Kriesch, was commissioned to paint the main mural for the new home of the Budapest Conservatory. The 1907 building, designed by Kálmán Gicrgl and Flóris Korb, showed the influence of Lechner. The building was begun in 1903, the year of Bartók s Kossuth. Unlike Lechner’s work, the frame of the building was more directly evocative of Western European historicism. Nevertheless. Jugendstil elements were evident in the exterior, particularly in the design of the facade, around the windows, and the entrance. The exterior statuary of the Conservatory was done by Géza Maróti (1875-1941), Hungary’s leading Jugendstil sculptor and architect, whose designs for the Milan Exposition of 1906celebrated folk, rural, and native Hungarian motifs.
The interior of the new Conservatory building was more radical. The decoration, particularly along the staircase, evoked the styles of distinctly Hungarian crafts. Kriesch s mural presented a symbolist al¬egory in which the embodiment of innocence, simplicity, devotion, and nature becomes a metaphor for the true source of art. The aspiration to a state of premodern purity evident in Kricsch’s renderings mirrored the anti-urban and anti-cosmopolitan direction of Hun¬garian aesthetic visual modernism during the first decade of the twen¬tieth century. Kriesch wrote, "We cannot bring art worthy of the name into modern life until we consciously restore the social conditions . . . in their more primitive and unconscious manifestations."*’ Few state¬ments were as reminiscent of and congruent with Bartok*s own rheto¬ric alKnit folk music than Kriesch s 1908 view concerning folk art: "The art of the Hungarian people, like all true art, is a fully organic »art of the life of the people