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Jeno Haranghy Was One of the Most Talented Artists of His Era

Updated on January 31, 2019

Jenő Haranghy was a brilliant painter, graphic and industrial artist of Hungarian Art Deco and Art Nouveau. His artwork can be found all over Hungary, from the stained glass windows of the Refomed Church of the University in Debrecen to the murals of the cinema in Komló.

Haranghy was born in 1894 in Debrecen, in an autochtonous family. The Haranghys were elevated to the peerage by Ferdinand II, acknowledging Miklós Haranghy’s loyal and valiant service in the fight against the Turks.

Haranghy's Self Portrait

His first exhibition took place in Kunsthalle (Institution of the Hungarian Academy of Arts) more than a century ago: later he created the beautiful mosaic which can be seen in the tympanum of the main facade of the building. His enormous oeuvre is, unfortunately, partially lost. Since a lengthy novel could also be written on his life and art, I would just like to present a general overview of this genius, who seems to have been forgotten by the 21st-century.

Kunsthalle, Budapest


His greatest masterpiece is Hotel Britannia (now called Hotel Radisson Blu Béke), opened in 1913 in Budapest. He made the paintings and illustrations of the rooms, and he designed the stained glass windows and boards. From 1929 until the end of the world war he was working in the hotel, that’s why his contemporaries mocked Britannia as “Haranghy Museum”.

“We lived in the outskirts, in Rákosszentmihály, and I remember my father used to come home only late in the afternoon, because after teaching at the college he was painting the murals of Szondi pub” - reminisces his daughter, Judit Haranghy, in the volume called Conversations in Béke.

The Britannia Hotel & The Artworks of Haranghy

It went without saying that Jenő Haranghy must be the artist to decorate the parlours of the hotel, and the extraordinary Glass Dome room (opened in 1937). How could he take part in in artiscic projects of such a large scope? The credit goes to Aladár Németh, Haranghy’s close acquaintance who was also from Debrecen and in 1929 he took over the management of Britannia.

In 1932 Room of Songs (Liedersaal), Ferenc Móra’s parlour, Hunter’s Room (the extension of Szondi Wine tavern), Székely pub and Yellow Room was created. After the liquidation of the boulevard parlors a comfortable café was created on the area, decorated with Haranghy’s murals.

Jenő Haranghy's tutor was Imre Révész at the College of Fine Arts, and Ferenc Helbing (his future father-in-law) at the School of Applied Arts. He also studied Art History at the University of Budapest. On his field trips he travelled round Europe. He drew mosaics, painted murals and designed gobelins as well as stained glass boards. At the outbreak of the world war he also made propaganda posters, but after the German invasion and the takeover of the far-right Arrow Cross Party he was arrested because he refused to take a loyalty oath to Szálasi. After the war he was imprisoned by the State Protection Authority (ÁVH). In 1947 he was acquitted of antipopular crimes, but by that time his health had been undermined. He died in 1951, at the age of 57.

He was an unbelievably prolific artist. It is hardly known how enormous and diversified his oeuvre is. As a graphic artist he designed stamps, ex-librises, commercial and wartime posters, as well as wartime postcards.

His excellent sense of designing elevating interiors is exemplified by the stained glass windows of the Refomed Church of the University in Debrecen, the lead-glass windows of the lich-house of the Public Cemetery in Debrecen, the stained glass windows of Mátyás Pince (Mátyás Cellar) Restaurant in Budapest, the stained glass windows, lead-glass decorations and the famed glass dome of Hotel Britannia.

Haranghy prefered to use national symbols and figures in folk costumes, in order to highten patriotic feelings.

He created several poster designs for commercial and cultural purposes too. Besides posters he designed other graphic works, book illustrations and ex librises, and he composed mural paintings, such as the tympanum fresco of the Kunsthalle (Műcsarnok) in Budapest. The owner of Mátyás Pince, Mátyás Borostyánkői (Baldauf) refurbished the restaurant in 1937 according to the plans of architect Károly Dávid, decorating it with wall and glass paintings by Jenő Haranghy. The old furniture was replaced with tables, chairs and cabinets made in the Renaissance and old Hungarian styles. Its windows were replaced with stained glass and walls were covered with murals by Haranghy.

His style always remained the graphical Art Noveau and Art Deco but he never required the same from his students.

As to my conviction, however, the Shakespeare series are the most famous. Its preserved pieces can be seen in Hotel Radisson Blu Béke, in the parlour on the first floor. It was Aladár Németh whose efforts managed to save a part of the oeuvre.

Shakespeare room is one of the parlours at Hotel Radisson Blu Béke, and its panel paintings, which Haranghy completed in 1937, originally decorated the walls of the Glass Dome room. The paintings depict scenes of Shakespeare’s well-known dramas like Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and The Twelfth Night. Refinement is only one layer of the works; Haranghy also put a great emphasis on the authentic depiction of the age.

The Paintings of The Shakespeare Room Then And Now

The Shakespeare Paintings in the 1930's in Britannia Hotel
The Shakespeare Paintings in the 1930's in Britannia Hotel | Source
The Shakespeare Paintings in the 1930's in Britannia Hotel
The Shakespeare Paintings in the 1930's in Britannia Hotel | Source
The Shakespeare Paintings in the 1930's in Britannia Hotel
The Shakespeare Paintings in the 1930's in Britannia Hotel | Source

One of my favourite artworks by Haranghy is the stunning Glass Dome. Jenő Haranghy’s original Art Nouveau stained glass dome had miraculously survived during WW2 in the Hotel Britannia, now Radisson Blu Béke Hotel, Budapest to the present day. Do you know who are represented in the middle of the cupola? From left to right Ignis (fire), Aer (air), Aqua (water), Terra (earth).

During the winter of 1944/45 the hotel was converted into a field hospital. The bulding was hit by a bomb, but the cultural and artistic treasures which Haranghy accumulated survived, because at the beginning of the siege Aladár Németh had everything professionally packed and carried to the basement. The missing pieces of Haranghy’s oeuvre deteriorated or got lost in the following decades, or they were carried away during the renovation of the hotel.

I have never liked the name “Haranghy Museum”, because some (mistakenly) think museums are cold and sterile. I would rather regard the building as a cathedral still bustling with social life, where Haranghy’s brilliant art, which survived even the war, is celebrated.

I would like you to become part of this celebration. I sincerely hope a lot of you will be curious about Haranghy’s talent and the ideas inspiring his work.


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