Special Photo Exhibition: 'Budapest - The First Golden Age', National Gallery Budapest

  • 4 Mar 2024 5:53 AM
Special Photo Exhibition: 'Budapest - The First Golden Age', National Gallery Budapest
On display until 7 April 2024. A special photography exhibition displaying more than one hundred works opens in the Hungarian National Gallery in the middle of November to mark the 150th birthday of Budapest.

The exhibition organised in conjunction with the Fortepan digital photo archive evokes the Hungarian capital in its heyday, at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Researchers from Fortepan discovered negatives of photographs of Budapest, hitherto unknown in Hungary, taken by a German postcard publishing company and preserved in the collection of the Deutsche Fotothek in Dresden.

The exhibition presents a compelling selection of this photographic material. These are supplemented by stereophotographs by Frigyes Schoch, a prosperous entrepreneur and amateur photographer in Budapest, who captured the young metropolis in photos with a unique spatial effect.

The exhibition evokes the period in Budapest’s history, the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when it was enjoying its golden age as one of the world’s most dynamically developing metropolises.

The show marks the debut of the photographs of Budapest taken by the German postcard publishing company Brück & Sohn between 1903 and 1912, featuring emblematic buildings, as well as allowing an insight into the everyday life of the capital through little street scenes. 

The postcards produced for the Hungarian market depict places in Budapest – which was developing in leaps and bounds at the turn of the century – that attracted visitors the most, with numerous remarkable, then still young buildings in their focus, which have remained iconic mementoes of the city to this day. 

These are supplemented by the stereograms taken by Frigyes Schoch – a Swiss-born building entrepreneur and enthusiastic amateur photographer in Budapest – that show the life of the capital from a personal perspective.

Some of the buildings and places in the photographs have significantly changed, or sadly, in many cases, were destroyed by the ravages of war. So, alongside these images, visitors to the exhibition are also presented with pictures of the same places from later times or the present day.

The Brück family founded its postcard publishing company, which later became successful as Brück & Sohn, in 1793 in the German town of Meissen, famous for its porcelain. Run by seven generations, the company operated without a break until March 2019, for 226 years.

Besides many German towns, Brück & Sohn also produced over 500 hundred different picture postcards of Budapest. The photographic material made for these postcards, hitherto unknown in Hungary, was sold by the Brück family to the Deutsche Fotothek in Dresden.

It was later discovered by some researchers of Fortepan, and the digitised photos have been made available in Fortepan’s online photo archive since the exhibition opened.

The Swiss-born Frigyes Schoch (1856–1924), a well-to-do entrepreneur in Budapest, and his associates constructed railroads, houses, and public buildings mostly in the southern part of the country and in Transylvania.

Sometime around 1900 Schoch bought a stereocamera, with which he travelled to Transylvania, through Budapest and the snowy mountain peaks of Austria, all the way to the Adriatic Sea, producing numerous extraordinary panoramas and scenes of everyday life.

The Schoch legacy is the largest in the history of Hungarian photography with its 670 photographs to record in three dimensions the last moments of the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy, and was donated by the heirs through Fortepan to the Historical Photo Department of the Hungarian National Museum.

The first section of the exhibition titled Budapest at Its Peak provides an overview of the development that had taken place in Budapest by the early twentieth century: a young metropolis came into being, which the German publisher Brück & Sohn began to have photographed for its postcards.

The expansion of Budapest and the changes in its main statistical data are presented in projected installations. The postcards depicting Budapest in the early twentieth century had been known before but the negatives recently discovered in Germany now allow detailed enlargements to be displayed alongside them, showing the young European metropolis in its full splendour. This unit mainly contains prints about places that have not changed much in the last 120 years.

The second section is devoted to the history of the publisher Brück & Sohn and the development of postcards, while in a large installation it displays the hundreds of postcards that the German company published about Budapest over the course of a decade.

The technical background of producing the postcards is also introduced in this section: the methods of retouching photographs, how people were later retouched into the postcards, or how black-and-white photos were coloured subsequently.

Visitors can also find out how photographs are coloured by an AI software programme nowadays, similar to the German retouchers back in the day, who did not visit the locations of the photos but relied on their imagination.

In order to evoke the era in which the photographs were taken, moving pictures show places that are linked to the photographs taken for the postcards, thus bringing the Hungarian capital of the early twentieth century alive for visitors.

In the next section, the official photographs are supplemented by stereophotographs taken by Frigyes Schoch, introducing a personal perspective.

 These photographs with a 3D effect can be seen in a large installation, evoking the historic cinema-like stereoscopic entertainment centre called the Universum World Panorama. In addition to the stereocamera and stereoscopic centre, visitors can learn about the theory of stereo vision and stereophotography, while they can see a selection of family photos taken in the walkway in front of Schoch’s apartment at Váci Street.

The last section guides us to some of those parts of the much-transformed capital that have undergone significant changes.

Although in many places Budapest luckily preserved its appearance that had evolved by the change of the century, World War I and the Treaty of Trianon, which concluded it, became the overture of decades beset by tragedy for Hungary and for its capital, whose buildings sustained especially severe losses during World War II.

The exhibition’s closing section presents how and to what extent had Budapest changed in the hundred years that followed its first golden age.

Hungarian National Gallery

You're very welcome to comment, discuss and enjoy more stories, via our Facebook page: 
Facebook.com/XpatLoopNews + via XpatLoop’s groups: Budapest Expats / Expats Hungary

You can subscribe to our newsletter here:

Do you want your business to reach tens of thousands of potential high-value expat customers?
Then just contact us here!

  • How does this content make you feel?

Explore More Reports