Miklόs Barábas
(1810 – 1898)
Portrait of a Woman, c. 1850.
watercolour on paper, 26x20.2 cm

Miklόs Barábas (1810 – 1898) is one of the most important 19th century Hungarian painters. He is primarily known for painting portraits of celebrities from that period (e.g., Portrait of Franz Liszt from 1847), although he also painted landscapes, seascapes, historical and genre scenes. He is considered the pioneer of Hungarian national art. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and after having returned to his homeland in 1830 he studied the lithography technique under Gábor Barra. He started his artistic career as an itinerant portrait painter. After earning enough money, he went on a study trip to Italy, where he mastered the watercolour technique under the Scottish painter William Leighton Leitch, whom he later became close friends with. He spent some time in London, also making portraits. He also engaged in art theory, and wrote a memoir published posthumously. He was the first Hungarian painter to become a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Arts and was a member of the Hungarian Parliament.

He painted portraits of the higher social classes as well as rural life scenes with distinctly pronounced realistic components of Biedermeier painting. He was inclined to adapt the portraits to suit the taste of the client which did not affect their quality.

Museum painting Portrait of a Woman, rendered in the watercolour technique, represents a typical Biedermeier painting approach in which three manners are harmoniously intertwined. Classicism is manifested in calm forms, strict drawing and restrained colour, Romanticism in the melancholy enchanted gaze of the young woman and gradations of the pastel green colour disappearing in the lower part of the painting, and Realism in the finely painted details which demonstrate the painter’s careful observation.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum advisor of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art Zagreb, 2022
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art Zagreb, 2022

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