Magyar Szecesszió Háza - Azok a boldog békeidők

An undulating, lithe female body holding a lamp, a purse bedecked with tiny pearls into which hundred years ago a young lady might have hidden her love letters. A silverish glittering butterfly pin, a comb adorned by grape leaves, a white and frilly parasol, a daringly cut, peach colored gown adorned by pastes and pearls luring us into the ball, a small beckoning vanity desk, siblings smiling happily from a black and white photograph. Lords standing proudly with their walking sticks presenting the spring and summer fashion of the late 19th century. The smell of coffee, crispy pastries, peace and silence. A place where time have stopped, where everything reminds us of the atmosphere of the "happy times of peace". All this can be already found in Budapest, in the city center at 3 Hovéd Street where a special exhibition found its place – due to the help of Tivadar Vad and his wife – under the name of The House of Hungarian Art Nouveau.

The building plot was in the possession of the capital city of Budapest until 1898, and after that it had several owners. First the National Forestry Association and the Budapest Business School, College for Finance and Accountancy occupied it, and after 1900 the The Hungarian Royal Treasury.
Bedő Ház In 1905 Béla Bedő together with his wife bought the building. Bedő was a rich factory owner, he had interests in copper mines, copper processing plants and paint factories all over Hungary, for example in Nagybánya, Liptószentmiklós, Fiume and Zagreb. His company, the First Spodium and Glue Factory of Pest seated in Budapest had produced bone and skin adhesives, bone fat, bone meal, bone charcoal (spodium). Already at the beginning of the 20th century the factory had merged with the Hungaria Artificial Fertiliser, Vitriol and Chemical Co.. Bedő had seven houses in Budapest and the one situated in Honvéd Street was the smallest.

Emil Vidor, the architect of the House

Bedő commissioned Vidor Emil, his relative and friend, to design the house. The famous architect had studied at the Budapest, Munich and Berlin Institute of Technology. After his return to Hungary he worked with Miklós Ybl on the construction of the St. Stephen's Basilica, from 1894 he was the director of the Ősbuda design for the festival of Hungary's millenium anniversary in 1896. Later he became independent and designed, often together with the interior furniture as well, several apartment blocks (for example the Palatinus Houses at the beginning of Pozsonyi Road) and villas in the capital. He was also the one to design several industrial buildings of The Civil Brewery.

During his studies in Germany
he got acquainted with the
Art Nouveau and became its
enthusiastic follower. Béla
Bedő also have had the apartment lots in Honvéd Street designed in this style which were probably finished by 1903. Vidor designed the first floor for the Bedő family and the rooms were furnished by his own designs. The Spodium Factory's main office was located in the building, and several members of their staff as well. Not only the driver and legal consultant, but from the 20's Dr Henrik Alapy, too. He became well-known due to his research on cancer and bile problems and at the same time was elected as vice president of the Hungarian Medical Association.

Art Nouveau

The style of Art Nouveau appearing at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century became popular mainly in architecture and arts & crafts. Its followers opposed, refused the severe academism and historicism of the previous decades. The special style of Art Nouveau was characterised by the astonishing architectural and decorating solutions – asymmetry, organic orientation: the sometimes lavish use of plants and animals, the commendation of female beauty.

Bedő Ház a legkisebb

The most significant representative of the Art Nouveau style in Hungarian architecture was Ödön Lechner who preferred the use of Zsolnay terracotta tiling to decorate his buildings.(See: the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest)

The facade of the Bedő House is also special, it is ornamented by asymmetrical, closed balconies, and colourful terracotta flowers (also made by Zsolnay). The forms of the windows are different on each floor (the kidney-shaped windows decorating the facade looking at the quadrangle are considered to be unique, just like the colourful windowpanes made by Herzl decorating the whole house or the turret on the roof). A múzeum előtere Vidor not only designed spacious, 300 square metre apartments, but also built small sized single rooms a half story higher in the back of the building. These rooms were rented by single men. The winter garden decorated with a fountain also belonged to the house. Those who wished to visit the top floor had to be fit because there was no elevator in the building. Ablakforma a Bedő Házban

The Alfred Hajós Story

As every newspaper the Art Nouveau also had its own opposition. Alfred Hajós, the first Hungarian Olympic champion, a swimmer turned architect who designed the Alfred Hajós National Swimming Pool that is located on the Margaret Island also belonged to them. (Albeit at the beginning of his career he worked in Lechner's office too, and his first buildings – for exapmle the Golden Bull Hotel in Debrecen – were also designed in Art Nouveau style.) The designer office and apartment of Alfred Hajós, who was also known for being an amiable and friendly man, was on the second floor of the building standing across from the Bedő House. He wasn't easily ruffled, but according to this story Vidor Emil had succeeded in raising his ire. Allegedly, every morning Alfred Hajós was bellowing over to the construction site of the Bedő House demanding the workers to demolish the hideous building.

The reconstruction

Nevertheless the building was completed and survived World War II, the siege of Budapest, the street fights of '56 and until 2000 it waited for its reconstruction in a highly damaged state. At that time the residents of the building have contacted Tivadar Vad who, by then, have finished the restoration of several buildings in the street.

He was for decades an enthusiastic admirer of the Art Nouveau style thus he happily decided to undertake the reconstruction. As Adél Szakács Vadné manager of the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau relates a local government tender was called for the use of the almost 600 square metre room downstairs. They were the only candidates and they have won the right to rent the room, and by now they became the proprietors as well. At the beginning of the 20th century the room belonged to an antique shop, and later on a carpentry mill opened there. Later it belonged to the kitchen of National Association of Co-Operatives, then the classrooms of the Hungarian Tourism College occupied the building. Based on old photographs during the reconstruction they constructed a wooden-frame shop-front matching the original one. The architect husband's love of Art Nouveau influenced the wife as well: both of them became avid collectors of the style. This is known all over Europe and if somewhere a beautiful piece surfaces then the antique shops and auction houses contact them.

Famous foreign and Hungarian artists

Nowadays on three floors of the building we can get an insight into the lives of the wealthy or less well-to-do citizens who lived a hundred year ago. The internal spaces and furniture defining their everyday lives: the parlour, the bedchamber, the dining hall, the furniture, the cutlery, the chandeliers, mirrors, vases, sponge-baths, small figurines, covers and paintings... Albeit the showing pieces were made in different countries of Europe (England, The Czech Republic, Germany or others), the exhibition presents a harmonious unity. Naturally the emphasis is given to the works of Hungarian artists. For example, among the exhibited pieces there are a sideboard by Endre Thék, a chair by Károly Kós, a writing desk by Ede Wigand Thoroczkai. The original family who had the bulding built was also considered to be great art collectors. The first owner's son, Rudolf Bedő was especially well-known for this fact and also conducted research in art history. He collected graphics and the works of artists from Nagybánya, besides the works of Csontváry and Rippl-Rónay. Though his son, the recently deceased Gábor Bedő did not enrich the collection but preserved it.

Jézus és Mária Magdolna But the exhibited pieces do not come from their collection. The outstanding collection of the museum is wholly the result of the collector work of Tivadar Vad and his wife. With its Art Nouveau style tables, chairs, covers and china the ground floor coffee house recalls the atmosphere of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The exhibition is worthy of our attention and time.

Original text by Erzsébet Balázs


The article was published in the Barátság periodical, v. 16, n. 6, pp. 6270 and was written by Erzsébet Balázs.

works of art