CITY DESTINIES, HUMAN DESTINIES
The cover photo of our March issue shows a detail of the new illumination of the structure of Margit Bridge in Budapest, designed and built by a French engineer in the famous Eiffel team (1876), and recently restored to much of its original splendour.
Budapest illumination has become truly remarkable during the last two decades, and this is something not only visitors but the locals also notice. As we write in our introductory note to engineer László Deme’s article and photos, during most of the Communist era Budapest buildings and structures were draped at daylight in the gray and shabby look so familiar in the cities of East Central Europe then, and the pale street lights did not do much either to emphasize the impressive vistas or to outline the beauties of architecture.
It was in the 1980s that the city made its first efforts to return to its splendid night views of the 1930s, but the real turning point was 1990, when a new era began in the illumination of Budapest, along with the political changes and the accelerating restoration of the old historical and Art Nouveau buildings. By now progress has become spectacular, and it seems justified that illuminated objects of Budapest provide a good part of the visual material of this issue of Hungarian Review.
Another rich visual material in this issue also reaches back to origins in the 1930s. Peter Meller, the distinguished historian of Florentine Renaissance art, was also a highly original graphic artist, as it is becoming evident now, a few years after his death, in exhibitions in Santa Barbara (California) and in London. The origins are in Budapest: Peter and his uncle Simon Meller, at various periods, were both curators of the Museum of Fine Arts, a collection that had been built up by generations of expert curators from the late 1800s onwards. That collection, as well as the lectures of Károly Kerényi, the famous scholar of mythology, were the sources of Peter Meller’s artistic interest in the ancient art of Rome and Greece. All that came to fruition in a creative period much later, in Santa Barbara, while Peter taught art history there for twenty-five years until his retirement. The result is a richly inventive, wry and warm reinterpretation of the classical tradition. The modernity of this art resides in part in Peter Meller’s brilliant use of our most trivial office accessories and techniques – photocopying, white correction fluid, erasers as stamps, and the like.