It was the low-density but light, dreamy green façade and irregular decorative frontage of the Magyar Szecesszió Háza, also referred to as the Bedö-Ház, at 3 Honvéd utca that distracted me from the numerous, monumental ministry-scale buildings characteristic to this immediate area. With a sense of wonder and intrigue, I just had to go inside.

The Bedö-Ház was designed by well-known architect Emil Vidor in 1903. It was named after Béla Bedö, a commissioner who was a wealthy factory owner and a fine arts collector. Regrettably, from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 this and many other splendid buildings "fell apart" and were dilapidated for most of the 20th century. Fortunately, after restoration work in 2007, the Bedö-Ház returned to its glory and remains a tribute to this distinct, bygone time.

Its permanent exhibition has a host of luxuriant paintings, bespoke furniture, fanciful ornaments and general household items, all carrying similar hallmarks of high asymmetrical endeavour. Here is an Aladdin's cave of mystical old and occasionally new (reproduced) treasures, three floors filled with tasteful and delicate antiquities ranging from dining room attire and cabinet furniture, decorative mirrors and clocks to vases, porcelain and china, cutlery, statuettes and dressing covers.

The list goes on, clearly a highly impressive display that captures the dawn of the 20th century. Although some of the exhibits were made elsewhere in Europe, this assemblage has a harmonious and matching unity. Still, greater emphasis has been given to Hungarian artists such as Endre Thék, Karóly Kós, Gabor Bedö, Tivadar Vad, and others who have all added in their own ways to this remarkable Art Nouveau shrine.

Such distinguished artwork is comparable to French, German, Belgian and Austrian Art Nouveau, and is also notably cited in nearby towns and cities such as Szeged, Subotica (Szabadka) in Serbia and Oradea (Nagyvárad) in Romania, to name three.

Those people who have stayed a while in Hungary and taken a closer look at local life and culture beyond the realms of tourism should be familiar with two significant representatives of this style of art, namely Zsolnay and Ödön Lechner. The latter, an architect, used deluxe Zsolnay terracotta tiles to decorate his various buildings, such as the memorable roof-tops of the Museum of Applied Arts and the former Post Office Savings Bank in downtown Pest, as well as many others throughout the city and region.

This unrivalled visit to Bedö-Ház rounds off with coffee and cakes at the equally elaborate and imperial ancestral cafe. There is also a delightful museum shop selling jewellery and ceramics, and they hold occasional round-table discussion groups for avid partisans.

Such structurally cultivated artwork with a strong bourgeois theme is not for everyone. Art Nouveau is sometimes considered elitist and pretentious rather than practical, and is associated more with the privileged. But for those with an affinity for such otherworldly charms regardless of social differences, this very refined and escapist venue is a must-see.

Its mood and spirit strongly reminded me of the British comedy "You Rang M'Lord?", largely forgotten in Britain since its initial broadcast 30 years ago but surprisingly popular in Hungary as "Csengetett My Lord" with a cult following. See my The Budapest Times article, https://www.budapesttimes.hu/2018/11/14/lords-airwaves

For a nearby Art Nouveau follow-on I recommend the Rőth Miksa memorial house near Keleti train station. Róth (1865-1944) was the greatest Art Nouveau and Art Deco glass design artist from Hungary, and his portfolio includes atmospheric stained-glass windows in the Parliament building, Liszt Ferenc Music Academy, the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace and elsewhere.

The memorial house is where he and his family lived, and numerous examples of his work are on display alongside a few personal household possessions.

Myself, I have always liked Art Nouveau. The search for more continues, the more unusual and irregular, the better.

See www.magyarszecessziohaza.hu and www.rothmuzeum.hu


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