The Böhm collection in Oradea

Art lovers are invited to the exhibition of an invaluable private collection that has now become national treasure. The collection of modern and contemporary works of art had been enriched over two generations by the late medical doctor, Josef Böhm, Sr., and his Oradea-born son Dr. Josef Böhm, Jr. The sizeable compilation of about 250 compositions makes the family from Freiberg, Germany, one of the most significant collectors of Hungarian art, who since 1960 have been labouring on creating a representative “Transylvanian gallery” in order to restore the marginalized Transylvanian art to its rightful place in the 20th century European palette. Our exhibition offers a representative selection from this carefully reunited collection, featuring 65 works by almost 25 masters from four major art centres: Baia Mare, Cluj-Napoca, Brasov-Sibiu and Oradea.

At the turn of the twentieth century and between the two world wars, similarly to Western Europe, Transylvanian fine arts abandoned the stereotypes of academic art, discovering the colours and novel painting techniques that fired up the major art centres of the continent, such as Paris, Munich, Berlin… Our story begins in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and continues in Europe, which was temporarily liberated and restructured at the end of World War I, and in Romania between the two world wars, after 1918, where the open space of fine art easily brought the three major nationalities in Transylvania side by side, to such an extent that their art was presented in a joint exhibition at the Collegium Artificum Transylvanicorum in Cluj-Napoca, the first Transylvanian Salon. The fates of talented painters born in the region were similar during this period: they studied at academies, but most often extra-academically in Budapest, then in Munich, Berlin or Paris. Their studies were then made a complete whole by the Italian and Mediterranean culture. In essence, young titans from any part of Transylvania had the opportunity to learn from the greatest, they could become the pupils of Matisse, Braque or Paul Klee, thus, with a delay of a few years, the fashionable “isms” of the time could take root in Transylvania. The Transylvanian hub of modern talent management, the Nagybánya Free Painting School, created by Simon Hollósy from Munich, the largest artist colony in Central and Eastern Europe from the end of the 19th century, had a fertilizing effect on Transylvania, except on the more closed world of the Saxons. Free schools were opened one after the other, followed by an academy in Cluj-Napoca. This was complemented by Károly Kós’s idea of Transylvanism based on the coexistence of many nationalities, as the regional distinctiveness is defined by the geographic space, the towns and the diversity of the people inhabiting these.

Our selection aims to make a small step in the promotion of the “thousand-faced” Transylvanian art between the two world wars, as “Varietas delectat” – variety delights!