Bela Kadar began his career as an artist in Budapest by painting murals. Budapest was a city bustling with cultural and artistic life in the first decade of the twentieth century. In the wake of the First World War however, and its tragic political outcomes, the promising process that could have made modern art take root in Hungary was interrupted for a long period.
Though not initially persecuted politically, Kadar, due to his leftist commitments, found himself in a void in the capital, without money or sympathising artists. Having already made two pilgrimages to Paris (the first by foot due to insufficient funds), and Berlin by 1910, he was keen to appear on international testing grounds, and in 1918 he left his family behind to try himself in Western Europe. Kadar’s first important exhibition came in October 1923 at Herwarth Walden’s gallery Der Sturm. In the busy metropolis of 1920s Berlin, Der Sturm gallery was the seismic epicentre of the avant-garde and the burgeoning visual arts scene in that city.
During the course of the Berlin years, Kadar’s earlier style changed. The powerful graphic tone that characterised his work before the 1920s was replaced with a more romantic mood inspired by Hungarian folk tale. In 1926 Kadar was received in America for the first time. The New York Times and Brooklyn Times praised his work, as did the American critic and collector Christian Binton, who recognized in Kada’s village scenes ‘a genre treated with great force and imagination’.
This work brings together a private symbolism based upon Hungarian and Jewish tradition, with the stylistic elements derived from modernism. As with Chagall, Kadar forged his style in reaction to the French Cubists; their influence being particularly evident here in the fragmented still life and planes of decorative patterning. Meanwhile Kadar’ techniques also integrated those developed by the German Expressionists exhibiting at Der Sturm, especially Heinrich Campendonk and Der Blaue Reiter’s Franz Marc.