István Takács: The Painter of the Matyó

István Takács is an outstanding figure in Hungarian fresco art as well as the most authentic painter of the Matyó.

“The chastity of art is the bread on which the body is nourished and which liberates the soul.”

István Takács

István Takács (1901-1985), who was born into a traditional Matyó peasant family in Mezőkövesd, is widely recognized for his work as a religious painter. His impressive portfolio includes the decoration of around 290 churches throughout Hungary with his frescoes, altarpieces and Stations of the Cross. Some of the notable places where he left his mark include Bajaszentiván, Besenyszög, Bozsok Eger, Mezőkövesed, Sátoraljaújhely, Szombathely and Vác. His finest works are undoubtedly the frescoes and Stations of the Cross in the Egri Főszékesegyház [Metropolitan Cathedral of Eger] and the Szent László-templom [Church of Szent László] in Mezőkövesd, which are considered true masterpieces.

István Takács is widely considered to be one of Hungary’s most accomplished Baroque-style painters. Originating in Italy during the 17th century, the Baroque style became particularly popular in Hungary during the 18th century. Takács’ work displays many of the defining characteristics of the Baroque style, including a meticulous attention to detail, the use of rich colors and contrasts, and intricate compositions. Additionally, he often used illusionistic techniques to create a sense of depth and movement in his paintings, which are hallmarks of Baroque art. Despite the traditionally heavy and opulent nature of Baroque painting, his frescoes exude a sense of spiritual lightness that sets them apart. The radiance of his work is often described as having a profound spiritual quality, capturing the essence of the religious themes he so often depicted.

Through his unwavering dedication to his craft, coupled with his deep faith, István Takács was able to create stunning works of religious art. His favorite themes included the Virgin Mary, the Holy Family, and Hungarian Saints. His commitment to religious painting during the Communist era in Hungary did not bring him great recognition, but it speaks loudly about his courage and vocation. He said the following about success:

“Success may seem interesting from the outside. For me, it means absolutely nothing. It is not success that inspires me, but ambition. I need to feel that my work is needed, is understood and my murals inspire people the way sermons do. Words fly away, but murals remain. People tend to forget the words they hear in Mass, but I would like to move them and fill their hearts with piety and hope.”

Although religious painting was a defining part of his artistic work, he is also the most authentic painter of the Matyó. His love for his homeland is evident in his folk paintings, which depict the Matyó way of life. He even fused his two passions – religion and Matyó culture – in some of his works, such as the painting Matyó Madonna, which features the Virgin wearing a Matyó folk costume, and the fresco of the ‘Matyó Celebration Mass Procession’ in the Szent László-templom in Mezőkövesd. Through his artistic endeavors, he played a significant role in preserving the traditions of the Matyó people.

Despite the fact that a significant part of his creative legacy was destroyed in Budapest during World War II and that the anti-religious art politics of the Communist regime tried to obliterate him, his contributions must be acknowledged and reinstated from near obscurity. The Városi Galéria [Town Gallery] in his hometown of Mezőkövesd is working to reintroduce Takács’ exceptional paintings to a wider audience through a comprehensive collection of his artworks.


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