The Encyclopedia Americana (1906)/Munkacsy, Michael

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For works with similar titles, see Munkacsy, Michael von.

Munkacsy, moon′kä-chē, Michael, Hunganan painter: b. Munkacs, Bereg County, Hungary, 10 Oct. 1846; d. Endenich, near Bonn, 1 May 1900. His real name was Lieb, but he is known only under the assumed name derived from that of his birthplace. Beginning life as a carpenter, he met a strolling portrait painter in Gyula, who was so much struck by the artisan's interest in art that he gave him painting lessons. Munkacsy proceeded to paint portraits and genre pictures, taking his subjects from e0mmou country life. One of these early canvases, 'A Country Idyll,' was purchased by the Art Union of Pesth. He eventually put himself under the instruction of the battle-painter Franz Adam at Munich. He made rapid progress and the Hungarian government awarded him the first prize for genre paintings thrice in succession, and he was thus enabled to take up his residence at Düsseldorf and to study under Knaus and Vautier. The first great picture he painted was 'The Last Day of a Condemned Man,' exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1870. This was followed in 1871 by 'Wartime' (an episode in the Hungarian war). The succeeding year he made Paris his home and his pictures began to attract growing attention. He painted many small genres of singular power and character, such as 'Going to School'; 'The Kitchen Politician'; 'The Butter Woman'; !The Pawn Shop' (1874); 'The Workshop' (1875); but as his strength and mastery of his art grew he rose to loftier subjects, religions and historical. In 1877 he painted 'Milton in his Blindness Dictating Paradise Lost,' to which was awarded the gold medal at the Paris Expnsilion. It is now in the Lenox Library, New York. Great as was the sensation created by this picture, a historic genre of remarkable coloring in gray and black and of profound insight and power of characterization, an even deeper impression was produced by his 'Christ Before Pilate' (1882), which some critics consider the greatest religious picture of its century. This vast canvas is startling in its freshness of conception, its living action, the minglcd grandeur and pathos which the artist has infused into his treatment of the central figure, as well as its masterly composition and technique. It has been exhibited in all quarters of the civilized world and was bought by John Wanamaker of Philadelphia for $120,000. It was followed by his dramatic 'Christ on Calvary,' the religious intensity of which is heightened by the accurate fidelity to differing national types with which the spectators of the Crucifixion are portrayed; a piece of realism whose suggestiveness is obvious. In 1886, he produced 'The Last Moments of Mozart,' now in the collection of General Russell Alger, Detroit, Mich. The present owncr paid $50,000 for this pathetic picture, in which the composer is listening to his still uncompleted requiem, sung at his bedside by his favorite singers, the night before his death. The last three years of his life this painter suffered from mental alienation and closed his days in a sanitarium.