One of Hungary’s most famous painters is Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900). With a style both lavish and romantic, many here consider his works the apogee of Hungarian painting. Before moving to Budapest, I knew nothing about this painter. Now, he’s one of my favorites. Recently, I was at Budapest’s National Gallery admiring his work titled The Artist’s Studio. In the center, a painter, probably Munkácsy, and a woman study a large canvas. But what drew my eye was what lay behind it.
In the corner of the room, outside of the light, stands a young boy. If you don’t look closely, you almost miss him. As I looked at that child hidden in the studio’s shadows, I thought of another — my mental studio. We all have them — worlds of artists, art, and characters, both real and fictional, that inhabit the imaginary chambers of our minds — aesthetic ghosts of inspiration.
My mental studio is quite full, and I’m happy about that. It includes Puccini, Verdi, Nureyev, Vermeer, Chanel, Degas, Sinatra, Roald Dahl, Klimt, Astaire, Tchaikovsky, Garland, Baryshnikov, Fitzgerald, Capa, Gene Kelly, Cassatt, Mozart, Kiri te Kanawa, John Singer Sargent, George Cukor, Chopin, Heifetz, Isaac Stern, E.B. White, Winslow Homer, Callas, Jerome Robbins, Scheherazade, La Traviata, Johann Strauss, and Laurence Olivier. There are many others. Now, Munkácsy inhabits it, too. It’s fun to think about one’s mental studio. Who is in yours?