Paintings from the studio of Ervin Bossanyi (1891-1975)

An Artist in Exile


We are pleased to offer paintings from the studio of Ervin Bossanyi (1891-1975) in our upcoming Modern Art + Design auction, taking place on December 6 & 7.

 Ervin Bossanyi (1891-1975) is best known in the UK for his magnificent stained glass, which can be seen for example in the south-east transept of Canterbury Cathedral. He was, however, a master of many art forms and continued to paint in his Eastcote studio until his death. 

Lot 244 - Ervin Bossányi (1891-1975)  Self Portrait, Aged 16, Budapest, 1907

Lot 244Self Portrait, Aged 16, Budapest, 1907

Born in Hungary, Bossanyi studied at the Hungarian Royal School of Applied Arts, gaining a major traveling scholarship that took him to Italy, England and France where, studying in the wrong place at the wrong time when WW1 broke out, he was interned as an ‘enemy alien’. He was later exiled twice, first in Germany after fleeing the “White Terror” of the fascist Horthy regime in Hungary in 1919, and then in England after fleeing the Nazi regime in Germany in 1934, with his wife and young son. Classified yet again as an ‘enemy alien’, this time in England when Hungary allied with Nazi Germany, he was not authorised to work until he and his family finally gained British citizenship after the war – but learned at the same time that his 91 year-old mother had been deported from her home in Hungary to Auschwitz, and had never returned. His art crossed cultural divides and continents, blending richly into an unmistakable personal style that speaks always of humanity’s yearning for dignity, peace and harmony with the natural world. Bossanyi was a sensitive artist who, despite major artworks and exhibitions commissioned in the UK and abroad, shunned publicity and was happiest in the sanctuary of his studio, from which this collection has been assembled.  


Lot 247 - Ervin Bossányi (1891-1975)  Cows at Hoheneichen, Hamburg, circa 1930

Lot 247 - Cows at Hoheneichen, Hamburg, circa 1930

He was also an inveterate DIY man and collector of all kinds of odd materials and objects, which stood him in good stead during and after the war years when many materials he needed were out of his reach. He used these “found objects” to cobble together not only his kiln for firing stained glass, but also the frames for his pictures. Many of his paintings are on pieces of plywood, first outlined in charcoal, then painted in pastel, gouache or oils. In keeping with his sense of harmony, he felt that a picture frame should be integral to its composition rather than an addition, so that wartime deprivations certainly became a factor in the highly distinctive style he developed in those years. 

But above all, the paintings and drawings in this studio collection speak of exile - his own of course but, transcending his own experience through his distinctively stylised evocations of the lost world of his youth and the tenderness of family love, they speak of the exile of all humanity from the simplicity and peacefulness of life lived in harmony with our fellow creatures, human and other.


You can view the full catalogue online here. 


Viewing for the sale at our Oxford saleroom:

Friday 1st December, 9am - 5pm

Saturday 2nd December, 9am - 1pm

Monday 4th December, 9am - 5pm

Tuesday 5th December, 9am - 5pm


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