Although he died at the age of sixty, his creative period was very short. He started his art studies in 1894; he painted his major pictures between 1903 and 1909. His oeuvre consists of about one hundred paintings and twenty drawings - not too many, but his paintings were the first great summary of modern art in Hungary. Csontváry's decision to become a painter was influenced by his schizophrenia. He worked for fourteen years in order to become financially independent, and started to study painting at the age of forty-one: first in Munich under Simon Hollósy, then in Karlsruhe under Kallmorgen.
In 1895 be travelled to Dalmatia and Italy to paint landscape studies. His individual style - best illustrated by "Trees in Electric Light a Jajce" and "Storm over the Great Hortobágy" - was fully developed by 1903. In the beginning of the same year, he travelled to he Near East in search of the "great motif". The dramatic, expressive representation of "Great Tarpatak" is a conclusion of this search. He worked on his other monumental, singularly expressive painting. "The Ruins of the Greek Theatre at Taormina" between 1904 and 1905. "Balbeck" is the last piece of this period, which was characterized chiefly by his pantheism and by his expressive use of colours.
Csontváry first showed his works in Paris in 1907, then travelled to Lebanon. His symbolic paintings of mysterious atmosphere were painted there: "Lonely Cedar", "Pilgrimage to the Cedars in Lebanon" and "Mary's Journey in Nazareth". His next exhibitions were in 1908 an in 1910, but they did not bring him the recognition he had so earnestly hoped for. The last major canvas. "Riding along the Beach" was painted in Naples in 1909. After this year he hardly painted, loneliness and the lack of understanding caused in him such a severe mental condition, that he was able to create nothing else, but sketches of surrealistic visions.
Csontváry Kosztka Tivadar: Old Fisherman (1902)
Oil on canvas, 59,5 x 45 cm - Herman Ottó Museum, Miskolc
This painting foreshadows Csontváry's later visionary works. Against a background of blue sea looms an ominous figure with rough hewn features - a survivor of some sort, perhaps a fisherman of the Adriatic. Click on the picture and find out the secret of two-in-one...