Plzeňské sympozia

Katarína Beňová

The Assembly of the Slovak People by Peter Michal Bohúň: A Folk Gathering or an Attempt at a Historical Painting?

pp. 193–204 (Czech), Summary 203–204 (English)

The revolutionary years of 1849 strongly affected not only the political but also the artistic scene in The Kingdom of Hungary. Jozef Božetech Klemens and Peter Michal Bohúň were the most significant painters for the Štúrov movement and they both had good contacts and relations with Czech patriots thanks to their studies and activities in Prague. Shortly before the revolution, Bohúň began working on an oil work which remained unfinished. Its subject was the assembly of the Slovak people, which was to allure to the reading of the demands of the Slovak people in May 1848. Bohúň participated in this process in his birthplace in Veličnej, which became the inspiration for the work. He grouped various folklore images under the red, blue and white flag. Upon closer inspection, we can recognize Slovaks from Orava, Detva, Slatina, Lučivnej and other regions. He already worked on a first series of watercolours using folklore imagery from individual parts of Slovakia between 1845 and 1846 (they were published as s series of 6 graphics) and he continued with another series in 1848 (completed by the artist’s son in 1883). His Slovak folklore themes are stylized through the depiction of physically strong young men and women, without any indication of hard labour, which was otherwise typical for the rural environment. In the spirit of the Štúrov theory on the harmony of personality, he represents them mainly in front of idealized natural backdrops, highlighting the colourful nature and originality of their folk costumes. Based on this knowledge, we can regard the scene in the Assembly of the Slovak People painting as a symbolic coming together of individual areas, a type of Slovak dream and historical presence. Bohúň had planned to create a final version of this painting, a plan which never came to fruition, however. Even though he signed his works with “Historienmaler” for a certain period of time, he never returned to this type of work again.

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