From the lot description:
“The central figure of the rectangle-shaped picture is the monumental lamplighter, lighter in hand. His face and shoulders are turned to the plane of the picture, and he folds his hands in front of him. Behind the figure, but placed in the lower foreground of the picture, the image of a city extending along a riverside can be seen.
It is night, and the image of the city is covered with light flowing from the two street lamps that stand on slim, green columns.
The lilac, ochre and brown walls of the block of flats are divided by the yellow windows.
The blocks are crowned with triangles constructed of red and brown roofs. Lilac waves run through the blue field of the river, its distant bank bordered by circles of lights, the reflections of the street lamps.
In the centre of the composition, at the end of the stick, in the meeting point of the line of forces, there is a small flickering beam of light.
The stressed elements in the picture – the face of the figure evoking an African mask and the warm, yellow circles of light of the lamp – revolve around this gravitational focal point.
The placement of the motifs of the picture evokes the feeling of a central flowing the turbulence in the arches, straight lines and plains fills the composition with dynamic pulsation.
This is the first time that Sándor Bortnyik’s picture The Lamplighter has been exhibited in Hungary. Earlier, it was exhibited only once, 86 years ago in Berlin, in the gallery Der Sturm, the most prominent showroom of the international avant-garde. In an interview conducted in 1922 and published in Vienna, Bortnyik spoke about the painting and how he made it, but until recently there has been only slight hope for the picture’s survival. Up until now, the composition has only existed in the form of a line engraving and the well-known recreation, part of the National Hungarian Gallery’s collection. The latter was dated to 1921, but actually it was painted only decades later, in the artist’s last period. Now, we finally stand before the original monumental masterpiece. There is no doubt that this has been the most significant and absolutely first-rate painting to come to light in the field of Hungarian painting for decades.
It is also beyond dispute that the painting is not only one of the most important works of the oeuvre, but also one of the most prominent pieces of Hungarian Modernism. This piece makes us re-evaluate our knowledge about the early period of Sándor Bortnyik, the leading master of Hungarian avant-garde; at last, the pictures of the early period of emigration can be distinguished from those made in the later years and antedated.
The lost Hungarian Modernism
Hungarian Modernism was born far from the country, in emigration, so the pieces of work created at that time – if they survived at all – were very difficult to find. That is why the emergence of The Lamplighter is extremely important. After some graphics, collages and small paintings, this monumental picture can deservedly represent a period whose Hungarian representatives worked in synchronization with the greatest artists of the international Isms. ” Read more on the Kieselbach website