“I am who I am, where I came from, where I took my inspiration from, that is, my homeland, plus Europe. This is what painting means to me, this is my painting.” Dezső Korniss
“What we want is …what Bartók and Kodály have already done in music.” Lajos Vajda
These two lines describe the ars poetica of Dezső Korniss, also explicit in the title of the exhibition, From the clearest spring, which is identical with the title of a Bartók musical piece.
Born in 1908 in Beszterce, Transylvania (today Bistrita, Romania), Korniss could not exempt himself from the influence of the still lively folk culture alive in particular in the countryside. Collecting the visual elements and the rhythm of this language became his main goal. At the beginning of the 1930s, Lajos Vajda accompanied him in this endeavour. Their joint work led to the formulation of the Szentendre Program which aimed at a synthesis of Central-European and European art and which Vajda called "constructive-surrealist thematic". Vajda is currently having a parallel exhibition in Szentendre, the village where they started their collecting work.
The fruits of a synthesis we can contemplate at the exhibition which demonstrates how Korniss' calligraphic period descends from the writing of embroidered patterns. But the linking of the two influences, and thereby embedding folk art into the wider context of modern art as Bartók’s music indisputably did, was not merely an artistic challenge. Korniss also had to overcome the many political and financial obstacles he had to face in the turmoil of 20th century Central-Europe. The rejection and isolation of avant-garde artists in 1928 prevented the continuation of his art studies. The dismissal in 1948 from his teaching position at the College of Applied Art, aggravated by the loss of most of his pre-1945 works while in the front led to continuous financial difficulties and periods of complete isolation even during his later life.
As a result, Korniss becomes much more than his work for a younger generation of artists who started to contact him from 1963 in his home. He is praised for his humanism as a person who teaches not only through his works, but also through the example of his personal life.