Csontváry Kosztka Tivadar is one of the most mysterious Hungarian artists, his work and his life is surrounded with enigmas and half-truths.
He was born as Teodor Kostka in Kis-Szeben (Sabinov, Slovakia – then part of Hungary, ‘Csontváry’ is an adopted name) in 1853 – the same year Vincent van Gogh was born, and this is not the only paralel in the life of the two painters. Csontváry, like van Gogh, lived a very solitary life and struggled with mental illness – probably schizophrenia. His work wasn’t well accepted or appreciated by his peers in his lifetime, his fame came only more than a decade after his death – but today he’s considered by art historians as one of the most important Hungarian painters and his paintings are widely popular not only in Hungary and Slovakia but all over the world.
Csontváry was working for most of his adult life as a pharmacist in different regions of Hungary until his early 40s, when he finally had the financial security to devote his life to art and painting – something he believed he was predicted to do. He claimed he had a mystic vision when he was 27 years old, a voice proclaiming to him that he will be ‘the greatest painter of the world, even greater than Raphael’.
He started to study painting only around 1893-94, but he didn’t spend much time with it, he was mostly an autodidact. He created his roughly 100 paintings in the following 16 years, traveling through Europe and the Middle-East trying to find his ‘great subject’. His art connects with post-impressionism and expressionism as well, but most art historians classify him as a naiv painter, frequently comparing his work to the work of French painter Henri Rousseau.
His creative power impaired by the rejection of his art and the lack of critical acclaim, Csontváry spent the last 10 years of his life writing philosophical pamphlets and an autobiography. He died in 1919.
His paintings – digitally cleaned and colors restored – are available as print in my store.