A deca­dent view of 30s’ Vi­enna

Surrey Herald/News - - LEISURE -

Scene in a Night Club in THE early work of artist Mar­cel Kal­man Ronay (1910-1998) de­picted the deca­dence, sen­su­al­ity and plea­sure-seek­ing of Vi­enna dur­ing the 1920s and 1930s. The most out­stand­ing of his works from this pe­riod will be show­cased in the ex­hi­bi­tion The Art Of Mar­cel Ronay, A New Ob­jec­tiv­ity in the Wake of World War One at The Light­box gallery and mu­seum in Wok­ing un­til Sun­day Oc­to­ber 5. Mar­cel Ronay was born in Hun­gary in 1910 to a Ro­ma­nian Jew fa­ther and an aris­to­cratic Catholic mother. The fam­ily lived a re­mark­able life, mov­ing from Hun­gary to Ger­many to Aus­tria be­fore fi­nally set­tling in Eng­land in 1937 as both re­li­gious and eco­nomic mi­grants. From an early age he was recog­nised as a pre­co­cious tal­ent and at the age of 14, he be­gan an ap­pren­tice­ship as a sculp­tor that was due to last some seven years. His work was out­stand­ing and he com­pleted the course in less than four years. As a re­sult of this im­pres­sive achieve­ment, in 1927, hav­ing been ac­knowl­edged as a young ge­nius, he was in­vited to study draw­ing, paint­ing and sculp­ture at the pres­ti­gious Kun­st­gewerbeschule in Vi­enna. The ex­hi­bi­tion at The Light­box will fea­ture the early works of Ronay cre­ated be­tween 1926 and 1935 when he was in his late teens and early twen­ties. At this time, Ronay worked in a va­ri­ety of medi­ums, in­clud­ing pen and ink draw­ings, wood cut prints and oil paint­ings. De­spite his young age, the scenes de­picted by Ronay at this time were of low-life, street-life, pros­ti­tu­tion and de­pri­va­tion. This vivid de­pic­tion of the cor­rup­tion and plea­sure­seek­ing that came in the wake of the aus­ter­ity of the First World War be­came known as the ‘Neue Sach­lichkeit’ or ‘New Ob­jec­tiv­ity’ move­ment, which was pi­o­neered by a group of Aus­tro-Ger­manic re­al­ist artists that also in­cluded George Grosz, Otto Dix and Ru­dolph Sch­lichter. The move­ment be­gan in Weimar, Ger­many, in the 1920s as a chal­lenge to Ex­pres­sion­ism. Fol­low­ing the hard­ships of the war, there was an ap­petite for art, lit­er­a­ture and ar­chi­tec­ture to re­turn to a more un­sen­ti­men­tal re­al­ism – a change from the more ab­stract, ro­man­tic ideals of the pre­vi­ously favoured Ex­pres­sion­ism. The work of New Ob­jec­tiv­ity artists such as Ronay was of­ten acer­bically satir­i­cal, lay­ing bare the re­al­i­ties of the hypocrisies of so­ci­ety. This, at times, proved con­tro­ver­sial for artists. In 1931 Mar­cel Ronay was awarded the cov­eted Aus­trian State Prize for Art for his piece Monks and Nuns, which il­lus­trates an event that took place in­volv­ing seven monks and five nuns which Ronay cre­ated at the age of 20. How­ever, the award was sub­se­quently re­voked as its graphic na­ture up­set of­fi­cial sen­si­bil­i­ties. The piece was later re­turned to Ronay and it will fea­ture in the ex­hi­bi­tion at The Light­box. A book­let ac­com­pa­ny­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion is avail­able to pur­chase, priced at £4.99. The Light­box is open Tues­day to Satur­day from 10.30am to 5pm and Sun­day be­tween 11am and 5pm. En­trance is free (do­na­tions wel­come). Visit www.the­light­box. org.uk or call 01483 737800.

Mar­cel Ronay (1910 – 1998), 1930, im­age cour­tesy of the Vic­tor Ar­was

Ar­chive (c) Mar­cel Ronay Ar­chive.

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