A decadent view of 30s’ Vienna
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.