MUNKACSY, MICHAEL VON (1844-1900), Hungarian painter, whose real name was Michael (Miska) Leo Lieb, was the third son of Michael Lieb, a collector of salt-tax in Munkács, Hungary, and of Cäcilia Röck. He was born in that town on the 20th of February 1844. In 1848 his father was arrested at Miskolcz for complicity in the Hungarian revolution, and died shortly after his release; a little earlier he had also lost his mother, and became dependent upon the charity of relations, of whom an uncle, Röck, became mainly responsible for his maintenance and education. He was apprenticed to a carpenter, Langi, in 1855, but shortly afterwards made the acquaintance of the painters Fischer and Szamossy, whom he accompanied to Arad in 1858. From them he received his first real instruction in art. He worked mainly at Budapest during 1863-1865, and at this time first adopted, from patriotic motives, the name by which he is always known. In 1865 he visited Vienna, returning to Budapest in the following year, and went thence to Munich, where he contributed a few drawings to the Fliegende Blätter. About the end of 1867 he was working at Düsseldorf, where he was much influenced by Ludwig Knaus, and painted (1868-1869) his first picture of importance, "The Last Day of a Condemned Prisoner," which was exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1870, and obtained for him a médaille unique and a very considerable reputation. He had already paid a short visit to Paris in 1867, but on the 25th of January 1872 he took up his permanent abode in that city, and remained there during the rest of his working life. Munkacsy's other chief pictures are "Milton dictating Paradise Lost to his Daughters" (Paris Exhibition, 1878), "Christ before Pilate" (1881), "Golgotha" (1883), "The Death of Mozart" (1884), "Arpad, chief of the Magyars, taking possession of Hungary," painted for the new House of Parliament in Budapest, and exhibited at the Salon in 1893, and "Ecce Homo." He had hardly completed the latter work when a malady of the brain overtook him, and he died on the 30th of April 1900, at Endenich, near Bonn. Just before his last illness he had been offered the directorship of the Hungarian State Gallery at Budapest. Munkacsy's masterly characterization, force and power of dramatic composition secured him a great vogue for his works, but it is doubtful if his reputation will be maintained at the level it reached during his lifetime. "Christ before Pilate" and "Golgotha" were sold for £32,000 and £35,000 respectively to an American buyer. Munkacsy received the following awards for his work exhibited at Paris: Medal, 1870; Medal, 2nd class; Legion of Honour, 1877; Medal of Honour, 1878; Officer of the Legion, 1878; Grand Prix, Exhibition of 1889; Commander of the Legion, 1889.
See F. Walther Ilges, "M. von Munkacsy," Künstler Monographien (1899); C. Sedelmeyer, Christ before Pilate (Paris, 1886); J. Beavington Atkinson, "Michael Munkacsy," Magazine of Art (1881).
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