"Self-portrait in the Studio, 1941" by George Buday (Imperial War Museum collection)

Robert Waterhouse's new book THEIR SAFE HAVENpublished by Baquis Press, Manchester (ISBN 978-0-9556025-4-2)explores the lives and work of 14 Hungarian artistswho established themselves in Britain before the Second World War

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Some 20,000 Hungarians became British citizens after the Hungarian Uprising was quashed by Russian tanks in October 1956. They had escaped from Communist Hungary during the Uprising and were welcomed to Britain, which set no limit on numbers. They were given every encouragement to make new lives here. In turn they became leading contributors to the nation’s welfare and culture.

An earlier generation of Hungarian immigrants had paved the way, arriving as individuals during the 1930s, escapees from Hitler’s increasing domination of Continental Europe. Among them were 14 artists who, we know, exhibited at the Hungarian Club in West London during April 1943. They belonged to no group or movement. Several married British wives, one a British husband. All except one were accorded British citizenship after the war. Britain was their safe haven.


"Robert Waterhouse fastidiously researches these 14, unearthing forgotten books, journals and archives… The book is full of striking illustrations, depicting anything from expressive self-portraits to the anxiety permeating London during the Blitz.”

Shauna IsaacsReview of Their Safe Haven, December 7 2018 edition of the Times Literary Supplement


An exception to the general rule - that of George Buday, whose “haven” was a psychiatric hospital in Croydon from 1956 until his death in 1990 - forms part of the story. Buday’s 1950 application for citizenship had been rejected because of false MI5 allegations that he had Communist sympathies. Stateless at the time of the Uprising, he suffered a nervous breakdown. Buday’s case, set out in THEIR SAFE HAVEN, is the subject of an article by Robert in the Times Literary Supplement of January 25 2019.

Other experiences were happier, but neither Hungary nor Britain have learned much from history. The Hungary fronted by Prime Minister Viktor Orban seems to be questioning the very bases of European Union citizenship while Boris Johnson’s Britain has been hell-bent on leaving the EU, with control of immigration a key issue.


"Brings the artists' experiences vividly to life - the texts illustrated by a rich array of visual material - exposing a territory hitherto largely concealed within the wider picture of exile studies, and in doing so pays justice to the distinct and memorable Hungarian contribution to British visual culture”

SARAH MacDOUGALLDIRECTOR, BEN URI GALLERY AND MUSEUM


New from Baquis Press in March 2021: Baquis Little Books

Habima drawings by Henry Ripszam Ripszam’s 1930 drawings of the celebrated Habima theatre company, born 1917 in revolutionary Moscow, who toured Europe and the US in the late 1920s and early 1930s with their Hebrew-language productions, are published here for the very first time. Ripszam’s perceptive studies compare and contrast with period photographs by the sisters Nini and Carry Hess from the archives of the Israeli Center for the Documentation of the Performing Arts, Tel Aviv University, whose Chair, Dr Olga Levitan, describes Ripszam’s role in interpreting Habima at a crucial moment of the company’s progress. The characters observed are from The Dybbuk, The Golem and David’s Crown. Habima went on to found Israel’s national theatre. ISBN 978-0-9556025-7-3A6,64pp£6.99

Murals & mosaics by George Mayer-Marton During the 1950s Mayer-Marton undertook commissions for the Roman Catholic Church in Liverpool and Manchester. His Pentecost mosaic today occupies a side-chapel of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, but his masterpiece, The Crucifixion fresco and mosaic, is threatened by the closure of the Oldham church where it was created in 1955. Prof Clare Willsdon explores the artist’s ability to merge Continental modernism with British Arts and Crafts traditions. The current campaign to list and restore the mural in situ is backed by SAVE and the V&A. At nearby Blackley, Mayer-Marton’s mural and font in the Franciscan church of St Clare show the artist’s mastery of ‘face’ mosaics, as first developed in sixth-century Ravenna. ISBN 978-O-9556025-6-6A6,48pp£4.99

Women + A Very Special Notebook by Jean-Georges Simon Simon lived in Harrogate from 1943 until his death in 1968. He sketched people anywhere he happened to be, often working images up in his studio. Not portraits as such, and usually untitled. This book shows a selection, together with extracts from what Lois Smith, his archivist, called her Very Special Notebook. Set in 1944, the notebook records ideas, moods, starting points, the human and everyday references to an artist’s internal life. ISBN 978-0-9556025-5-9A6, 48pp£4.99

Now available at Robert Waterhouse’s Amazon author pageVisit The Insiders/Outsiders Festival Website

Illustrated by over 270 rarely-seen images, by unpublished texts from archives around Britain as well as in Vienna and Budapest, by stories from the artists’ British relatives and by historic documents from the 1930s,

THEIR SAFE HAVEN

is an extraordinary anthology of what it meant, and means, to be a Hungaro-Brit.

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