"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”


Baquis Little Books – more light on Hungaro-British artists

This autumn Baquis Press launches a series of Little Books about aspects of the life and work of the artists described in Their Safe Haven. The books evoke the spirit of George Buday, who each Christmas between 1943-1956 issued a Little Book for friends on topics close to his heart like The Language of Flowers or The Cries of London. Our series opens with two Little Books – Jean-Georges Simon’s drawings and paintings of Women, and George Mayer-Marton’s Mosaics, Frescoes and Murals.Unlike George Buday we won’t be using a hand-press, but these A6-size, full-colour cameos are short-run, high-quality publications, expected, like their namesakes, to become collectors’ items.

Other Little Books in preparation include Henry Ripszam’s previously-unknown 1931 drawings of the Habima Theatre Company on tour in Warsaw and London, featuring the celebrated Hanna Rovina, and the first account of the career of Charles Rosner, pioneering critic of ‘commercial art’ and enterprising independent publisher with his Sylvan Press (1943-1960). While the exhibition “Their Safe Haven”, due to take place at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, between April-August 2020, has been cancelled due to Covid-19, the Insiders/Outsiders Festival created by Monica Bohm-Duchen has defied the pandemic to maintain a changing calendar of online events.

Visit 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,


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

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