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

Robert Waterhouse's 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.

In much more recent times Hungary put up barriers to the wave of refugees from Syria but is now welcoming those from Ukraine. Britain has been, at best, bureaucratic, slow and insensitive to their urgent needs.


"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


Three new Baquis Little Books titles from Baquis Presspublished March 2022

Surreal fairy tales by George Buday George Buday played a leading role in the Szeged Youth group which, in the mid 1930s,set out to document peasant life on the plains of Southern Hungary and to seek ways of alleviating the abject poverty the population endured. Trained as a lawyer, Buday’s real passion was graphic illustration. Together with the ethnographer Gyula Ortutay he toured rural areas, recording peoples’ stories. In a village near the Romanian border they came across a master storyteller called Mihaly Fedics and decided his tales merited a separate volume. This was published, in 1937, by the Hungaria Press as Tales from Batorliget. Buday illustrated these fairy stories with seven five-colour woodcuts. He deliberately made them difficult to print so that the book could be presented to the International Congress of Printers in Budapest as a state-of-the-art example. This Baquis Little Book publishes the images beside an English-language commentary from the art historian Nora Veszpremi. She describes how Buday’s work with Ortutay opened up his horizons both artistically and as a human being. In his life oeuvre the colour illustrations are unusual: wood engravings made both before and after his move to London in December 1937 are almost exclusively monotone. The book is introduced by the poet George Szirtes, whose mother was from Buday’s home town.ISBN 978-1-7398873-0-8A6, 52pp,£4.99

Cries of London by George Buday From Christmas 1943 until Christmas 1955 George Buday created, on his Albion Hand Press in his Chelsea studio, annual Little Books he sent out to “Friends & Acquaintances” as seasonal greetings  and a form of promotion for his graphic arts. These Little Books are a compilation of texts, keepsakes, themed chapbooks which have great charm and, unsurprisingly, have become collectors’ items. The Baquis Little Books series was inspired by Buday’s example. Now we can present a full facsimile reproduction of Buday’s Tenth Little Book, Cries of London, introduced by Robert Waterhouse with examples and illustrations from other Buday Little Books. For the book Buday amassed his selection of “The merry, merry cries of famous London town” - street hawkers peddling their wares. He then engraved criers in the fashions of their time, from sixteenth century hobby horse vendors to 1950s spivs selling dodgy nylons. This is the most complete of George Buday’s Little Books. It is also only a couple of years from his last because, following the crushed Hungarian Uprising of 1956, Buday suffered a nervous breakdown and spent the remainder of his life in a South London psychiatric hospital. He was encouraged to work there, but never felt again in the mood to issue his Little Books. ISBN 978-0-9556025-9-7A6, 48pp£4.99

Paris 1925 by Jean-Georges Simon The Hungarian artist Jean-Georges Simon arrived in Paris during 1924 having waited in Switzerland for a French visa after leaving Budapest in 1920. Trained by artists like Jozsef Rippl-Ronai who brought the Paris School to Hungary he was impatient, aged 30, to make his mark in the French capital. As he began sketching around town and negotiating exhibitions he met the art publisher Paul Haenni to discuss a proposed set of 21 lithographs he planned on the theme ‘Autour d’un Bec de Gaz’ (Around a Gas Lamp). This was to be sold as a set, signed by the artist for F100 (about £75 today). In the event pre-sales were disappointing so Simon decided to issue Autour d’un Bec de Gaz himself as 11 etchings on glass. Baquis Little Books now offers this set, reproduced for the first time in the UK, as part of Paris 1925, delightful etchings and drawings made in Paris in that period. They have a particular human quality, a lightness consistent with Paris School post-impressionism. Simon lived in Paris on an off until he married his English wife Patricia in London during 1937. The couple moved to Yorkshire in 1941 to escape London bombs and in 1943 established themselves in Harrogate. Paris remained important to Simon throughout his life. He made an annual pilgrimage there to refresh body and soul. ISBN 978-0-9556025-8-0A6, 48pp£4.99

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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