"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 is 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 MacDOUGALLHEAD OF COLLECTIONS, BEN URI GALLERY AND MUSEUM


Harrogate Exhibition April-September 2020 embraces the Insiders/Outsiders Festival

Robert Waterhouse is guest curator of an exhibition to be held at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, from April 25-September 25 2020 featuring the work of these Hungarian artists and also entitled THEIR SAFE HAVEN. The exhibition will be opened by Monica Bohm-Duchen, creative director of the national Insiders/Outsiders Festival currently celebrating the lives and work of artists who fled Nazi Europe in the 1930s. THEIR SAFE HAVEN will be part of this festival, whose website has a descriptive list of many current and upcoming events across the arts.


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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