THEIR SAFE HAVEN: Hungarian artists in Britain from the 1930s

Robert Waterhouse’s new book explores the lives and work of 14 Hungarian artists

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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 Isaacs

Review 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 Theresa May’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”



The 14 Hungarian artists whose lives and work are explored in THEIR SAFE HAVEN:

Joseph Bato


Klara Biller


Val Biro


George Buday


Imre Goth


Imre Hofbauer


Peter Lambda

Lili Markus


George Mayer-Marton


Henry Ripszam


Jean-Georges Simon


Istvan Szegedi-Szuts


Paul Vincze


Akos Zsoter

Peter Peri: a correction


In the January 25 2019 edition of the Times Literary Supplement an article written by me about George Buday and headed “Cruel Britannia” stated wrongly that the Hungarian-born sculptor Peter Peri created works in concrete for London schools.


In fact, most of his school commissions were for Leicestershire County Council. Peri also created public sculpture in London and elsewhere and for the Festival of Britain.


Peter Peri arrived in Britain in 1933 fleeing Nazi persecution. His application for British citizenship was granted in 1939, before the outbreak of hostilities which put such applications on hold until after the war. He died in 1967.


Because he didn’t feature in the 1943 Hungarian Club show he is not one of the 14 Hungarian artists discussed in THEIR SAFE HAVEN.  He did, however, make a substantial contribution to the British art world. His work is documented at the Henry Moore Institute Archive, Leeds.


- Robert Waterhouse

Insiders/Outsiders Festival

Insiders/Outsiders is a nationwide festival to be launched in March 2019 to mark the 80th anniversary year of Nazi-provoked hostilities in Europe and to celebrate the many creative people among refugees making their home in Britain before the Second World War. Robert Waterhouse's book THEIR SAFE HAVEN features on the Home Page of

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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.

Now available at Amazon