Lenke Földes is one of the undeservedly forgotten sculptors of the twentieth century. Born in 1896, The artists spent several years in Vienna and later made a career in Paris, her name however, is little known in Hungary. Only one major publication has been written about her to this day, in 1945, with a prologue written by Lajos Kassák. In his writing Kassák emphasized the childlike experimentational spirit of the introverted sculptor and classified her art as one following the most modern trends. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: who was Lenke Földes and how did the stages of her life unfold?
Lenke née: Sonnenfeld married István Földes, a lawyer in Újpest, in 1912 and was forced to emigrate to Vienna with him, because of his involvement in the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Lenke Földes studied there from Anton Hanak, a teacher at the Vienna school of applied arts, an acclaimed artist of the era, who described the first works of the inexperienced, yet instinctive sculptor as: Lenke Földes seemed to bite them out with her teeth’. In 1925, the couple was granted amnesty so they could return home, but before long, Földes was already working in Paris at the suggestion of the sculptor Már Vedres. In the French capital, she visited Antoine Bourdelle, a celebrated French sculptor of the era, who immediately gave her an opportunity to exhibit her art. From 1925, she regularly attended Paris’s most prestigious exhibitions. During the 1930 exhibition of her collected works in Paris, Maurice Raynal, the most famous art critic of the time gave a lecture on her art, and the Luxembourg Museum purchased her sculpture titled Motherhood. The first exhibition of the collected works of Lenke Földes in Hungary was held in the autumn of 1959, in the Fényes Adolf Hall in Budapest. The artist later lived in Australia for a long time. Eventually, she died in London at the age of 90.
The central motif of Lenke Földes’s expressive sculptures, mostly made of agalmatolite and marble, was always motherhood and female representation. She modeled standing, sitting, bathing, dancing, sleeping, leaning women, and mothers nurturing, hugging, protecting and sheltering their children. The intimate sculptures, which are often miniature in size, have a monumental effect despite their small size, reflecting the features of modernism, but at the same time, they seem archaic and even primitive due to their block-like nature and the rough and mask-like facial contours. Perhaps these were the characteristics Antoine Bourdelle was referring to when he described Földes’s art as ’block of momentum’. Many of her sculptures and paper sketches are preserved in the collection of the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives. Her work, the Crouching Mother, was displayed at the first exhibition of the OMIKE Art Action. The museum also preserves a photo of the inauguration of the statue made by Földes of the politician Vilmos Vázsonyi.
Translated by Eszter Cseh-Szilárd
Készítette: Farkas Zsófia