Róbert Berény, Woman Lying on a Divan, c1930
17.3 x 31.5 in.
Róbert Berény (1887-1953) was a Hungarian painter and an important avant-garde artist. Born in Budapest, he began formally studying art at age seventeen when he studied with a local artist. He soon traveled to Paris, where he was influenced by the modern French art, particularly Cezanne and Matisse. Upon returning to Hungary, Berény became a leader of the group known of painters as The Eight, who brought expressionism and cubism to Hungarian art. Berény worked in a number of genres, including still-life, landscape, and portraiture, painting such notables as Béla Bartók. Berény created stirring and effective depictions of his subjects, showing great emotional and psychological depth. Woman Lying on a Divan is one of his most interesting works. The painting is fascinating compositionally, featuring a mirror that reflects the open window, and a slight upturn of the perspective creates an unusual sense of space. Meanwhile the main subject of the woman is stretched out, seemingly elongated by the extreme horizontality of the canvas. The painting offers a certain quiet stillness; the sunlight pours in and we can sense breezes blowing past, but in this room a woman is sleeping undisturbed under the softness of Berény's brushstrokes.