The three young and determined artists organized an extraordinarily successful exhibition in Budapest, drawing attention to the values of Hortobágy to be protected. Its mere truth and false romance-free face was shown. As a result of their work, sculptor Ferenc Medgyessy came to Hortobágy, whose „trilogy of Hortobágy,” Bika, Komondor and Pányvavető csikós, is of considerable value in modern Hungarian sculpture. But German film director Höllering came and made his film Gloomy horse, for which one of the greatest Hungarian writers, Zsigmond Móricz, wrote the screenplay.
The founders, including Imre Égerházi, built on this rich tradition when they established the Hajdúság Artists’ Colony in Hajdúböszörmény in the 1960s, which became international in 1971. Not only Hungarians from across the border were invited, but also Finnish, German, Bulgarian, Polish, Soviet and Yugoslav guests.
The real second act of the Hortobágy Artists’ Colony took place in 1975 and 1976. It was then that the county painters returned to the flatlands. In the summer of both years, the new artists’ colony operated in the Hortobágy Inn for a month. The paintings created in Hortobágy were exhibited in the Hungária Restaurant in Debrecen. The colony was run by painter Béla Tilles. By higher order, the new workshop in Hortobágy was closed in 1976.
The Hajdú-Bihar County Catering Company based in Debrecen, the maintainer of the Hortobágy artists’ colony between 1975 and 1976, restarted the colony in 1982, and entrusted painter Imre Égerházi with its organization and management. The founders Imre Égerházi, Gyula Madarász, Zoltán Maghy, Zsófia Sipos and Zoltán Tar, all painters, took the name of the Hortobágy Creative Camp and considered themselves the descendants of the Hortobágy Colony.
The programs of both artists’ colonies were as follows:
- to capture the unique values of the Hortobágy National Park at the artistic level;
- acquaintance with the unique fauna and flora of the National Park, its mere changing image both in Hungary and abroad;
- support for creative arts, development of fine arts culture;
- to achieve that, in addition to the rare natural values, high-level human activities could also become an integral part and an attractive feature of the life of the National Park;
- increase tourism to Hungary and Hortobágy, and through it, to Hajdúság.
The Hortobágy Creative Camp mainly presented the winter steppe, as the camp operated between 15 February and 15 March. The painters took turns in 2-week shifts. The organization, leadership, involvement of sponsors, implementation of catalogs and organization of exhibitions were ensured by selfless, and ultimately successful, work of Imre Égerházi.
Hungarians from across the border, as well as European, Asian and American artists, regularly visited the Creative Camp. In a few years, the colony gained a significant international reputation, and in addition to Hajdúböszörmény, it was able to join the bloodstream of the world’s art scene as the most significant Hungarian art colony. The Hortobágy Creative Camp has established close co-operation with art colonies in many European countries, with the two most significant are the artists’ colony in St. Michel, France, of which Imre Égerházi was elected honorary president in the 1990s, and the Gyergyószárhegy Creative Camp in Romania, where, within the framework of the cooperation, it was possible to support Hungarian artists in the entire Carpathian Basin with the help of the artists’ colony in the mainland. The engine making things move in the background was also Imre Égerházi.
Excerpt from the foreword by Katalin Sz. Kürti, a museologist and art writer at the Déri Museum in Debrecen, in the 1987 catalog of the creative camp:
“Variations on a theme, meanings of a theme – this is how the work of the Hortobágy Creative Camp can be summarized. The eternal and changing wilderness, the meeting of heaven, earth, and water, the relationship between landscape and man are depicted by the creators, although by different means. There are those who are excited about the people of Hortobágy: hard faces tanned from the sun and wind, the display of hardened shepherds and copers accustomed to harshness. Others were inspired by a mass of migrating sheep, buffaloes, horses, immersing or fitting hamlets in the landscape. These painters want the same with brush and paint knife as the experts of the Hortobágy National Park: to protect the landscape from all unauthorized interference, to protect the mere generous, ancient beauty with the power of art. After all, this beauty is endangered here as much as anywhere else in the world: environmental pollution caused by technical progress or the dangers of tourism (danger of modernization or kitsch). Fortunately, the leaders of the Hortobágy National Park are quite motivated people, and their useful helpers are permanent members of the Hortobágy Creative Camp.
The Kossuth Prize-winning painter István D. Kurucz is a connecting link between the southern Great Plain, the plains of Vásárhely and Hortobágy. He follows in the footsteps of János Tornyai, the greatest painter of the Hungarian Great Plain, when he paints the embrace of the „great nothing”, the wilderness and the sky, but he also pays attention to the people shepherding and cultivating the land there. A similar program is undertaken by László Bod, an artist from Karcag, and Zoltán Maghy, born in Hajdúböszörmény. He was a member of the Hortobágy Colony operating in 1928-29, which is to some extent the spiritual, ideological predecessor of this creative camp. While Zoltán Maghy’s goals are loyalty and preservation, and his tool is realism, Imre Égerházi seeks to summarize. He highlights and deducts and strives for a simplistic system. Doing the same in other respects Borbála Fekete, János Horváth, József Lakatos, and the painter from Subotica, Hunor Gyurkovics. His colleague Sándor Torok is an abstract painter, but he approaches the spectacle and reality as a result of the landscape experience in Hortobágy. Gyula Madarász and Zsófia Sipos express their relationship to the landscape and to people and their homeland with many lyrical but expressive powers.
We hope that the audience will understand the message of a distant world that the 34 painters and 5 photographers have now brought to us through their works, as their message is general: fidelity to the homeland, to the roots.”