Hungarian Prints, Portraits, & Landscapes

Works by Hungarian & Hungarian -American artists, focusing on the works of:
Stephen Csoka – Csóka István (1897-1989):

Stephen Csoka, "Self Portrait,"  oil, 1932

Stephen Csoka, “Self Portrait,” oil, 1932

Opening reception (Saturday, July 20, 2002, 3-5 PM) included lecture (*in Hungarian*) entitled:
by Dr. Gábor Tarján

This exhibition presented a collection of prints produced by Hungarian artists in Budapest, called “Self-Portraits” (1928) and “Landscapes” (1932). These two collections compared the styles of the artists in technique, interpretation, and subject, in the medium of printmaking. In addition, the exhibit focused on the artistry of Mr. Stephen Csoka (Csóka István) and gave examples of his technique, expression, and mastery not only of the art of printmaking, but pastels, drawings, and oil paintings.

Catalogue cover

Catalogue cover

Information from the portfolio from the collection of Frank & Wendy Csoka

Artists who were featured during the now-past exhibit included:



Vilmos Aba-Novák1894-1941          István Szõnyi  1894-1960
Jenõ Barcsay  1900-1988          Nándor Lajos Varga
István Csóka  1897-1988          Elemér F. Antal
Pál Mihalta  1899-          Tibor Galle  1896-1944
Károly Patkó  1895-1941          Gyula Hincz  1904-
Jenõ Simkovics Tarjani          Kálmán Istokovics



12 Önarckép Rézkarcai
Budapest, 1928

Introduction by Lydia Károly

Twelve graphic artists, outstanding members of this new generation, each presents a self-portrait in these pages In this instance, each chose a subject that he knew best – himself. The etching technique is interesting not only in itself, but because it is so flexible that it picked up the mood of the moment and the individual personality. That is why these prints are so varied and there is in them the immediacy of a confession.

Although they differ in style from each other, there is one unifying theme – they represent the resurgence of graphic art with interest and love.

Translated from the original critique, etched and included in the portfolio


Vilmos Aba-Novák  1894-1941          Jenõ Simkovics Tarjani
Jenõ Barcsay  1900-1988          István Szõnyi  1894-1960
István Csóka  1897-1988          Nándor Lajos Varga
Pál Mihalta  1899-          Zoltán Kaveczky
Károly Patkó  1895-1941          Imre Nagy  1893-



10 Tájkép Rézkarcai
Budapest, 1932

Introduction by Lydia Károly

This collection contains ten etchings selected from the new Hungarian graphic publications and, since each plate is limited to an edition of 50, it is noteworthy for that reason alone.

What is even more important, is the innate value because it speaks of the powerful life of our graphic work and also the world view of today’s generation of artists.

This of course differs from the style of yesterday and the day before yesterday, and it reflects the artists’ view of the world around them. (This is seen) especially in artistic representations that do not attempt to dazzle with technique, but are individual expressions in which the artist considers the etching plate and the needle as the means to interpret his view.

These fine prints impart the strength and warmth of their creators’ personal vision.

Translated from the original critique, etched and included in the portfolio

Portraits and Landscapes
1928 and 1932

These two portfolios of prints are extraordinary. The exceptional quality of each print depends on a combination of skillful draftsmanship, thoughtful stylistic decisions, and perceptive interpretation of the subject. Indeed, the subject of these prints are the most personal: the portraits are portraits of the artists themselves and the landscapers are the artists’ Hungarian home. Together, these prints give and accurate view of the artists and of their historical time and place.

It is significant that these portfolios were arranged by the artists themselves, not gathered together later. The artists were friends who knew each other from their student day at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. The school was recognized through Europe for its rigorous artist training. In the late192’s, Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was still one of the most important cultural centers in Europe. These ten artists met often to talk in the coffeehouses of the city. Someone suggested a portfolio of prints. István Csóka (the only artist of the group who later immigrated to the United States) could not recall who suggested that each artist creates a self-portrait, but it was an inspiration. The portfolio was a success. The prints are stylistically diverse, reflecting the personalities of the different artists. Yet each is a sensitive and honest portrayal.

Four years later, the artists decided to create another portfolio. The composition of the group had changed very little: two of the friends had left the capital, but four more printmakers had become part of the late-night crowd. This time the artists created portraits of the land, their home despite the increasing political problems in the country. As a result, today’s viewer has the opportunity to compare the portraits and landscapes by the same artists, to study their expressive power in the depiction of faces (indeed, their own faces) and of scenes, and to see them in context among their contemporaries.

The Etching Technique

The twenty-two etchings shown in this exhibition are exquisite prints. They are beautiful examples of the art of printmaking, which allows the artist to create more than one original of the same image. Each impression of these etchings was hand made by the artist. An etching is an intaglio print, which means that the lines to be printed are cut into a metal plate, ink is rubbed into the lines, and then a piece of paper is pressed against the plate in order to transfer the ink to the paper. The mark left by the edge of the plate shows all around the image, creating a border. The ink lines of an intaglio print have and especially clear, formal quality because the ink actually stands on the fibers of the paper. For and engraving, the lines are cut into the metal by hand with a special knife (called a burin). It is hard work to cut into the metal, and the force needed makes it difficult to control the curve of a line. A s a result, many artists drew the image they wanted to print, but hired another craftsman to do the cutting. In contrast, an etching is made by coating the metal plate with a “ground”of wax, asphaltum, etc. The artist draws in the ground with an etching needle as easily as drawing with a pencil on a sheet of paper. The plate is put into and acid bath, and the acid chemical eats away the metal wherever the artist’s etching needle scraped away the protective ground. When the plate is printed, the image transferred to the paper shows every line, swirl, and dot drawn by th e artist. The artist signs each print to show that it is his original work of art. Often he also write the number of a print, e.g. 4/30 means that thirty impressions were printed and this happens to be the fourth.


Stephen Csoka – Csóka István – was born in 1897 in Gárdony, a small farming village in Hungary. At twenty-five, he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest, one of Europe’s most prestigious art schools. He studied there from 1922-1927. By 1933, he was working full time as an artist and starting to win awards. He then met his future wife, Margaret. She was born in Hungary but was by then living in the United States. Stephen met her on her return visit to Hungary. They were married after a quick courtship, and in 1934, Stephen followed his new bride back to America.

Stephen had established himself as one of Hungary’s most promising young painters, but his arrival in America at the depths of the Depression was less than auspicious. The art establishment was not yet open to foreign artists, and Stephen spent nearly eight years with his father-in-law as a house painter in Brooklyn. Undaunted, he continued to paint and make etchings.

In 1940, at the urging of a friend, he submitted several paintings to the annual Washington Square outdoor exhibition. When he won the grand prize, he found a patron at the Contemporary Arts Gallery in New York, which mounted his first one-man exhibition in America.

Csoka’s work – especially his paintings and etchings – earned him status in the professional art community and membership in the National Academy of Design, the Society of American Graphic Artists, the Audobon Artists Association and the Pastel Society of America. Awards and prizes continued to come his way and he began a long career as a fine art teacher, first at the Parsons School of Design, at Hunter College, City College, the National Academy of Design School of Fine Arts, and finally, at age 68, at the Fashion Institute of Technology, N.Y.C. He retired healthy and vigorous at age 83. Stephen continued to paint and draw and organize a lifetime of work. He passed away in 1989 at the age of 92.

A 100 year retrospective exhibition was held in 1997 at the Hofstra Museum of Art, Hofstra University. Stephen Csoka’s work is found in museums and private collections throughout the United States and abroad. During this special exhibition, the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Museum exhibited representative examples of his work, see below for samples. You can see more of his work by contacting Frank Csoka at , or in the following U.S.A. gallery locations: Vail Fine Art Gallery, Vail, Colorado; Beaver Creek Fine Art Gallery, Beaver Creek, Colorado; Aspen Fine Art Gallery, Aspen, Colorado.

Above information from the portfolio in the collection of Frank & Wendy Csoka

Below: Samples of works by Stephen Csoka – Csóka István, which
were on special exhibit at the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Museum:


Stephen Csoka – Csóka István, “Landscape”


Stephen Csoka – Csóka István, “Drinking Workman,” 1928 Etching, Edition 75, Image Size: 12 1/4″ x 9 3/8″ (310 x 239mm)


Stephen Csoka – Csóka István, “Sand Pit,” 1928


Stephen Csoka – Csóka István, 
Additional samples of 
Etchings which were on display at the Museum
(From photos)

Click below for additional information/websites on Stephen Csoka – Csóka István:  (Biography, also additional works)   (Additional samples of etchings)   (Professional resume, life history)

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