Top, left: Displayed in Chateau des Fleurs; lace tablecloth; center, right: Before the Mirror; bottom: the Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) with ladies-in-waiting; wife and daughter of LA governor; Commodore Robert E. Peary
A painter on many levels, Louis Mark created portraits, book illustrations, caricatures and posters in Hungary and in the US. He studied in Budapest, München and Paris. In 1888, the Bavarian state bought his painting of a life-size nude male for 100 marks, five times the usual price.
On his return to Budapest, he signed up for his voluntary military service. He received state assistance for further art studies and took part in a painting course at the famous Nagybánya artists’ colony.
He first attracted attention with a portrait of the Hungarian explorer Count Teleki Sámuel (in the costume of the Sultan of Zanzibar), at an exhibit in 1889. In November of 1907, he introduced himself to the public with a collection of 137 paintings and 14 caricatures. That led to invitations to show his work in Germany, England and the US. He exhibited regularly in Budapest, and had shows in Pozsony and Belgrade as well. He participated in the Venice Biennale (art festival) numerous times, beginning in 1901.
He invented a technique of painting with a long brush which allows the viewer to see more details the further away one stands from the canvas.
In 1910, the National Arts Club invited him to New York where he was celebrated by representatives of the Austro-Hungarian diplomatic corps and members of American high society, many of whom he painted. Among them were President Woodrow Wilson and explorer Commodore Robert E. Peary, who (supposedly) discovered the North Pole. (Frederick Cook also claimed to have done so, but a year earlier.)
This was the first of many trips to the US. Here, in May of 1912, he married the aspiring actress Molnár Rózsa, whose roots were in Győr. (Their son, Louis Mark Jr. would eventually work at the American embassy in Budapest after World War II, and after his retirement would move to Norfolk, CT.)
One of Louis Mark’s paintings entitled ”Before the Mirror” won a gold medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915. In recognition of his artistic merits, he was made a life member of the US National Arts Club.
In Hungary, he painted portraits of Emperor Francis Joseph as well as the tragically assassinated Queen Elizabeth and her court. Prominent actresses of the time (Márkus Emilia, Bajor Gizi, etc.) and opera singers (including Jeritza Mária), leading Hungarian politicians and public figures were all subjects of his brush. According to his friend Anthony Geber who, in 1993, wrote a biography of Mark, he was ”the first and foremost painter of the Budapest bourgeoisie” at the turn of the 19th century, providing ”documentation for a bygone era”. It was said of him that he made all the women look beautiful.
Mark illustrated the works of many prominent Hungarian authors. Geber also wrote that ”as a caricaturist, he was both admired and feared”.
He took an active part in the artistic life of Hungary and was a founding member of several artists’ societies, including the Munkácsy Céh, an American branch of which he helped to establish in 1929.
In 1938, Mark came to America with his family to organize a Hungarian exhibit of paintings. But the outbreak of World War II prevented his return to Hungary. He lived in New York until his death of a heart attack on March 18th, 1942.
Some of his works were destroyed during the war. But many were saved, and for a number of years were stored in a trailer in Norfolk, CT. Over one hundred of these canvases were eventually bought by Susan Camille Beckman Roghani, founder of the Camille Beckman Company of specialty personal care items. When a factory was built for her products in Eagle, Idaho in 2000, plans also included a restaurant, an art gallery, a music area, public gardens and a peaceful prayer space. All these were combined into one major building with large surrounding gardens. Called Chateau des Fleurs, it is a wedding and event venue. A number of Mark Lajos paintings are displayed in the Chateau, which is modeled on the Chateau of Versailles.
Erika Papp Faber is Editor of Magyar News Online.