ZICHY, Mihály
(b. 1827, Zala, d. 1906, St. Petersburg)


Oil on canvas, 135 x 190 cm
Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest

Mihály Zichy was 19 years old when he painted the picture. Zichy, a pupil of Waldmüller in Vienna, went on with his career in Pest the same year. Although his master, a realist of character portrayal, had taught Zichy the same ideas, the picture was by no manner of menas similar to the popular and amusing style of Austrian genre painting. The picture can be linked to Géricault and Delacroix who initiated French romanticism. By moving the figures right into the foreground, Zichy gave a psychologic analysis of his defenceless figures. Typical figures of Vienna biedermeier appear in the picture: small children playfully stretching out for the crucifix, old women praying, old men with beard and models of the art academy. What makes the picture even more surprising is young Zichy's skills of dramatic portrayal of the scene.

Théophile Gautier, the French apostle of romanticism, called young Zichy "monstre de génie" because he increased tensions to the utmost in his pictures. With his "Life Boat" the young artist rebelled against coolly sophisticated academism and won the prize of the Academy in spite of its old professors.