(b. 1853, Kisszeben, d. 1919, Budapest)

Pilgrimage to the Cedars in Lebanon

Oil on canvas, 200 x 205 cm
Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest

The way Csontváry saw nature, was summed up in "Baalbek" (1906). Although he was still interested in nature, he went new ways in art. After the exhibition in Paris in 1907, his pictures with cedars painted in Lebanon, which were full of symbols and visions, started a new period.

Trees are referred to in the mythology of almost all nations as symbols of fertility or those of knowledge. In the case of cedars, Csontváry did not only want to portray a motif of nature, but he connected his message to a well-known and universal symbol. Art historians and psychologists involved in the Csontváry-literature identified "The Lonely Cedar" with the lonely Csontváry, while the "Pilgrimage to Cedars in Lebanon", its counterpart, was identified with the artist celebrated by others and himself. The latter work may be a symbolic repetition of his early "Self-Portrait" but in this picture the artist symbolizes his own self in the cedar tree.The truth of the statement is supported by Csontváry's writings, he mentions the tree as a symbol of his own person.

The order, the composition and the colours of the picture are subordinated to a world full of symbols. The double trunks of the tree in the axis of the picture arrange and hold together events with their branches growing upwards in a sophisticated pattern. A celebration recalling ancient rituals takes place around them. The whole picture is interwoven by experiences with nature and the presence of "energies" in different shapes, which Csontváry thought to be important. The complicated symbols of the picture carry different contents, but they are "manifestations of Csontváry's magic concept of the world, and as such, visual realizations of symbols arising from the depth of the human soul" (Lajos Németh).

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.