Csatajelenet by Akos Garay
Battle scene depiction by Ákos Garay.

Ákos Garay was a Hungarian painter, illustrator and graphic artist, specialized in depicting soldiers, folk life and landscapes. He was also a pioneer in Hungarian comics, appearing in many of the country's satirical weeklies of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Early life and education
He was born in 1866 in Szedres, a small town in Tolna County, 89 miles south of Budapest. His father Antal Garay was a hussar in the Hungarian revolution of 1848-1849. He was the nephew of the Hungarian poet János Garay (1812-1853). Inspired by his family background, Ákos Garay began drawing hussars and studs at the age of five. He continued to do so in his paintings and cartoons for the rest of his life.

Garay got his artistic training in Pécs - where his teacher was painter and graphic artist Sándor Irinyi - and then in Budapest at the Országos Mintarajziskola ("National School of Design"), the predecessor of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. Between 1882 and 1884, he studied at the Academy of Arts in Munich, Bavaria. Among his teachers were the German landscape and genre painter Karl Raupp and the historicist painter Gabriel von Hackl. In his memoirs, the Hungarian naturalist painter Simon Hollósy also mentioned Ákos Garay as one of his pupils.

Picture story for Borsszem Jankó (1916).

Satirical and political newspapers
In 1887, Ákos Garay made his debut as a caricaturist with the Budapest satirical paper Borsszem Jankó, where he remained for the next 22 years. His early cartoons were still drawn in a realistic style, but he gradually made them more grotesque. By the end of the 1880s, Garay worked for almost every political and satirical newspaper: Bolond Istók, Fidibusz, Üstökös-Urambátyám, Magyar Figaró and Herkó Páter. He was also a longtime contributor to the bi-weekly Kakas Márton, for which he illustrated the so-called "muscais stories", a series of columns about feudal life in the uneducated Hungarian countryside. His other work for the satirical newspapers included picture stories in the tradition of German comic pioneer Wilhelm Busch. Some of his drawings and stories also appeared in Germany in Lustige Blätter.

Besides his political work, Ákos Garay made illustrations for many other magazines, including Új Idők (1902–1926), Szikra (1903), Politikai Kalendárium (1905), Művészet (1905-1914), Karácsony (1906), Vasárnapi Újság (1906-1911), Szent-György (Sportpage) ), Jó Pajtás (1911-1917), Magyar Figaró (1911), (1930-1935), Lantos Magazin (1930), A Nők Újsága (1930) and Pesti Hírlap (1935). His drawings of Hungarian village life were often based on his own photographs and paintings, making Garay's impressions useful documentation for historians.

A member of the Hungarian Association of Newspaper Artists, Garay also illustrated books, mostly historically or ethnographically themed. These included 'Az Obsitos' by Jenő Heltai, 'Journey from Pest to Budapest 1843-1907' by Adolf Agay (AKA Porzó) or several books about Hungarian military history written by "Diplomata" (Alberto Pellegrini). He also made drawings for the Néprajzi Értesítő annuals of the Ethnographic Museum, and a poetry collection by his uncle, János Garay.

comic art by Akos Garay
World War I cartoon and poster art for the movie 'A Csikós' (1917).

Poster art and ethnographical works
Ákos Garay was well-known in his home country for his depictions of Hungarian folk life, hussars and horsemen; both in his paintings and in a series of posters for Printing Company Kner. He also designed the movie posters for the Hungarian films like 'A Csikós' (1917), 'Tábor', 'Félszüzek' (1924), 'Horthy Miklós azt üzente' (1939) and 'Homunkulusz'.

During the First World War, Ákos Garay served with the Vilmos Hussar Regiment as a military painter. In commission of the Sajtóhadiszállás "press headquarters", he made over 100 paintings and drawings of battlefields and other war scenes, appearing on propaganda postcards. Even though he was too old to actively participate in World War II, he still illustrated front battles for postcards.

In 1909, the work of Ákos Garay was first exhibited for the first time at the National Salon. He also took part in group exhibitions, like in 1924 in a show with two other Tolna County artists. In 1927, Ákos Gary won the Grand Prize in "Hungarian Land and genre-Painting". In the 1940s, he was knighed in the Order of Vitéz.

Ákos Garay passed away in 1952 in Budapest, at the age of 85. Most of his work is in the collections of the Wosinsky Mór County Museum and the Budapest Museum of Ethnography.

Self-portrait for a 1912 issue of Kakas Márton magazine.

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