This text appeared in the programme of a solo exhibition at the Hungarian Cultural Relations institute, held from November 29 to December 6, 1964. It was written by the Director of the Cultural Relations institute at the time:
During the autumn of 1962, an album named “Calvary” came into my hands. This edition comprising 29 reproductions only indicates the name of its previous writer – the artist himself hides under the name of Peregrine. The place and date of the edition is London, 1942.
Flood of wayside fugitives. Rotterdam in flames. Paris Occupied. Coventry in ruins.
Who could Peregrine be? Who has seen all this? Who could be the artist whom fascism chased all over Europe and who passed through his own calvary?
Letter to London to the previous writer. Reply: Peregrine is Hungarian. The name: Imre Hofbauer.
Thus started my interview with Imre Hofbauer, the peregrine.
In his first letter, he wrote amongst other things “struggle against fascism, this was my ideal…”
The 59 year-old artist graduated from high school in Tatabanya and got his degree at Prague University, as architect.
During his years at university, many of his drawings are published in Hungarian and foreign magazines, some are published by Simplicissimus. During the thirties he is in charge of the Atheneum. Then as journalist of Budapesti Hirlap starts out on an extensive European roundtrip. In 1936, he ceases to work for this publication and settles in London.
He prepares an edition of a work of George Grosz for publication with a preface written by John Dos Passos and by him.
“Afterwards, the outbreak of the war found me in London, where I offered my services voluntarily. I became a fireman and worked hard with my hands during the bombing of London”, did he write with slightly faulty Hungarian but with great humanitarism.
Artistic belief “the technique of producing a painting is always subjected to the service of expressing thoughts. This is sometimes difficult for a doubting Centro-european like me, specially when painting a picture which does not upset the harmony of the room but one which reminds that there are still hungry and persecuted black-skinned people”.
Although according to his own confession he considers the technique of secondary importance, we can find in him one of the greatest masters of modern graphic technique. His practically contourless pictures show a shockingly strong character. Hofbauer, not only is revolted and revolts – he likes his fallen figures.
During my recent visit to his London studio, the reminded me in the first seconds of the Bohemian life scenery. However, Hofbauer is not Bohemian. He rises at 4 a.m. and frequently midnight finds him in front of his painting easel. He lives alone and rarely goes out. “Painting to me is work, entertainment, dissociation, everything”, he says.
We already knew that he is showing his paintings as from the 29th November to 6th December in the rooms of the Cultural Contacts Institution and on this occasion he will visit home.
What does the public in Budapest see in his work?
-I have been working for two years on a series of London pictures. From these 32 paintings, I am taking 8 to Budapest. I am also taking some paintings from my series of “the prisoner’s camp”.
-What are your plans of activity in Budapest?
When we said goodbye on Piccadilly, he called after me:
“Don’t you write nice things about me. I don’t like to be praised and then disappoint the public. Promise me not to write anything.”
I did not promise that.
Perhaps, the peregrine visiting home will forgive me.