A Memory of Marian Váross

Marián Váross finished his studies of the Slovak language and philosophy at the Faculty of Arts at Comenius University in Bratislava. Already as a student he published essays and commentaries on art.

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A Memory of Marian Váross
(*Martin 7.2.1923 – † Bratislava 21.11.1988)

There are days sad, nostalgic, mainly when deeply hidden in autumn time, around “All Soul’s Days”, the days when we think of those who were our dear ones not only during their life but also later, after many years that fly like runaway horses… The memory of them is like paused images of the film emerging in our mind… It is the same whether these are our loved ones or those who are generally known who with their productive work were for many of us the example of creative efforts.

One of the many whose life fulfils the Latin quotation “exempla trahunt” was during his creative life Marián Váross, a theoretician and art historian, axiologist, aesthetician and philosopher whose anniversary – of birth and death – will be remembered this year.

Which of us who dedicated one’s life to art theory has not studied some of his publications, who has not browsed his studies on the problems of the development of Slovak art of 20th century. Those essays have been comprised in the synthetizing work called Slovak art 1918 – 1945 and are a point of departure for the examination of art in the above mentioned period.

Marián Váross finished his studies of the Slovak language and philosophy at the Faculty of Arts at Comenius University in Bratislava. Already as a student he published essays and commentaries on art. He was also working at the State Polytechnical Institute where he extended his interest in psychology. He also studied at the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris (1945-1947) and Cambridge (1947-1948). During these stays he wrote long essays that have not been published in Slovak yet. In Cambridge (1949) he wrote his pioneer work Axiology as a theory of values and assessment. The abridged version came out in our country under the title “The Introduction to Axiology” in 1970 and was received with appraisal as an insightful and genuine work that establishes axiology as an independent discipline. After his arrival from abroad Váross could not fulfil his ambitions to work creatively in the field of philosophy in a Slovak institution.

In 1943 – 1950 he worked at the State Psychotechnical Institute and at the same time he was an editor of the Národná obroda daily (1945). In 1950 – 1952 after he was fired as a translator from Russian from the Slovak Academy of Science Publishing House he worked in the Institute of Psychology and Sociology in the Slovak Academy of Sciences. In 1953 he founded the Section for the theory and history of art, later transformed into the Institute of art theory and history. The theoretician who wrote enormously and in diverse perspectives, the author of number of publications with the focus on general aesthetics but also on modern Slovak painting became the part time head of the Art History Department at the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University in Bratislava in 1969. He invited to work there many colleagues from the academic environment, the specialists in various fields of art history in Slovakia. This situation had an impact on the closed educational system and help to approximate the system to western universities. Instead of vigorous rules, e.g. – every second year two or three graduates – Váross enforced that the art history courses were opened annually with the number of admitted students of 15 to 20. The study programme opened annually and was rigorous regarding the criteria of accomplishment leading to a greater degree of selection of students and better results. Váross, however, did not have time to become full professor nor to accomplish his vision of the art history study programme. His efforts have been marred by the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the following “normalization”. In 1970 he had to leave his post at the Faculty of Arts, and later also the Art History and Theory Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. When he was removed from the office and banned publishing in the period of normalization he worked as an expert in the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava, where he worked until his retirement in 1985.

One of the most significant representatives of the modern art scholarship in Slovakia Marián Váross died untimely in the age of sixty-five, in 1988 as a result of heart collapse. He rests in the National Cemetery in Martin.


POST SCRIPTUM

The work of Marián Váross is extensive and rich. His debut, his PhD work, entitled Personality as an Act of Evaluation, was published in Psychological Proceeding (1946 – 1947), his essays written during the years of his studies in France and England were referred to above. In the fifties and sixties he wrote a number of larger and shorter monographs devoted to the artworks of Slovak artists. He preferred the works of those artists who discovered and specified the Slovak national character in their works.

A number of valuable publications devoted to the field of art philosophy, aesthetics, theory and art history were presented in the publication Theory of Realism in Visual Arts (1961). In the book called Aesthetic Dimension, Art and Human Being (1969) he dealt with the questions of anthropological aesthetics. He considered the aesthetic relations of man to reality a specific relations of assessment. Two years later he published his next book Art Life in Slovakia at the Beginning of 20th Century. When he was banned to publish in the seventies he intensively promoted the values of Slovak art. He wrote texts for 59 catalogues of individual and collective exhibitions. He evaluated the works by Š. Polkoráb, J. Hála, E. Gwerk, L. Čemický, Ľ. Kellenberger, M. Tvrdoň, M. Želibská and other artists.

He was the curator of the following exhibitions, e.g.: Biennale Venezia, 1960, 1966; Contemporary Slovak Art, Súčasné slovenské umenie, Prague, 1963; Biennale of Young Artists, Paris, 1969; curator of permanent exhibition of 19th and 20th century in the M.P. Bohúň Gallery in Liptovský Mikuláš, etc.

His works were published in foreign journals and proceedings from 1965 -1983 in Hungary, Germany, France, Poland, England. His theoretical works, portraits, and reviews were published in art journals in former Czechoslovakia such as Umění, Ars, Umelecký mesačník, Estetika, Kultúrna revue.

From 1967 -1970 he was the editor-in-chief of the journal Ars, he wrote the introduction and entries in the Dictionary of Slovak Visual Art. He translated 14 books from German, British, French and Russian literature. He was the participant in international congresses of aesthetics in Amsterdam 1964, Uppsala 1968, Krakow 1979, scholarly congresses of the Hegel International Congresses – Salzburg 1964, Prague 1966.

From 1949 to 1972, he was the member, from 1961 – 1965 he was the vicepresident of the Slovak Artists Union, the member of the International Union of Art Critics AICA and the European Cultural Society SEC, from 1966 the member of the Accademie Raffaello, from 1966 – 1970 the vicepresident of the Expert Committee for Science and Art of the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

Prizes and awards: 1956 he was awarded the Prize of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, 1961 the Cyprian Majerník Award, in 1990 the Prize of Martin Benka in memoriam. Since 1991 the Prize of Marián Váross has been awarded annually in recognition of the work in the field of art history and theory in Slovakia.

Marta Hučková
Nitra, Dec 3, 2013

Secondary Literature:
Kolektív autorov: Malá československá encyklopedie Š/Z. Encyklopedický institut ČSAV, Academia Praha,1987, pp. 460
Kolektív autorov: Slovenský biografický slovník VI. zväzok T – Ž, Matica slovenská, Martin, 1994, pp.237-238
Kováč, L.: Kritika a kontext (2-3). In: Variácie na tému Teodora Münza, 2002, pp. 85-91
Kolektív autorov: Katedra dejín výtvarného umenia: http//www.fphil.uniba.sk/index.php?id´=5623

Reproduced Photograph: Martin Daniš