Ödön Lechner (1845–1914) is probably the best-known Hungarian architect among architectural historians outside Hungary. For more than a century, the complexity of Lechner’s experiment with a “Hungarian style” has generated fierce theoretical debates, often strongly influenced by contemporary politics. It is the sort of topic that inspires each new generation of scholars to explore anew the construction of nationalism in the fine arts.

The centenary of Lechner’s death provided the impetus for the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest, together with the Institute of Art History of the Academy of Sciences, to stage this valuable and stimulating show. The last time an exhibition had been devoted to Lechner was in 1985, a generation ago,...

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