Franz Xaver Eisenhut (Hungarian/German, 1857–1903)

The Old Warrior


Ferenc Eisenhut (also known as Franz Xaver Eisenhut) (Hungarian/German, 1857–1903), The Old Warrior, signed and dated 1890 Munchen, oil on panel, 9.25″ x 7″

Ferenc Eisenhut is considered one of Hungary’s greatest 19th century academic painters, with works in museums and monuments throughout the world. His best-known works are: Death of Gül Baba, Money Changers in Tiflis, The Storyteller, Pasha’s Concubine, Battle of Zenta, Slave Trade, and Cock-Fighting. Eisenhut received numerous prestigious awards and was the first artist to receive the National Gold Medal in Budapest for his painting Death of Gül Baba (1886).  In the last two decades of the 19th century, Eisenhut was the only Hungarian orientalist painter who gained international recognition. He contributed to the developing artistic life in Hungarian towns and helped improve the international status of Hungary in the world of art.

Eisenhut was born in 1857 in Deutsch-Palanka. His mother tongue was German, but he also spoke Hungarian and Serbian fluently.  His father, Georg Eisenhut, wanted his son to become a merchant.  However, Franz, whose artistic talent had been evident from early childhood, fervently wished to become a painter.  Through the initiative of Karl Mezey, a prominent Palanka lawyer, and with the financial support of several wealthy Palanka citizens, young Eisenhut was sent to Hungarian Royal Drawing School in Budapest from 1875 until 1877. He ultimately became a student of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and studied there until 1883.

After completing his academic studies, he made his first trip to the Orient.  In the same year he made his artistic debut in Budapest with the Islamic theme, “Healing through the Koran.”  Fascinated by the people and culture of Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, he traveled to these regions yearly for inspiration for his paintings.

By the young age of 33, he was already a world-famous artist whose paintings were admired in exhibitions in Munich (1888, 1892, 1897, 1901), Vienna (1888), Berlin (1891, 1892, 1893, 1895), Antwerpen (1892), Madrid (1892), and Paris (1895). He was lavished with commissions from art patrons and dealers, and his international success provided him financial security and a carefree life.

One of his most famous works is the painting “Battle of Zenta”, made in 1896 for the Hungarian Millennium Exhibition, celebrating 1000 years since the Hungarian settlement in the Great Hungarian Plain. The painting was ordered by the Bács-Bodrog County and is still exhibited in Sombor City Hall.

Eisenhut’s works attracted the attention of Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria, and eventually earned him the affection and friendship of the ruler. Emperor Franz Josef was also impressed by his talent and purchased the painting “Death of Gül Baba” for the throne room of the royal palace in Budapest.  His home community of Palanka honored the artist by naming one of their most beautiful streets after him.  Whenever he paid a visit to the town of his birth, he was welcomed and celebrated with the highest honors.  When he became critically ill in Munich at the age of 46 years, Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria came twice to visit him at his deathbed. Eisenhut died on June 2nd, 1903 and was buried in the Central Cemetery in Munich.  The Artists’ Association of Munich erected a monument in honor of their famous member.