Júlia Báthory was born in 1901 in Budapest into an aristocratic family. She pursued her high school studies in Debrecen and Budapest. She went to Germany in 1924, where she graduated at the Stadtschule für Angewendte Kunst in Munich, as a student of Adelbert Niemeyer, a painter and porcelain designer, a family relative of the well known Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer. She also took lectures from local painter Max Müller (not related to the orientalist). Her fellow student was Margit Kovács, the well known Hungarian ceramic artist, with whom she had a lifelong, close friendship.
In the course of her graphic studies she became fascinated by glasswork and in 1929 she started her career as an independent glass-designer in Dessau. In this time she visited the Bauhaus. Between 1930-31 she returned to Budapest. In this transitional period she had to work in intellectuel vacuum and under hard conditions. Her exhibition in 1930 in Paris with Imre Huszár, a sculptor, who lived in Paris at that time, was such a success, that she decided to move there. She remained till December 1939.
The Paris years - 1930 - 1940
These ten years were the most productive years of her lifework. During her years in Paris she visited excavations from the Roman period in the south of France, she travelled to Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. After her exhibition in 1930, she presented her first independent one in 1933. She received a diplome d'honeur in the 1937 Paris World Fair. She lived as a member of the Hungarian colony, formed by Endre Rozsda, Brassaï, André Kertész. In the beginning, she shared an apartment together with Andre Kertész and Margit Kovács. Also in 1937, an interior column-panneau for Le Printemps store was made. She was member of the Salon d'Automne, formed by Matisse and the fauvists, where Maurice Marinot and René Lalique famous French glass-designers, also exhibited. For "La Crémmaiere" she produces her revolutionary flat-glassdesign artifacts. She also makes panneaux for the interior decoration department of the store of Louis Cartier, at Rue de la Paix. Christofle was also selling her works in Paris. In 1934 she has already her own atelier, Studio La Girouette, which she forms from an old dairy-hall near Sorbonne (7bis Rue Laromiguiere, Paris Ve).
She produces her own designs in small series by the Swedish Orrefors Glasbruk. She gets her flat glass boards from Belgium. She also deals with interior decoration: she designs and produces furniture, too. She had a great success not only with her figural panneau, but with her plaquettes, decorated with abstract animals. In 1937 the city of Paris bought her plaquette called The Hunting (La Chasse) and an engraved vase. These two pieces of art were later placed in the collection of modern art of the Louvre. She achieved her greatest success by working with cold glass, by monumental, sculptural drawing-derived forms, while her contemporaries, Lalique, Marinot and his circle made their art in glass-works and treated glass as one block.
French critiques started to use for her extraordinary works the expression: "reliefs du verre", which is appropriate to express the monumental style of Julia Báthory. She visited home in 1938 to exhibit and she received a Professional Silver Medal. The same year she became an invited exhibitor of the City of Paris. The following year she reaches overwhelming success overseas. She returns from the New York World Fair with a diploma of honor.
Moving back to Hungary - 1940
She remains in Paris until 1939, but in order to save her studio, she moves it in January 1940 to Budapest. She works continuously until 1944, when the operations of war reach the territory of Hungary. In 1940 she receives a Gold Medal at the Milano Trienale. In 1942-3 she gets awards from the Ministry of Culture. In the Second Hungarian Exhibition of Applied Arts, she was awarded by the city of Kassa. The National Organisation of the Applied Artists of Hungary awards her with the Silver Medal, and gets the Gold Medal of the capital city, Budapest. At thet time she works abroad with interior designer, Elek Falus. She makes great engraved and cut figural panneau, that cover columns for the Zürich exhibition hall of the Goldberger Textil Company. But at that time she mostly makes ecclesial works. She made other religious images earlier in 1937 for the Exhibition of Religious Art (l'Exposition d'art religieux, 1935) in Strasbourg. She received great attention for one of her engraved triptichons.
During the war her Studio was almost completely destroyed. When the war was over, she was often robbed and great number of irreplaceable documents, machines, works of art disappeared. Her return, what she planned as temporary became permanent. But this fact does not break Julia Báthory's enthusiasm to create. In 1949 she elaborates an educational system for glass design for the College of Applied Arts - today university - winch could not be realized at that time. In 1953 she has the opportunity to bring her unique conception of education into practice in the Secondary School of Fine and Applied Arts.
Julia Bathory, the teacher 1953 - 1970
What she has worked out was a unique initiative. That was the very place where she constructed the whole basis of theoretical and practical education of glass-design in Hungary. The system is similar to the Kodály-method. Students learn how to work with the elementary hot glass, to use drawing-derived techniques and they discover the whole range of glass- work. This method was not only of great influence on the education of glass-art, but changed the whole structure of secondary art-education in Hungary. At this time her attention turns towards the possibilities of hot glass. She retiers from teaching in 1970.
As an appreciation of her work, she received the title of Excellent Teacher and the Munkácsy prize. In 1958 she exhibits at Brussels World Fair. Since then her work has not been presented to international publicity. She returned from Brussels with a diplome d'honeur. In 1967 and 1968 she was awarded again and so she retires, seemingly for good. Despite of all she worked on in her atelier and organised her lives work.
Last years - 1990-2000
The artistic resurrection, for Julia Báthory was brought in 1989 with the change of the political and economical system. The 88 year old artiste sets up her Studio again with the help of her adopted son, András Szilágyi, and her daughter in law, Juliana Kovács. A great, still unfinished work begins, Julia Báthory decides to recreate the works lost or destroyed during the last decades. The Studio reproduces these disappeared works and carries out the designs which were made by the artist.
Her life work has been exhibited in the Hungarian Museum of Applied Arts in 1992, and it was a monumental summary of the 70 active years of her career. In 1991 she received the Golden Wreath-ornamented Star-order of the Hungarian Republic, and became full member of the Széchenyi István Academy of Literature and Art. Unfortunately she could not receive the Hungarian Heritage Award personally. She died in Pécsvárad at the great age of 99 years.
Since then András Szilágyi, her stepson and Juliana Kovács, her daughter-in-law are running a permanent Museum and continue to run Studio La Girouette. Since September 2000 the Báthory Julia glass-collection is opened to the public in Dömsöd.
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- Szilágyi B. András: Báthory Júlia, 2000, Báthory Júlia Üveggyűjtemény ISBN 963-00-9166-6
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- Vávra, J.R.: Das Glas und die Jahrtausende, Artia, 1954, Prága
- Wettergen, Erik: The Modern Decorative Arts of Sweden, Malmö Museum – American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1926, Malmö - New York
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- Varga Vera: Báthory Júlia - Párizs Budapest, Iparművészeti Múzeum, 1992, ISBN 963-7098-38-0
- Her short biography in Hungarian
- The summary of her biography by Vera Varga in Hungarian
- An article about her and others in English
- Her Museum's address and contacts