Mihaly Munkacszy was born in the city of Munkacs, Kingdom of Hungary, which today is the city of Mukachevo, now part of Ukraine. He was born on February 20, 1844. He was born as Lieb Mihaly Leo, later adopting the name of hometown for his own.
After an apprenticeship under an itinerant painter, Munkacsy moved to the city of Pest, then the largest city of Hungary and now part of the capital, Budapest. There, the artist would search for patronage from well established fellow artists. Soon, Munkacsy received a state sponsorship to study abroad, with the help of landscape painter Antal Ligeti.
In 1865, the artist studied under Karl Rahl at the Academy of Vienna. In the following year, Munkacsy studied at the Munich Academy, and two years later, he went to Dusseldorf, aiming to research under distinguished genre painter Ludwig Knaus. Next year, Munkacy would travel to Paris to admire the Universal Exhibition.
Munkacsy’s artwork was undoubtedly influenced by what he experienced in Paris, watching modern French paintings. His style became more loose, with new color schemes and broader brushstrokes.
Munkacsy’s early artworks were primarily scenes from the daily lives of poor people and peasants. At first, he followed much of the Hungarian genre painting, creating a colorful and almost theatrical composition. Two good examples of said pictures are The Cauldron and Easter Merrymaking. Soon, the artist became more attentive to the surroundings of the characters in his painting and expressed a more complex array of emotions from them; these elements were learned from the Dusseldorf genre painters.
During the 1880s, Munkacsy would change the setting of his paintings, although not abandoning the genre painting. The artist started to paint several salon pictures, composed of pompous interiors owned by wealthy people. The artist would also explore constant subjects, such as motherhood, joyful moments of domestic life, and children and animals, exemplified by Baby’s Visitors, The Father’s Birthday, and Two Families, respectively.
In his late carries, Munkacsy executed two monumental artworks, Apotheosis of Renaissance, a fresco painted in the ceiling of the Kunthistoriches Museum, in the city of Vienna, and Hungarian Conquest.
By the turning of the decade, the artist’s depression severely increased, probably intensified by syphilis, contracted in his youth. Such a state of mind would produce some disturbing artworks, such as The Sacrifice of Flowers. The artists were able to finish two more pictures; one of them was Strike, composed of several figures with keen attention on depicting particular emotions.
Soon, the artist was interned in a mental hospital and would die there. Mihaly Munkacsy died in May 1900.