Maria Szantho was born on July 31, 1897 in the city of Szeged which is in the south part of Hungary. She was born with a caul. According to the Hungarian tradition anyone born with a caul will have a lucky life. Indeed, she had an extraordinary life, gifted in arts, and achieved fame and international appreciation and honour. Her paintings are well known at the best galleries and auction houses, and are valued parts of any collection.
Her full name with correct Hungarian spelling is “bácsai Szánthó Mária”. The forename “bácsai” should be written with lower case ‘b’ as this part of the name is a title of nobility.
She married three times. All three of her husbands passed away and she never had any children. Her third husband was Dr. Ferenc Klauschek, hence some sources mention her as Klauschek Ferencné (“né” is the equivalent of Mrs. in Hungarian). She signed all her paintings with her maiden name.
Szantho Maria’s first love was music, she was a talented piano player and finished her music studies as a teacher. She earned her Diploma at the Hungarian Music Academy on piano faculty. Her Diploma was signed by Zoltán Kodály the famous Hungarian composer.
Shortly after completing her music studies she had decided to pursue her interest in painting. Went on several study tours to France and Italy, I recall her talking about the Parisienne atmosphere . Her rich and detailed naturalist paintings were inspired by the hedonism of Károly Lotz and the joie de vivre of Gyula Benczúr. She studied with and from famous Hungarian painters such as Géza Kukán, Bertalan Karlovszky, Pál Fried and Mátyás Vitéz.
Maria Szantho exhibited from the mid 1920’s at major art galleries such as the Műcsarnok in Budapest. She had a collected exhibition in Budapest in 1936. Her work is timeless. She specialized in portraying women posing nude against a landscape, also still lives and portraits. Her models are hedonistically portrayed, she used elements of impressionism and romance. Since her first love was music, her portraits and nudes often permeated with musical themes and idyllic environments enhanced with rich draperies and musical colour accords. Banjo, violin or tambourine were some of the musical instruments she depicted. I recall when I was a child, I often played with these instruments she used to copy on her paintings.
In 1939 she represented Hungary with three paintings on the New York World’s Fair. The paintings sent to the New York World’s Fair have never been returned to her, or to Hungary because of the beginnings of WWII.