The European School was founded in 1945 by the brothers Árpád Mezei and Imre Pán, together with Pál Gegesi Kiss, Ernő Kállai and Lajos Kassák. The mission was to continue the modernist and progressive fine art movements that had flourished in Hungary between the two world wars. The founders were not only the organizers of the new artistic group, they also articulated the intellectual and artistic values that the community would share.
Most of the members of the new European School were artists who in the past had joined various progressive groups: the Circle of Kassák in the late twenties, the Progressive Group of Szentendre in the thirties or the Group of Socialist Painters. Quite a few of these artists produced abstract paintings in the late thirties/ early forties, influenced by the French Abstraction-Creation movement.
Painters who joined the European School:
Margit Anna, Jenő Barcsym Lajos Barta, Endre Bálint, Béla Bán, Dezső Bokros Birman, Béla Czóbel, József Egry, Béla Fekete Nagy, Erzsébet Forgács-Hann, Jenő Gadéányi, Tihamér Gyarmati, József Jakovits, Dezső Korniss, Ibolya Lossonczy, Sameer Makarius, Ödön Márffy, Gyula Marosán, János Mrtinszky, Ferenc Martyn, Endre Rozsda, Ernő Schubert, Piroska Szántó, Júlia Vajda, Tibor Vilt, Magda Zemplényi. Later on others joined the Group. Imre Ámos and Lajos Vajda were posthumous members of the European School. The influence of Lajos Vajda can be detected in most of the oeuvres of the European School painters.
Imre Pán drafted the Manifesto-like programme of the European School:
’’Europe and the old European ideals are in shambles. A new Europe can only emerge from the synthesis of East and West. In 1945 everyone has to ask this fundamental question: does he or she deserve to be called European in a humanistic sense ? We have to create the first European School to redefine the basics of life, man and community.”
The war shattered the world as we knew it, and so artists in Hungary and in all of Europe had to confront the basic questions of existence, violent death, destruction. The response was predominantly surrealism. Many artists were able to express their new artistic reality solely in abstract forms. Within the European School some painters stood for the exlusivity of abstaction. Led by Ernő Kállai, a group of painters left the European School to form their own Gallery of Four Points group, also named Bioromanticism by Kállai, to reflect the notion of the basic similarities of the tiniest living components to the complexity of human existence.
This spin-off did not mean total rupture; the two schools maintained their ties. They jointly organized exhibitions - an impressive number of 38 exhibitions in three years. Apart from exhibitions they held lectures and also published. The founders intended to create an artistic movement that would also include literature and music.
Between 1945 and 1948 there had been occasional attacks on modern artistic movements. The political changes in Hungary after 1948 made all modernist artistic endeavours, including that of the European School, untenable.