Ernő Koch Fund

Koch 1936Graphic artist Ernő Koch, the emblematic figure of the Estonian-Hungarian relations, was born 120 years ago, on 8th August 1898, in Szászváros.


He attended Hungarian Royal Drawing School, Department of Graphic Arts, later studied also in the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig. Between 1921 and 1923, he worked for the Hungarian pharmaceutical company Chinoin, but also designed bank shares for the Hungarian National Bank. He was later asked by István Csekey, a law professor living in Estonia at that time to illustrate his book (Északi írások – Northern lights, 1928) and this led Koch living and creating in Estonia between 1926 and 1941.


Koch produced many ethnographical drawings of Estonian people and landscapes to Hungarian publishing houses and museums. At the same time he also took part in the Estonian cultural life, e.g. participating in the annual exhibitions of Cultural Capital and was also asked to create wall paintings to Theatre Vanemuine. In 1931, a personal exhibition of the artist was held in Tallinn, where he received recognition of local art critics. Koch was extraordinary detail-rich when he pictured historical cores of Estonian towns which form a great part of his Estonian heritage. Many of those cities had to suffer later from the World War II destructions that gives Koch's 1930s artwork nowadays a distinct value as a documentary material of history, preserving city views and cultural motifs that have been destroyed by now.


Capturing Estonian industrial areas occupied the artist at the end of the 1930s, as he was working both for Kiviõli Shale Oil Refinery and Lorop Glass Factory. In Koch's work, you can find quite many etchings and drypoints of the views of Kohtla-Järve and Kiviõli, but he also captured Krull machine factory, Tallinn Cellulose and Paper Factory and the Cotton Mill. The fact that he had connections with some higher government bodies is not a secret and is evidenced by the parade portrait of President Konstantin Päts, ordered from Koch to the president’s administrative building in 1939. On many occasions, Koch made trips to Finland on assignment to produce images of horses for the Army and the Finnish Horse Breeders Association.


Koch moved back from Estonia to Hungary in 1941, but was active there as well. Commissioned by the Budapest Municipal Government, he executed a series of etchings and drawings of the cityscape, and many times on buildings that were later on destroyed during the war. He escaped over the front line to Bavaria in 1944 and continued working in several places (Kempten, Altenstadt, Augsburg) and mastered the black and white photography in the displaced persons camp. After the end of the war, the artist traveled and painted German landscapes. His artwork often included churches and monasteries which later became for him a new art field to discover.


In 1949, Koch moved over to the United States, where he started working as a church interior designer, practically a new artistic field. Beautiful Koch’s stained glass windows can be found in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, but also in Mexico and Canada. Due to health reasons, he retired in 1962, but is was just a new opportunity to start again fresh: he mastered welding and opened a studio in Brentwood (Missouri), where he produced numerous welded pieces. At the end of the 1960s, his Old and New Testament woodcuts became also famous. He often said: “Everything is possible, only how to do it?” Ernő Koch died on 31st March, 1970, in the state of Missouri, St. Louis.


In 1944, before escaping from Budapest, Koch gave numerous works of his to Finnish diplomat Uno Koisinen. With the help of the Estonian House in Stockholm, out of his works 196 graphics arrived to Estonia in 2006. The Estonian Art Museum, the Tartu Art Museum and the Art Gallery of the Narva Museum have completed their own Koch-collections with these works, thus many were purchased by the Viru Keemia Grupp for its art collection. The rest of the works are handled by Haus Gallery for reselling, and many of Ernő Koch’s pictures related to Hungary can be found in our Institute. The revenue from selling is channeled to a special Ernő Koch Fund within the Estonian National Culture Foundation, with the aim to promote the Estonian-Hungarian cultural cooperation.


In case you would like to support the Estonian-Hungarian cultural cooperation, you are welcome to contribute through this Fund. The information necessary is as follows:


Beneficiary name: Sihtasutus Eesti Rahvuskultuuri Fond (The Estonian National Culture Foundation)
Account number:       EE117700771000664610 LHV Bank SWIFT / BIC: LHVBEE22
                                   EE672200221001101347 Swedbank SWIFT / BIC: HABAEE2X
Please indicate: annetus Ernö Kochi fondi (support to the Ernő Koch Fund).