In 1925 Sándor Bortnyik returned to Budapest after a long trip across Austria and Germany, where he opened up a poster design workshop which remained active until 1938. The Twentieth Century in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza collection is the painter’s tribute to his times. The subject of the work is industrial progress and technology — a central theme for the avant-garde of the age. The composition shows an ambiguous space that recalls El Lissitzky’s Proun paintings, combined with the presence of the “New Man” symbolised by robotised boxers, which also links up with the Russian artists’ pursuit of an athletic male image.
For this representation of the “New Man” Bortnyik also draws from the “triadic figures” of Oskar Schlemmer and the mechanical anatomies of Willi Baumeister, both of whom he met while at the Bauhaus. Furthermore, the underlying vision of the world conveyed by this painting may be related to man’s solitude in an increasingly mechanised world, a theme found in the paintings of both Léger and De Chirico.