József Rippl-Ronai went to study at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich in 1884, where he worked in Johann Caspar Herterich's studio. In 1887 he went to Paris to continue his studies and worked for two years in the studio of Mihaly Munkácsy, a Hungarian Realist painter then living in Paris. He became friends with Aristide Maillol, Bonnard and Vuillard and, influenced by the work of James Whistler, Eugène Carrière and later Maurice Denis, he joined the Nabis. While in France, he contributed to the periodical La Revue blanche. He returned to Hungary in 1902, travelling to France once more in 1914.
Rippl-Ronai's work as a young man in 1889 was sombre, giving rise to the name 'black style' for this period. He then spent several months in Banyuls-sur-Mer in Roussillon, where the light brightened his palette and inspired him to turn to landscape; nonetheless he retained his old Paris habit of outlining flat areas of colour with thick, black brushstrokes and sharp outlines. After he returned to Hungary, he abandoned the refinement of Art Nouveau and adopted a brilliantly coloured Pointillist style. At the same time, in keeping with local tastes, he tended towards popular Narrative Realism, while retaining some of the Japonisme of his Nabi period. He took part in public life, making posters, decorating ceramics and designing tapestries, on one notable occasion decorating the Androssy palace in Budapest. After World War I he abandoned oil painting for pastels. His mastery of this technique reached its height in the series of portraits of his writer friends which he did towards the end of his life.
Rippl-Ronai took part in various increasingly successful group exhibitions, breathing new life into Hungarian art (1917, Magyar Nemzeti Gallery, Budapest, and Kaposvár). After his death his work was exhibited once more in Budapest ( 1947, 1952), and in shows such as Beöthy and the Hungarian Avant-Garde ( Beöthy et l'avant-garde hongroise) (Galerie Franka Berndt, Paris, 1984); the retrospective Les Nabis organised by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux and held in the Grand Palais, Paris (1993), and József Rippl-Ronai: The Hungarian Nabi ( József Rippl-Ronaï le Nabi hongrois), Musée Maurice-Denis, St-Germain-en-Laye, 1998.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Budapest (Szépmuvészeti Múz.): Portrait of Bonnard; Portrait of the Artist's Grandmother; Portrait of Lajos Rippl-Ronai
Paris (MNAM-CCI): Portrait of Aristide Maillol
Paris (Mus. d'Orsay): Park at Night (pastel)