The rediscovered classic of Arad

Biography of Jacques Faix

This biography was written with inspiration from the text of the book entitled Jacques Faix a classic of Arad under the auspices of the Hungarian Museum of Photography and other sources from the newspapers of the time, the material will be constantly updated, once new information will resurface.

Last update: 01.10.2021


Portrait of J.F. Vienna

Jacques Faix (Jakab Faix) was born in Arad, three years after the creation of the concept of Austro-Hungarian dualism, on June 29, 1870. His father, also Jacques, was the one who changed his first name from Jacob (Jakab) in Jacques, just to be in tune with the French resonant name, fashionable at the time.

The family does not know the origin of the name, some suspect a French connection (in medieval French "fais" meant wood bunch and was also the name of the one who collected and sold these woods), but it is certain that the name is very common even in the Central Germanic Europe area. In present-day Slovakia, where the family is believed to have come from to Arad, there was a large population of this name.

The father of the future piano maker and photographer was a tailor and married in Arad the daughter of the carpenter Koditek (Jacques Faix's grandfather). Jacques was born immediately the following year in his grandfather's house. This kinship is important because the young Jacques did his apprenticeship in his grandfather's workshop, in the same workshop where, for two years was also an apprentice the future famous painter, Munkacsy Mihaly.

What is certain is that the descendants, respectively the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who live now in Budapest, know very little about how the first Jacques (Jacques Faix's father), a tailor, arrived in Arad, just as it is not very clear to them where their French-sounding family name comes from. The family split in two after 1921, when Jacques Faix's only son, Frederic (Frigyes), remained in Budapest, while his father, a piano maker and photographer, remained in Arad with his second wife, Ilona Reitter.

With the help of his grandchildren, the Hungarian Museum of Photography attempted to create a genealogical tree of the Faix family on the occasion of the publication in 2004 of an album dedicated to the activity of the photographer Jacques Faix. As we have already learned, Jacques Faix is the result of his father's second marriage, being the couple's first child, followed at the age of three by his sister Anna, who left the world prematurely, at only 37, in 1910. After the death of his sister, married as Guld, Jacques Faix takes care of her son, Emil Guld, who follows him in his passion for the photographic art.

Historical context - the Neuman family

Neuman Pallace

There is evidence of a close connection between Jacques Faix and at least two members of the Neuman family. Adolf Neuman, who was ten years older than him and was part of the wealthy families of Arad in the second half of the 19th century, had a great influence on him. Even if there is no irrefutable evidence, it is plausible that after Alfred Neuman jr. born only a year after Jacques Faix was born, they knew each other, especialy as they were both going to study in Vienna and as they were both true offspring of the Arad bourgeoisie, this constellation leads us to believe that the two would frequent the same world in the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The Neuman family also came to Arad when Koditek Vince (Jacques Faix's grandfather) settled in the same town a few meters from the Neumann house, in the 1940s. The fulminant success of the Neuman family is due to the activity of the alcohol factory on the Pecica road, which raised them very quickly to the rank of family with a decisive role in the life of Arad. History says that Emperor Franz Joseph visited the city in 1884 for their sake, triggering the process that introduced the family to the ranks of the Austro-Hungarian nobility.

Jacques Faix was then 14 years old, a student preparing in his maternal grandfather's workshop to graduate from the School of Arts and Crafts in Arad, in 1889.

During that period, the two members of the Neuman family were also in Vienna, Adolf as a representative of the Arad family company, and Alfred jr. to study. If we take into account that Adolf was also passioned by photography, we might also understand the interest of the young Jacques in a new technique that opens up new perspectives in the art of representing reality, Alfred Neuman jr. being of the same age as Jacques, a possible companion of Jacques Faix in Vienna. History also tells us that the founding of the Photo Club was sponsored by Adolf Neuman. From the context of those related, one can deduce the influence that the Neuman family had on the trajectory of Jacques Faix.




After 7 years of intensive study and apprenticeship, Jacques Faix would become a master in the art of piano making. The courage of his age, less than 25 years old in 1895, led him to open a piano workshop in Vienna on Hofmuhlgasse 12, and he was quickly recognized for the perfect quality of his manufactured instruments.

In this context, he met his first wife, a renowned pianist in Vienna, Maria Pessek, whom he married in 1901.

Back to Arad

Self-portrait in the workshop in Arad with the disciples and the journeyman

During the investigation of Jacques Faix's biography, we asked ourselves, given his situation in Vienna (he excelled in all fields of activity), why did he return immediately after his marriage in Arad, remaining here until his death in 1950.

So far no one was able to send in the perfect solution, which is not strange.

From the correspondence of the time we learn that the director of the Arad Conservatory (Arad Conservatory, the first conservatory in Romania and the sixth in Europe; attests to the extremely important role of music in the cultural life of Arad, in the early nineteenth century.) proposes to Jacques Faix to return to Arad to organize and promote the style of Viennese musical life. The action also takes place at the initiative made public by the Neuman family to support those who will be able to add value to the social and cultural life of Arad.

Thus, after more than a decade of Viennese life, we find Jacques Faix in Arad, moving his piano workshop on Batthyani Street. He became fully involved in the social life of Arad by organizing music and piano concerts at the White Cross (now the Ardeal Hotel) and music evenings for the elite of society, in his house on Episcopiei Street. Arad was then in a very fast and productive period from a socio-economic and cultural point of view, perhaps unmatched since then.

In the same years, the second generation of the Neuman family founded the textile industry, being founded the first car factory in Eastern Europe, the rolling stock industry is in full swing, placing Arad among the first cities in which electric trains run . Musical life is also very much alive, the theater, also inaugurated by the emperor in the seventies of the nineteenth century is the meeting place of the protipendada. The sporting life, nautical but not only, in which the wealthy families of the city get involved frantically, would deeply mark the same historical period.

At least until the outbreak of the First World War, we have Jacques Faix, who is a true pole of local culture, both through the pianos he builds and through the photographs he takes in his studio, but especially through the organization of concerts at the White Cross and the evenings organized in the Piano Saloon in his house.

Ilona Reiter teaching their son Frigyes to play the piano

The remaining documents from this period give us the image of a city in obvious cultural effervescence, we list here the piano concerts organized in the hall of the White Cross hotel, held in the first phase by Mrs. Faix, the photographic exhibitions which were even more successful.

The photos taken during this period also give us an impression about the life of the Arad elite, about the way of life of the wealthy and show us something about the personality of Jacques Faix. The poet Ady Endre, who visited Arad several times, always stops at Faix's house, perhaps because he was enchanted above all by the beauty of Jacques' wife. Pablo Casals, performing in Arad, is also a notable guest of Jacques Faix's house. After the founding of the Arad Photo Club in 1906, through the care and hard work of Jacques Faix, the first national photographic exhibition on the territory of Hungary was to take place in 1907 in Arad. This event could be organized due to the involvement of Faix and Professor Matusek, the two photographers from Arad who were noticed both nationally and internationally on this occasion. In the following years, the two became internationally recognized, being awarded for their photographs in Budapest, Vienna, Paris and Berlin.

Ilona Reiter and their son, Frigyes on a trip

Personal photos from the life of the Faix family complete the picture, illustrating what it meant to be in the city's elite at the time. The piano maker and photographer from Arad had two cars and spent a long vacation with his family in Europe, arriving, as the photos on these occasions show, in the Alps, in the Tatra Mountains, in Switzerland, Italy, but of course in Transylvania or other places. from Austria-Hungary since then.

During the flowering of apples, they usually went to Austria, to Wachau, as evidenced by the countless photographs there. In addition to impressive landscapes with ruined cities or flowering nature, Jacques Faix's camera also captures images of the family idyll, the decoration of the Christmas tree, the maid setting the table or the wife always elegantly dressed with the young child of the two admiring the landscape in many excursions of these family years.

The photohgrapher Jacques Faix

Jacques Faix in the photo laboratory

Jacques Faix was not only a perfect piano builder, he was also a true pioneer of Arad's photographic art, which is why he hosted the first photo club in Arad. He quickly became part of the elite of "amateur" photographers in Hungary, so for example we remember that his works were mentioned in the magazine "A Feny" (The light). The photo club in Arad was a real cultural institution, offering members access to specialized magazines in Europe, in which not infrequently the photos of the of the Arad photographers were published in those magazines.

The semantics of some terms have evolved throughout historical times, so the term "amateur" that we used in the context of the photographic art of Jacques Faix should not be understood from the perspective of the XXI century, it is obvious that these "amateurs" have created real art and this because in opposition to the "professionals" who earned their living from photography (cliché photos or those taken at various events), amateurs had the freedom to experiment and photograph unique landscapes or poses, here's how the "Pictorialism" has born. Also during this period we can identify attempts to make photographic reports, and in this context it is important to remember that given the very high costs of technology and substances used at that time, "amateurs" were wealthy people who had the financial resources to to be able to dedicate oneself to this new art.

Award offered by the Arad Photo Club

The photo club in Arad fully illustrates this reality, of which the bourgeois elite in Arad, industrialists, doctors and pharmacists, teachers and senior civil servants are indeed part of it. The Neuman family was not a stranger to this club, a family from Arad who was seriously involved in charity and cultural support, especially through Alfred Jr. who had cultural interests similar to those of Jacques Faix, both belonging to the same generation.

Jacques Faix was a "pillar" of the Arad cultural society, this attribute is a natural one, if we consider that he was a member of many associations and clubs established for the empowerment of the city on Mureș, so for example we remember the fact that he owned several times the presidency of the Arad photo club or of the branch of the Transylvania Tourism Association. Jacques Faix tried to pass on his knowledge to others, which is why he organized several conferences in the field of photographic art, presenting innovative techniques and procedures.

Jacques Faix's photographic art can be marked by the "pictorialist" current, a current that is rooted in that era and that causes the photographer to get out of the comfort of the workshop and try to capture on film the greatness of nature, untouched daily life or real photographic paintings. Jacques Faix was a professional photographer, and his art was honored with a silver medal awarded to him in 1911 in Paris at the International Photography Exhibition.



Frigyes Faix - Sommelier

 Jacques Faix was a strong personality, who also manifested himself in the relationship with customers, so the anecdote is credible that Faix did not negotiate the price of pianos or photographs taken, and customers who tried a discussion in this direction had to expect the master to conclude it bluntly. In this behavior we identify not only the superiority of the social class to which it belonged, we note especially the respect for value, for the job well done, virtues increasingly foreign to the society in which we live today. Jacques Faix conveys to us, over time, a lesson that we should learn: the conscience to do things thoroughly and with dedication. the opportune moment, he spent hours in the gypsy district of Arad or in the surrounding villages to accustom the people, the subjects of his photographs, with his presence and with the specific equipment, thus trying to capture the naturalness that seemed so important in his photographic creation. He obviously had a conscience, perhaps unassumed, of the documentary filmmaker, his photographs of the gypsy neighborhood and more, fully proving this.

The interwar period, although prosperous and growing, does not leave much trace of Faix's life. His son was about to start a family in the Hungarian capital, from where he is trying to help his father and stepmother, but more details are not known or cannot be proven historically except that he was a recognized Sommelier. The interwar period, as we have shown above, is characterized by opulence, by the potentiation of the arts and a certain current characterized by an accepted frivolity - think only of nude artistic photographs - so a prolific period, but also the life and creation of Jacques Faix would enter the penumbra.

His last years

Jacques Faix 1948.06.24

A drama of a world that is ending ... And it is not necessarily the geopolitical changes after 1918, but the end of the “gentlemen’s” era, that concept which is represented by the way Jacques Faix lived and created. Jacques Faix was the exponent of the world and his time - a gentleman through education and aspirations, a true forum man who dedicated himself to the community, through his many intellectual qualities.

As we have already shown, we know relatively little about the life and interwar activity of Jacques Faix, the demise in 1950 being the end of another world and the beginning of the "glorious" period of all-conquering socialism in Eastern Europe. It requires a world that was no longer that of Jacques Faix, a world that he left at a respectable age - 80 years - a world in which his widow survived for another quarter of a century, trying to lead a honorable life.

Ilona - who was to be called Anna in memory of her husband's sister, who died too early - was a young woman of great beauty, courted by the great poet Ady Endre, but who became Jacques Faix's second wife and died in the 1980's in an apartment of their former house, transformed into housing for the working class of the new regime.

In 2004 the Hungarian Museum of Photography published a volume dedicated to Jacques Faix, the data in this book are not very consistent, but we find out that he was the president of the Arad photoclub immediately after the end of the First World War, and then as a key member of the club until its demise during World War II.

The Arad photoclub was to be reborn in 1968 and through the testimonies of those who laid the foundations of this authentic Arad cultural institution we know that Jacques Faix never gave up his passion that introduced him among the pioneers of photographic art in this part of the world, constantly participating in exhibitions and conferences, still taking photographs, documenting the life of those around him and the places he chose as his home in the early twentieth century to the detriment of Vienna.

At the phptpgraphy club - Arad 1946

Jacques Faix's biography followed the example of Baron Francisc Neuman, who decided to stay in Romania, moving his business representation from Vienna to Bucharest, being an industrialist who continued until the last moment to support Arad society and culture with all his might. the creation of the UTA football team was his last gesture before the implosion of the interwar world in the grip of the communist regime forcibly imported from Moscow.

Jacques Faix, although he participated in the life of the Arad photo club, including the few exhibitions organized in Arad in the interwar period (with the support of Vasile Goldiș), did not have the impact of his youth. The construction of pianos became more of a repair and tuning activity, and piano concerts and ballroom music no longer existed in the established format. The years after the war that he lived, meant the fall into oblivion, but he kept his dignity and the attitude of the educated man and of the man who contributed to the evolution of the Arad society in the most glorious period of the city of Arad.