ROMANIAN ART COLLECTION

Romanian medieval art

            Pentru cei mai mulți dintre noi este greu de înțeles azi fervoarea cu care credincioșii iconoduli din Bizanțul secolului al VIII-lea au luat asupră-le martiriul, pentru a apăra icoana. Una dintre cauzele acestei dificultăți este faptul că (aflându-ne în afara cultului ortodox) privim icoana ca pe un tablou, incluzând-o – ca iconoclaștii – printre numeroasele forme de manifestare ale artei. Or icoana nu este un obiect de artă, este teologie. Are aceeași funcție și, uneori, un impact mai puternic și mai i-mediat decât cuvântul Evangheliei. Ea este „darul Bisericii către ochiul omenesc”. Ceea ce iconodulii apărau în icoană nu era dreptul de a decora Biserica cu imagini, ci dreptul la imaginea lui Dumnezeu, ca o confirmare a Adevărului Întrupării. Acest drept l-a instituit însuși Hristos, când i-a trimis lui Abgar ștergarul pe care era imprimat chipul Său (creând astfel icoana cea nefăcută de mână omenească - acheiropoietos), gest prin care a conferit icoanei calitatea de re-producere a Prezenţei Sale și, astfel, puterea vindecătoare. Ulterior, acest drept a fost confirmat de Maica Sa, când a șezut înaintea Apostolului Luca pentru a fi reprezentată într-o imagine.

             Imaginea prezentă în icoană, nu este și nu va fi niciodată, de-a lungul secolelor de iconografie ortodoxă, rodul imaginației, al fanteziei aleatorii sau al pornirilor idealizante. Ea se bazează pe „ce am văzut cu ochii noștri”, spune Ioan Evanghelistul, adică pe vederea de care s-au învrednicit contemporanii lui Hristos și apoi cei ai sfinților. Această vedere a fost consemnată, sub forma unor specificații clare privind trăsăturile prototipului, în Erminii. Chipul iconic exprimă astfel „fidelitatea faţă de memoria unei fizionomii originare” (L. Uspenski). Trăsăturile prototipului sfânt sunt întipărite în materia icoanei (fie că este vorba de un obiect portabil, fie că este vorba de pereţii lăcaşului de cult), printr-o tehnică tradiţională (encaustică, mozaic, frescă, tempera pe lemn, etc.). Numele prototipului este înscris pe fond, chipul este sobru, liniștit, sustras psihologismelor, iar trupul reprezentat este cel înviat. Atunci când subiectul icoanei este un eveniment (icoana prăznicară), descrierea vizuală reunește sub forma imaginii afirmațiile Scripturii circumscrise acestuia. O icoană ca Întâmpinarea Domnului (2 februarie) asociază în scena reprezentată, atât Vechiul cât și Noul Testament prin participanți (Maica Domnului, Hristos prunc, Dreptul Simeon, Prorocița Ana și Sfântul Iosif), precum și prin semnificația întâlnirii lor. În varianta tipologică de la Muzeul de Artă Craiova, Fecioara tocmai L-a așezat pe Pruncul Hristos în brațele lui Simeon care se înclină pentru a-L primi. Ochii Mamei rămân fixați pe Prunc, Care Își întinde mâinile către ea, în timp ce Simeon privește cu recunoștință la izvorul Darului pe Care L-a așteptat îndelung. „Schimbul” se desfășoară în fața sau deasupra spațiului mesei sacrificiale. Pe masă se află o carte, posibil Scriptura. La stânga Mariei se află Prorocița Ana, care vorbește cu Iosif (Lc. 2, 36-38), acesta din urmă ținând două turturele mici pe care le-a adus pentru a fi jertfite, conform legii iudaice (Lc. 2, 24, Lev. 5, 7-8). Simeon și Iosif își acoperă cu voalul veșmintelor mâinile care poartă ofrandele (Num. 4, 4-15). Icoana Întâmpinării ne prezintă „o Golgota liturgică anticipând jertfa de Sine a Dumnezeului lui Israel pe propriul său altar străvechi.” (Maximos Constas)

             Icoanele erau lucrate de iconari, care, conform Erminiei trebuiau să aibă o viață curată, să postească și să fie deprinși cu rugăciunea. În vechime, erau consacrați printr-o ierurgie specială în prima zi de Paşti. Fiind un obiect la crearea căruia Duhul Sfânt contribuie direct, iconarii nu-și asumau calitățile lucrării, spunând că lor le aparține ceea ce nu e reușit în icoană. Tocmai pentru a întări absența oricărei revendicări asupra operei, aceștia nu se semnau pe icoană așa cum o fac pictorii pe tablou. Iconarul nu dorește să se facă recunoscut prin marca individualității, a „stilului” personal, ci se remarcă prin „fidelitatea creatoare cu care accesează textul-suport" (Sorin Dumitrescu). El nu-şi imaginează propria viziune: modelul său este vedenia avută de sfânt.

             Ulterior, „meşteşugul s-a risipit sub povara unor procedee artistice contrafăcute sentimental, raportarea creştinilor la realitatea iconică s-a diluat, coborând undeva, la confluenţa dintre pietismul edulcorant şi inconştienţa prostului gust. Pseudo-morfozele produse şi mai apoi dictate de tirania modelelor apusene au determinat decăderea icoanei la nivelul - deopotrivă angelizant şi naturalist - al tabloului religios.” (L. Uspenski).

             Tabloul cu temă religioasă a apărut în Occi­dent, după Marea Schismă, spre finalul secolului al XI-lea. Chiar dacă în el sunt prezente un sentiment religios sau un subiect biblic, tema abordată suferă interpolări ingenioase de natură compozițională, cu scopul plasării evenimentului în proximitatea credinciosului sau cu intenția declanșării unor reacții de milă (pietism) din partea privitorului. În reprezentarea personajelor „fidelitatea creatoare” față de prototipul originar este înlocuită, fie cu opțiunea pentru un model luat din arta Antichității grecești, fie cu reproducerea naturalistă a trăsăturilor modelului, uneori anonim, alteori identificabil în cercul de cunoscuți al artistului. Prin toate acestea, tabloul rămâne o operă de artă de sine stătătoare, care trezește emoții estetice, pe când icoana reprezintă un urcuș spre Arhetip.

             Iconografia românească pornește, ca în toată Europa răsăriteană, de la modelul bizantin. Majoritatea icoanelor românești și balcanice sunt lucrate în tempera pe lemn. În general, reproduc, cu unele particularități locale, vechile prototipuri create în centrul de artă bizantină din Ohrida, în secolele XIII-XIV. Icoanele de la începutul secolului XVI se caracterizează printr-o concepție monumentală, evidentă în proporția siluetelor înalte, de o căutată eleganță. Prin tehnica lor, prin desen, draparea corpurilor și sugerarea arhitecturilor, par rupte din ansamblurile murale. Cele de secol XVII prezintă un colorit mai bogat, mai viu decât în perioada anterioară. Desenul își pierde caracterul sintetic, iar pitorescul detaliilor, liniatura filigranată care tivește veșmintele și arhitecturile suplinesc pierderea concepției monumentale și absența expresivității figurilor. Ele aparțin epocii brâncovenești și scot la iveală inserția elementelor baroce în tratarea mobilierului și arhitecturilor alături de realizarea în manieră tradițională a figurilor. Pictura este luxoasă în execuție și impresionează prin caracterului ei fastuos. În patrimoniul Muzeului de Artă se află icoane aparținând acestei tipologii, dar datând din secolele XVIII și XIX.

             Una dintre cele mai des întâlnite teme iconografice este „Deisis” (rugăciunea). Reprezintă rugăciunea „mijlocitoare” - în fața privitorului, central, se află Mântuitorul (Pantocrator - Atotputernicul), ținând Evanghelia în mâna stângă și binecuvântând cu dreapta. De-a dreapta și de-a stânga Sa se află Maica Domnului și Sf. Ioan Botezătorul, cei mai puternici rugători pentru iertarea păcatelor. Tema are variațiuni în funcție de accentul care se pune, fie pe reprezentarea Atotputerniciei lui Hristos (prezența explicită a tronului, veșmântului arhieresc, dimensiunile mici ale intercesorilor) sau a Judecății de Apoi – scenă în care necesitatea invocării milei divine duce la creșterea în importanță a prezenței intercesorilor, aceștia ocupând în iconomia reprezentării un spațiu mai mare. Icoana Sfintei Treimi în care, alături de Iisus și de Duhul Sfânt (în chip de porumbel), este prezent Dumnezeu Tatăl, în ipostaza consacrată drept „Cel vechi de zile”, este o considerată a fi o reprezentare de origine apuseană. Apărută prin sec. al XVI-lea, pornind de la un model bizantin intitulat „Paternitate”, atestat în sec. al XI-lea de Ioan Scărarul, se bazează pe imaginație și nu respectă Erminia, ce spune că Dumnezeu-Tatăl nu poate fi reprezentat, deoarece nimeni nu l-a văzut. A apărut ca o transpunere în iconografie a doctrinei filioque.

The beginning of Romanian Art

“Tell me, you skillfull painter,

‘Bout my far, far off lady

And how I would make her

Through my poems very famous.”

(Gheorghe Asachi, At the painter)

In most art museums one can see a gallery presenting the forerunners of the lay painting, but for some people this can be similar to a “curiosities room”, mostly because the works can be included in the “naïve” or “primitive” painting.

But the real question here is in which category can we include these clumsy, full of drawing and perspective errors’ works that are the result of ingenuous and spontaneous behavior, due to the absence of academic education. A more careful research uncovered that many of the artists naturalized in the Romanian space (Schiavoni, Valștain, Chladek or Schoefft) studied in Vienna, Milan or Paris, having thus the possibility to become familiar with the great European art.

 However, the manner in which they worked it’s very similar to the one used by local artists, that continued a very different tradition. Often the viewers can’t see beyond the expression stereotypes and the clumsiness of attitudes. Although they find excuses for all these venerable forerunners of Romanian painting, they aren’t admiring them, complaining about the lack of naturalness and the vital thrill on the faces that, blackened by the times, were left in our care. And, because in some cases the works were anonymous, that makes even harder to explain the similarities, if any, between different portraits made by the same painter, but with different backgrounds.

The easel painting started in the Romanian Countries only at the beginning of the XIXth Century, and the fashion of hanging paintings on the walls was brought over at the end of the XVIIIth Century, by the Austrian and Russian officers, of the occupying armies.

In those times long gone in the Romanian society there were two groups of people: those that believed that they will lose a part of their soul when their portrait is made and those that were educated and travelled frequently in Western Europe, visiting museums and private collections of art. The second group became the consumers of the “new type of art”, and because of those former church painters (the ones that separated in 1887 from the “wall painters”, transformed from icon painters into portrait makers (Ion Balomir, Nicolae Polcovnicul) and from medieval illustrators of miniatures into modern illustrators of popular books (Petrache Logofătul, Năstase Negrule).

Although they changed the way they depicted the face, they remained very much attached to the centuries old traditions, the portraits being very hieratic, and the drawings were clumsy. There are some exceptions though, one of them being Eustație Altini (1772?- 1815). Formed in the Vienna academic environment, where he went with a state scholarship, he got the chance to be in direct contact with the Neoclassicism. He assimilated the perspective and the chiaroscuro, adapting them to the rigors of the orthodox iconography, connecting thus the Romanian church painting with the European Academism, a path followed by Constantin Lecca, Mișu Popp and Gheorghe Tattarescu.

The boyars’portraits, because they are the main beneficiaries, are put in golden frames- as an attribute of the social status, and are adorned with all the medals and honors received from the ruler.

The clothing, chosen with great care, it’s a testimony about the rank of the portrayed person. In the painting can appear other elements containing information about the identity of the portrayed – a letter on which one can see the name and the rank of the model, his occupation – or objects like a sword or a military costume, law books, a musical instrument, the plans of an estate etc. All these can point to one thing only: the social portrait was more important than the physical or psychological one. Sometimes, the model was represented younger than he/she was.

Some artistic “defects” aren’t the fault of the artists, but in many cases they were the influence of the tastes and misconceptions of the portrayed people. For example, famous and public ( was published in “ Albina românească” around 1844) it’s the testimony of a painter about the quarrel with his model (a woman) about a spot on her neck, which the artists said it’s just the unavoidable shadow and which for the lady, was a impiety on her bright white skin.

The itinerant artists that came to Romania around 1830 were the “craftsmen” of Central Europe that found here a good market, in accordance with their taste and the perspective of becoming rich quickly. They were almost all of them portrait makers. Sometimes they announce their arrival with the help of a commercial. If the commercial was followed by good references, the painter was assaulted by orders, sometimes being forced to make concessions to techniques or materials.

One of the best known such artist, with paintings in many Romanian museums was Iosef August Schoefft (1809-1888). Being of German origin, his parents established themselves in Pest, Hungary, in the XVIIIth Century. He arrived in Bucharest, escaping home because his parents didn’t approve of his marriage. He paid for a commercial in Curierul Românesc and then he opened an exhibition in a room at Sfântul Sava College and attracted a numerous public.

Very good portrait maker, he showed off the sweet, longing looks and the elegant silhouettes of the young ladies. But, he also made some portraits of old ladies, not very flattering for the models because he didn’t idealize their features and he also presented their real age, compensating this by painting them with plumes and flowers in their hair and with jewelry on their arms and fingers ( The Portrait of Mrs. Balș). If colours are used abundantly when making portraits of ladies, for the gentlemen’s portraits he used a lot the achromatism, more suitable to their status and the seriousness of their pursuit (Portrait of a man).

Achilles’s heal in Schoefft’s case are the children’s portraits, because that’s when he gets into trouble. When a father wanted a family portrait with his two children (Family scene in a park, 1836) the children’s features are unsure due to the lack of routine and the fact that he was not familiar with the anatomy and the physiognomy of young subjects. By looking at the same painting we can conclude that, after the first quarter of the XIXth Century the dark background is abandoned, from time to time, in favor of the landscape.

Anton Chladek (1794-1882), a Czech from the Serbian Banat region, arrived in Bucharest around 1835, where he stayed for the rest of his life. A very cultivated man (he spoke five languages fluently) and with elegant manners, he became a much appreciated guest in the big boyars’ houses. He was an exceptional miniatures painter, a lithographer and a portrait maker. He thoroughly studied rings and lace before painting them, neglecting the expressions and characters of the models (Portrait of a woman in blue). In his paintings, executed in a graphical style, the clothing’ details are more important than the pale physiognomy, without volume in the background, in opposition with the concreteness and force of the jewelry and other auxiliaries that softened the planimetry. In other words, as very well put it Paul Cornea, it’s “all about treating the living parts as if they were dead, and the objects as if they were beings.”

The conclusion that can be drawn is that these portraits represented rather effigies, symbols of the respect that the models desired. For this reason the faces had to be reproduced in such a manner so that they included the sense of immortality and not the organic pulse of people made of flesh and bones.



Constantin Lecca

1807 - 1887

Constantin Lecca was born in 1807, in Brașov, being the first of the three children of the family. He went to the Romanian School in Șcheii Brașovului, from 1814 to 1826. One year later, in 1827, he will continue his studies in Wien and Budapest, where he studied painting untill 1833 when he established himself in Craiova.

Lecca’s coming to Craiova was possible due to the fact that in 1832 The Organic Regulations supplemented the drawing and calligraphy’ hours that were studied in Craiova and Bucharest’ schools. In Bucharest, at Sfântul Sava School, Carol Valștain was appointed as a teacher of drawing, and in Craiova, at the Central School (nowadays Carol the 1st National College), was appointed Constantin Lecca. He became thus the first teacher of drawing and calligraphy in Oltenia and he trained, among others, important names such as: Theodor Aman, Petre Alexandrescu, Costache Petrescu and Constantin Zaman.

In Craiova, Constantin Lecca took part in a rich cultural-artistic life and he also got married with Victoria Otetelișeanu, in 1836. With Ion Heliade Rădulescu’ help and ruler Alexandru Ghica’s approval, Lecca founded the first printing house in Craiova. That’s where he printed on 3rd October, 1838, Mozaikul, the first cultural magazine. He set up a studio in his house in Craiova and he realized a lot of oil paintings, lithographs, engravings and drawings, the favorite themes being historical compositions and portraits of the Otetelișeanu family, Romanian rulers and high political and military dignitaries.

One of the first portraits made by Lecca when settling in Craiova is the portrait of the cupbearer Gheorghe Coțofeanu. This portrait was discovered in a private collection from Bucharest and was bought by The Art Museum of Craiova. Painted on a blue background, the portrait presents the governor of the Romanați County, dressed up in Oriental clothes. On the bottom of the painting, left and right, with letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, are written the name of the character and its social position.

Among the historical compositions we can enumerate also the killing of the Brâncoveanu family. The work, a composition with many characters, evokes a tragical event from the history of Wallachia: the killing of the Romanian ruler Constantin Brâncoveanu and of his four sons. Inspired by a very tragic event that happened in Istanbul, on 15th April, 1714, the painting reminds us of the moment in which Mateiaș Brâncoveanu, the youngest son of the ruler is implored by the father to die with dignity.The boy is in the middle of the composition and it’s dressed in a yellow tunic, tight violet trousers and brown shoes. A feminine character, on one knee, has her arms around the young boy. In the left side, two characters dressed in Oriental clothes (Turkish slippers, wide trousers, girdle and turban) are holding the child really tight, pulling him towards them. On the left side, Constantin Brâncoveanu, seen from the right, is represented standing up, with one hand near the girdle area and the other raised towards the sky, as if requesting attention, both hands being handcuffed. Brâncoveanu is wearing a blue shirt and has a dark brown cloak on his right arm. On the right side of the painting the Sultan Ahmed the 3rd is sitting on a throne supported by two pillars and adorned by a curtain with tassels. The sultan is wearing wide trousers, a girdle and a turban. Four dignitaries are sitting close to the sultan, with arrogant and accusatory faces. On the right side, in the center, we can see the back of a character dressed in a black Turkish military uniform, wearing a helmet with a head protection, wide trousers and scimitar. In the background there is a scaffold and on it there are three heads (Ienache Văcărescu, Constantin and Ștefan Brâncoveanu). The executioner is getting ready to behead Radu Brâncoveanu. A number of Janissaries and a large audience participate at the scene in Iali Kiosk Square in Istanbul. A part of the Topcapî Palace is also visible and the dome and minaret of a mosque.

Constantin Lecca painted religious themes, too. A part of the frescoes of Sfântul Ilie and Madona Dudu Churches, in Craiova, were painted by him. He was part of the group of Transylvanian painters that activated in the south part of Romania, together with Mișu Popp and Carol Popp de Szathmary. In 1851 he settled in Bucharest where he taught technical and artistic drawing at Sfântul Sava College. He also continued to make portraits of dignitaries and rich people of Bucharest such as: The Portrait of Barbu Știrbei, The Portrait of Vasile Racottă, The Portrait of Ecaterina Manu.

Constantin Ghica appointed him as a ”serdar” (cavalry commander).

Constantin Lecca died on 13th October 1887, in Bucharest.

Theodor Aman

1831 - 1891

Only by chance Theodor Aman wasn’t born in Craiova, where his father had a house located not far from Sfânta Treime Church and Central School, but in Câmpulung Muscel, at his father’s estate, on 20th March, 1831. The Aman family was at the estate due to the plague epidemy of 1830. A few months after Theodor’s birth, the family came back to Craiova and Dimitrie Aman resumed his position as “inspector of measures and right judgments”.

 Theodor Aman was enrolled at The Central School where the future artist had the chance to study drawing with Constantin Lecca and, then, from 1846, when he transferred to Bucharest, at Sfântul Sava College, where he benefited from drawing lessons with Carol Valștain (painter and teacher and the first to print a drawing manual in Wallachia).

 The biggest supporter of Aman’s artistic aspirations was his mother, Despina (Pepica) Aman, of Greek origin, a very energetic lady with refined taste who wanted that all her children to go to school. Thus, for seven years, between 1850 and 1857, Aman studied in Paris, in Michel Martin Drolling and François Edouard Picot’ studios. From the artistic point of view, this was the period in which the European realism was exhausting its last resources and the Romantic Movement was surviving mainly through historical compositions, very fashionable in the French high society.

 1853 was going to be a very important year for both Aman and the Romanian modern art that was just beginning to emerge. In this year, a Self-portrait signed by Theodor Aman, would pass the scrutiny of the very demanding jury of the Official Saloon in Paris and will get a favorable mention in the press of that time. We can consider it a historic moment, this being the first mention of Romanian art in connection with European art. Once back to Romania Theodor Aman will use all his artistic, intellectual and financial resources to bring the cultural-artistic life of Wallachia, and then of The United Principalities, as close as possible to a more European climate. His efforts paid off in the end, despite the adversities of the epoch.

 At Aman’ suggestion, in 1864, the ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza signed the decree of the setting up of the School of Fine Arts in Bucharest. Theodor Aman would be, for 25 years, the director of the School, although it would never bear his name.

 Committed to the young generation that he encouraged constantly, Theodor Aman initiated and morally supported, through his personality, the first real Romanian Art Saloons, starting with 1865, under the title: The Exhibition of Living Artists. He was trying, in this manner, to fulfill one of his Enlightenment thoughts: “when a nation begins to appreciate and enjoy beauty, it is making an important step towards the elevation of its moral level”.

 His key contribution to the promoting of the new generation of Romanian painters is proven by the support he gave to Nicolae Grigorescu to exhibit 30 works, in 1870, at The Exhibition of Living Artists. The critics of the time mentioned this exhibition with the title “Precious Saloon” and Grigorescu’s success was compensated with 1st Class Medal.

 Through his entire artistic life Theodor Aman was a real founder, succeeding in compressing in just a few decades, the evolution of the European art, from Classicism to plein air-ism, Romanticism and Realism, until the end of the XIXth Century when the Impressionism was about to emerge. That is why, Oscar Walter Cisek, in Aman’s monography printed in 1931, at Ramuri Printing House, in Craiova, said that Aman was „the monsignor” of the Romanian art.

 Aman is the person that managed to impose the status of the visual artist in a society that was just beginning to modernize and to become more Western like. From a simple “craftsman”, a painter of fine things, because of Theodor Aman “the painter” becomes the exponent of the intellectual artist, seeker and creator of beauty, that is nothing more than the manifest of the truth.

 The history painting, with subjects from important historical events, genre scenes with characters inside or in the courtyard of his house from Bucharest, still lives, rustic or urban landscapes, aspects from his own studio, are the themes that Aman painted for the first time in the Romanian modern painting and are still visible today. Because they chose predominantly peasant themes, Theodor Aman and Nicolae Grigorescu, together, influenced the appearance of the Poporanist and Sămănătorist movements in the Romanian culture.

 He tried his hand in a less spectacular area, the miniature, continuing thus the painstaking work of Romanian miniature painters from XVIth –XVIIIth Centuries.

 Many miniatures, painted in oil on wood, were a very necessary exercise for Aman. When making compositions with many characters, one can observe, on the reverse side of some of them, miniature portraits that are recognizable in the painting.

 In 1872, through personal efforts, Theodor Aman initiated courses of etching, at The Academy of Fine Arts in Bucharest. He was, in fact, the founder of the reproductive engraving’ course at the Academy. He tried to fulfill his Unionist ideals by depicting The Union of the Romanian Principalities and other subjects related to the Romanian fight for Independence.

 The Art Museum of Craiova owns thirty-one oil paintings and eighty-nine graphic works by Theodor Aman. The majority of these works came from Alexandru and Aristia Painting Gallery, an important part of the museum’s patrimony.

 True examples of the refinement of the academist current, the portraits of Alexandru and Aristia Aman can be admired in the Aman room.

From academism to the plain air

Nicolae Grigorescu

1838-1907

Nicolae Grigorescu was the painter that gave the Romanian painting a new push, making it more realistic and bringing it closer to the novelties of the European Art of the moment.

 He started his career as an Academicist painter, but, unlike other artists he overcame this stage.

 He was born in the Pitaru village, not far from Bucharest, in a peasant house, surrounded by many brothers. Thanks to circumstances that made the family to move to Bucharest, the 10 years old boy entered, as apprentice in Anton Chladek studio. He managed, thus at a very young age, to be on his own, together with an elder brother, also “a house painter”. He painted religious paintings, when working alone. One can see his fondness for the surrounding environment and acquaintances in the pronounced individuality of his biblical characters.

 After a first failed attempt to go to Paris, Grigorescu arrived, finally, in 1861, in France. He attended Sebastien Cornu studio, where he was colleague with Renoir. But soon he left Cornu studio, giving up willingly the material advantages that he would acquire by following up such a master.

He preferred choosing the path of freedom, together with the painters from The Fontainebleau Forest. Arriving in Barbizon and adopted by his older colleagues, Grigorescu passed through a short but decisive transformation, acquiring influences from different directions. First of all, Millet’s prestigious example regarding the insertion of people in the landscape, and then Corot’s example in rendering trees, intimate corners in nature.

Studying after predecessors like Rembrandt, Gerricault, Salvator Roso, Prud’hon and Rubens, in museums, he took what was in accordance with his ideas and temperament, forming his own version, but in conformity with the real spirit of the Barbizon painters. In Grigorescu’s paintings you can grasp the contact with the French painting. His option for the plain-air will be decisive for the way he envisioned the landscape and some changes can be seen in the compositions with people. From the Academist portrait made with the help of studio modeling, he passed through romantic, chiaroscuro and then to powerful images in which the line doesn’t delineate the form anymore. The form is composed from spots of colors, only. Grigorescu’s faces were made with large and nervous brush touches and had a great power of suggestion, emphasizing the characters moods. An important place in Grigorescu’s work is held by portraits of anonymous beings, overcoming thus the Academic mentality that was concerned more with portraying characters with a well established social hierarchy.

Jewish faces attracted him through their picturesque appearance. The painter created real images of humanity combining features typical for precarious social and material circumstances with ethnical ones. Portraits of young women, with dreamy, nostalgic and mysterious eyes, full of poetry, or faces of young peasant girls, cheerful, agile, proud of their folk costumes. He did all this with one purpose: to create a national painting where the artists should emphasize the beauty and kindness of ordinary people that are the main characters in his painting.

Grigorescu’s participation as a volunteer painter in The Independence War can be seen as a new stage in his creation. The painter gave up painting historical conventional scene and started working on dynamic compositions. A fine draftsman, the painter caught in a series of sketches, a diversity of battle and campaign scenes, showing thus the reality of the war. He made also some oil sketches because these are capable of expressing a greater force when depicting battle scenes, as we can see in the painting The Smârdan Attack.

But Grigorescu’s greatest contribution to the visual world is the landscape.

This genre, disregarded in the past was the painter’s main subject for a long period. The narrative painting is replaced by lyricism. The painter transforms the landscape from a conventional and lifeless background into a space of poetic equilibrium, becoming more and more subjective. This change was connected with the plain-air technique, adapted by the painter to his own needs, but different from the one used by the painters from Barbizon.

The manner in which he painted the landscapes from the North part of France, using a thick paste, through small strokes of the brush, it’s not identical to the one in which he depicted the Romanian hills, whose light imposed, depending the distance at which the objects are placed in space, the combination of short, energetic strokes of the brush with longer ones, with transparencies, sometimes with the painting knife.

In the French landscapes of Vitré, the colors are vivid, mostly shades of brown and blue. In Romanian’ landscapes the colors are more blurred. Over the green of the vegetation, or the blue of the summer sky, the shades of grey and white become more and more frequent in the last part of Grigorescu’s life, in the so-called white period. Wagon with oxen crossing a riverbed it’s a work from the transition period.

A characteristic feature of Grigorescu’s landscapes is the unbreakable connection between the natural environment and Man, the painter integrating the peasant and his daily life. In the middle of the nature the peasant’s behavior it’s a normal one, without any dramatic gestures. Evoking the rural life, the painter made a true monograph, describing scenes from the daily life, where a wagon with oxen crosses a riverbed, other wagons are loaded with hay or presenting a peasant ploughing his field.

Nicolae Grigorescu subjected the surrounding reality to a selective process, adapted to his spirit: choosing the hills area, his preference for a certain type of man and woman, for a certain age, youth preferably, for a certain season, like summer, for instance. This selective process is in fact his idealized, unique perspective.

Without really going to a painting school, Nicolae Grigorescu made a lot of painters, even the ones schooled in the Academicist spirit, passed to new forms of visual expression.


Ștefan Luchian
Nicolae Tonitza
Iosif Iser

Gheorghe Petrașcu

1872 - 1949

The painter was born in 1872, in Tecuci, as the youngest of the three sons of Costache and Elena Petrovici. His elder brother, Nicolae Petrașcu (1856-1943) would become diplomat, art historian, writer and publicist, and Vasile Petrașcu (1863-1945), the middle son, would become doctor.

 During highschool he caught the attention of the biology teacher and thus, after graduating, he went to the Natural Science Faculty in Bucharest.

His artistic calling would determine him to gave up natural science studies, and in 1893, he would enroll at the National Fine Arts School, finishing it five years later.

As a fine arts student he had the opportunity to visit the studio of the great master Nicolae Grigorescu, one of the artists he will appreciate all his life. At the same time, Nicolae Grigorescu, observing his talent, would ask Spiru Haret, who was the Ministry for Public Instruction, to give Petrașcu a fellowship, in Munich and Paris. Petrașcu expressed his gratitude towards Haret through a letter in which he wrote that „he will try his best to comply with such a precious and great kindness”.

One of his teachers at Julian Academy, in Paris, was the painter William Adolphe Bougereau, the author of Biblical scene from The Art Museum of Craiova’s European Gallery.

In the “City of lights”, Petrașcu had the opportunity to be in contact with the artistic life and to visit the big museums, having as examples painters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Velasquez. In his early period he painted at Agapia and Nicorești monasteries.

His first personal exhibition was organized in 1900, at Ateneul Român, in Bucharest. His first buyers were the writers Alexandru Vlahuță and Barbu Ștefănescu Delavrancea. He received words of praise from his friend, the painter Ștefan Luchian and from the architect Ion Mincu, the latter observing in the paintings „a very good perception” and “delicacy of feeling”. One year later he founded, together with visual artists Ștefan Popescu, Ipolit Strâmbu, Kimon Loghi, Arthur Verona, Ștefan Luchian, Nicolae Vermont, Frederic Storck, the association “Tinerimea Artistică”, exhibiting his paintings along them.

His next national and international exhibitions can be considered stages in the process of completing and defining his talent. His works from our museum are representative for his favorite themes: landscapes from Dobrudja, lonely houses, portraits, flowers and rustic interiors. The Dobrudja landscape was captured in two works: Market place in Turtucaia and Mosque in Mangalia and we can observe the perfect equilibrium between earth, water and sky and the color accents.

Petrașcu travelled a lot in Spain, Greece, Egypt, England, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and France, in search of the places and landscapes that had inspired Nicolae Grigorescu before him.Testimony of these travels abroad are the paintings: Lanscape with windmill and Interior court. Landscape with windmill was painted in France, in Brittany, in a austere and deep manner, characteristic of Petrașcu’s painting. In this small painting we can observe an abandoned windmill and a house that seems to be suspended between sky and earth in a strange atmosphere.

During his trips the painter will be attracted by old buildings with an important historical meaning as in the case of the San Pietro di Castello Church, the Venice’s cathedral until 1809. This church’s old walls were the source of inspiration for the painting Interior court, from our collection and other works such as Venice- court of a monastery or Cortile d’Abbazia, from different public and private art collections.

Ruins in Târgoviște, painted in 1931, speaks about history and the charm of the past. Is in this town that the artist built a house in which he will have a studio. Târgoviște, the first capital of Wallachia, will be to Petrașcu what Câmpina was for Grigorescu. This painting is one of the best of Petrașcu’s creations, presenting a part of the former Royal Court in Târgoviște, with the famous Chindia tower in the left, and a corner of a church and a man that’s close to it. The silhouette of the man gets lost in the greatness of the monuments that surround him. The thick, abundant paste, with shiny reflections, depicts the atmosphere of those old times.

The monuments seem to be merging with the earth, through a dramatic fusion of colors. The monuments are seen from a frontal perspective, with accents of shiny ochres, profound green and pale red, using the simultaneous contrast of colours.

Gheorghe Petrașcu was a solitary, equilibrated person. His sources of inspiration were few, among them: landscapes, flowers, houses, but also relatives and a few friends.

The characters chose by the painter are very familiar to him, both mentally and physically. The painter’s wife, Lucreția, and his children, Iorgu and Mariana, appeared in a large number of paintings. In our collection we have a Portrait, where his wife is presented with a nostalgic look on her face. There are not many colors, blue being the dominant one, inspiring calm, serenity and spirituality. The brush strokes are short. The face is troubled by thoughts.

Gheorghe Petrașcu was the director of the Bucharest Painting Gallery for 11 years. His entire career was rewarded with Coroana României distinction, Comandor rank, in 1923. Thirteen years later, in 1936, he became the first visual artist to be elected as a member of The Romanian Academy.

He died in Bucharest, on 1st of May, 1949, 77 years old.

In 1970, in Târgoviște, was inaugurated the Gheorghe Petrașcu Memorial House.


Theodor Pallady

1871 - 1956

Direct descendant of an aristocracy with deep roots in the national history, Theodor Pallady was, on his father’s side, a member of a Moldavian family whose name had the spelling Palade or Paladi, existing since the beginning of the XVII th century, and on his mother’ side, a Cantacuzino by birth, a illustrious Byzantine family.

His life was a constant battle to submit a volcanic temperament to the rigor of practicing an art, void of an anecdotal dimension, dedicated to the Idea (he considered that “the painting of his life” is the representation of Odysseus, tied to the mast, with wax plugs, to keep him from giving in to the call of the Mermaids).

The opposite attitudes are a way of life for Pallady. The acid meditations regarding the cheap temptations of life are followed by the confession about his running on the streets of Paris after the carriage of a lady whose appearance startled him at The Opera. Many episodes of his life are pure and simple romantic, like the “kidnapping” of his future wife, Jeanne Ghica, from her former husband, and the duel he was forced to go to (refusing to take a shot and escaping untouched by the opponent’s revolver shots).

Pallady, the man, can be discovered through his own memories, confessions and letters, and as the main character of other people’s memories. His life, spent between France and Romania, it’s exciting both when travelling through the bright and exotic light of Southern Europe and when he crosses the epochs, imaginary speaking, in the museums’ shadows, in the solitude of his hotel room, sometimes an improvised studio, or his appearance, both desired and feared, at his fellow artists’ exhibitions: “I can see him making his way through the door, with his proud and ascetic appearance, wearing a black hat, with round and big brims, a brick-red coat and checkered pants, a starched collar and his dappled bow-tie. The noble and harsh features of his angular face, his white, small, rounded beard, the big, arched forehead, with withdrawn temples, the thin, sometimes full of sarcasm, line of the lower lip, all these made him stand out in a crowd” – Ionel Jianu, Memories about Pallady (Amintiri despre Pallady). This portrait makes you think about Balzac and his characters, because it’s the true image of refinement called dandy-ism.

  This model of masculinity with its real and bookish exponents (Byron, Henry de Marsay, Gabrielle d’ Annunzio, Oscar Wilde) crossed over the epochs and geographical spaces, promoting nihilist ideas, an excessive “self” cult, of image and language and in an intellectual plan, it cultivated the aristocratic superiority of the spirit.

“He was troubled by a need for perfection. He couldn’t stand a mistake when he saw one in a painting. Many times he bought back his paintings from private collections, the moment he realized he had to change something on them. One day he rectified the portrait that Ciucurencu had made me, decreasing with a pencil the edge of the forehead. When I told him that he didn’t have the right to intervene in other people’s paintings, he answered back: “I did him a favor. Isn’t it better now? It’s a curse to be always right! - Ionel Jianu, Memories about Pallady (Amintiri despre Pallady).

Initially Pallady attended Polytechnic (first in Bucharest, then in Desden), but then, he suddenly and irrevocably changed his professional path, renouncing to become an engineer. Despite his family’s protests, he didn’t change his plans to become a painter.

He left for Paris, in 1889, where he enrolled in Edmond Jean- Aman’s studio, at the same time being introduced by his relative, Maria Cantacuzino (Puvis de Chavannes’s wife) in the post romantic and symbolist’ circles and the refined, intellectual circles of the high society. He made frequent visits to the Louvre museum to study the big masters of the Renaissance, paying a special attention to some artists that fought for their right “to dream”: Leonardo, Dürer, Tizian, Rubens, Watteau. In 1892 he begun his studies in Gustave Moreau’ studio. Moreau was a teacher at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, an artist like him, always on extremes, with his inner fervor and bookish emotions. Among his fellow colleagues there were Matisse, Marquet and Camoin - a few of the contributors to the new current of the modern painting.

Pallady made his debut at the World Exhibition of 1900, in Paris, where presenting works of Symbolist style, received an honorable mention for the composition “Repentance”. In 1904 he exhibited for the first time in Romania, at The Romanian Atheneum (Ateneul Român).

Looking at his youth paintings you are surprised by the impersonal vision, a little bit sweetened, colored reflection of the Symbolist aesthetic. You can observe the intention to filter the immediate reality in a refined form of expression. Preserving the harsh extremes of everyday life, oscillating between the exuberant sensuality and strict asceticism, Pallady’s art had the ability to capture, with painting’ resources, a “superior” type of reality, a pure theoretical one.

Based on the Symbolists’ idea, Pallady’s paintings addresses not only to the “eyes”, but also to the spirit, having thus an encoded character, searching for an aesthetic “ideal” defined as a symphonic composition. The reality is interesting only as a cipher of the idea. When painting well-known landscapes, like a corner of The Luxembourg Gardens, The Seine Quay or The House in Bucium, the main subject it’s not nature but nature’s capacity to express the painter’s intentions and to become a state of mind. The landscapes’ evocative and devoid of materiality’ character is better shown by the relatively few colors Pallady used, especially the colored greys.

Although it will leave gradually the Symbolist representation, Pallady will keep “the predominance of the drawing as an instrument, to analyze and order ideas and formal structures” and will enter, between 1920 and 1930, in a period dominated by the use of intense colors, without any greys, using a new perspective when addressing the themes. In most of the cases in Pallady’s paintings the landscapes become a cut-out in the form of a window, suggesting the exterior world. The outside world is isolated in a corner, it’s blurred or it’s covered by a curtain.

Often the painter preferred still lives over the real nature, thus giving birth to compositions very similar to the theater settings, representing in fact the interior world. Here the emotions and thoughts took the shape of harmoniously arranged objects: his still lives are created after the Japanese principle of ikebana, not to copy nature, but to correct it. The same as in the ikebana art, the subject of the composition is time. To be more precise, the life of the subject, paradoxically suggested by the freezing over an image that contains, besides flowers, objects (statuettes, revolvers, fruits, china or books) just props that change the variants of a theme.

With Pallady’s nudes you can witness the true intimacy that it’s not necessarily offered by the bared body, but by the atmosphere released by the subtle relations that the feminine shapes join in. The robustness of the lines separates them, apparently, from the other objects of the composition.

 Pallady’s nudes became, at the peak of creation, exercises of concise drawing, in which the feminity is modified in the favor of the correspondences and the framing in the Universe’s rhythm as imagined by the artist. The broken lines that are composing the body, have rather, the role to divide and order the color’ surfaces, to emphasize the object, in order to put it harmoniously into the composition. The nudes’ faces resemble a mask due to the absence of a smile, the eyes that are sketched like some small diagonal lines, and the flesh, the color of the walls, are more than enough reasons why we speak about the mural effect of Pallady’s paintings.

The colors that are slightly tempered and the manner in which they are used, is just the way sensitivity and reason are corrected by the shear reality.

As Pallady was writing to Matisse: “color is the feminine element of the painting, it’s the one that needs the support of the drawing, while the latter can resist on his own”. The attitude of extreme hieraticism of the feminine body, even if it’s in a painting presenting a very dramatic and, at the same time, very familiar scene, like the Death of Cleopatra, is another confirmation that, in Pallady’s thinking, the artistic act means getting rid of any vulgar sensations and building up subtle rhythms and connections with lines, volumes and colors.

Pallady’s themes include also the self-portrait, but in The Craiova Art Museum we have just some graphics with this subject. Being the result of some donations and acquisitions over decades, the Pallady collection from our museum reunites 52 works (27 paintings and 25 graphics). As a whole it’s one of the most important collection of Pallady’s works in a Romanian museum and all the works from the permanent exhibition are part of the national thesaurus.


Eustațiu Stoenescu

1884 - 1957

Born in a period in which the Romanian Art started to get noticed in the European Artistic circles, Eustațiu Stoenescu got rid of the contemporary currents pattern outlining his own artistic personality. Because of the political and social situation in the communist period, he will enter into obscurity in his country, but he succeded in Europe and USA.

 All through his career he was seen as a refined painter of the urban landscape and, especially, as a very good portrait maker. The majority of his portraits are composed on the pattern of the ”French Academist” current, as posture, attitude, and also from the shapes point of view.

He detached himself from the above mentioned manner of portrait making, as seen in Theodor Aman’s portraits, especially his brush strokes, which are not following the contour or the shape, vigorous and very expressive. He obeyed the ”Academist” rules, but he never gave up the liberty of gestures and the temptations of spontaneity.

The physiognomy, treated in a naturalist manner, is extended through a real effort, into a moral and psychological characterization, transforming thus the portrait into an effigy and taken out of the ordinary. No matter the „framing” of the portraits, the chromatic density and the strokes’ energy, which is repetitive sometimes, that the painter was using almost in a stereotype way, the same neutral or even a completely opaque background, detaching the figure by putting the light on the faces and hands of the subjects, thus creating a strong contrast and defining the center as a clear area of interest.

Even in the Greek-Latin Antiquity there were literary texts that dealt with „the humans’ character, in other words: all the aspects concerning the human nature, relationships, behavior etc.

We generally use the term „portrait” for a type of painting that deals with the moral character, not with the physical one. Stoenescu managed to combine in a portrait both the physical and moral features of a person. With great talent he succeeded in capturing the reality, understanding the essential and using the colors to benefit the expression, thus the painting looking more and more like a photograph.

He found interesting subjects, putting them in the best position possible, choosing the moment when the actions are on the climax. He saw composition as an expression of what life has to offer, guessing the moment of creativity. He used very few means to obtain the right expression of the subjects, treating them with respect, but, at the same time, never giving up on his own opinions.

Stoenescu’ s first contact with painting was made at the age of five, when the French painter Leopold Durangel (1828-1898) came to do his mother’s portrait. After visiting the Nicolae Grigorescu Retrospective exhibition, opened in 1897, at Ateneul Român, in Bucharest, he decided to follow his passion for painting.

He left for Paris, as a teenager, and studied in Jean Paul Laurens’ studio, becoming one of his favorite pupils. He was quickly admitted into the Romanian and international artistic circles. Back to Romania, in 1902, he started taking classes at the National School of Fine Arts. In the beginning the themes he choose reminded a lot of Grigorescu, but in time he built his own style.

From the beginning he had a very interesting circuit, exhibiting in the Official Saloon in Paris, The Venice Biennial Exhibition, The World Exhibition in Paris, and in Romania, The Official Saloon in Bucharest, The Tinerimea Artistică, The Oltenia Artistic Circle.

He opened a series of personal exhibitions, in Craiova and Bucharest, but also in France, Switzerland, Egypt, U.S.A. Due to his efforts and talent, he received a series of awards: The Golden Medal at the Jubilee Exhibition in Bucharest (1906); Silver Medal at The Official Saloon in Paris, 1914.

He lived in France for a long time, but he never lost track of what was going on in Romania. In 1936 he was appointed teacher and in 1940 he became the rector of The Arts Academy in Bucharest. After his death in 1957, due to his portraits of the Royal Romanian family and of politicians he entered in a “so-called” shadow. After 40 years, when the political scene changed, he was revived by the art critics.

He painted all type of compositions: portraits, still lives, genre scenes (Still life with a bottle), much appreciated by the critics of the time, but the portraits are his trademark.

He painted the frescoes in Saint George the New Church in Craiova (the family church).

Prince Grigore Ghica’s portrait presents a distinguished gentleman, with a relaxed posture, with one of his hands delicately covered by a white glove. In opposition, The Portrait of Professor Papillot is presented sited, with a lucid and piercing look, holding his hands, with long and delicate fingers, in his lap. This posture speaks about confidence, trust and certainty.

May it be a child, a woman or a man, the portrait presents not only the physical characteristics, but also the attitudes and the true character, especially the manner in which the hands are depicted.

Drawn to the beauty of the surrounding environment of his hometown, Stoenescu painted, in 1911, Marketplace in Craiova. A true believer in the importance of the color and light in a painting, Stoenescu eliminated the intermediary color tones and enlightened the shadow with colored reflexes. The picturesque bustle of the market is evoked, and the women, dressed up in folk costumes, reminding us of Nicolae Grigorescu’style of painting. In the foreground the merchandise is exhibited on the ground: watermelons, red apples, and in the background we can see the town’s buildings, in a slightly oriental environment.

A very interesting painting: Gypsies on the road, it’s subtly integrated in the epoch’s atmosphere. A few characters and animals are seen in movement, balancing the composition through gestures and attitudes, in a landscape by the sea.

The Stoenescu’ collection of The Art Museum of Craiova consists of 39 paintings, being one of the richest in the country (portraits, still lives, genre painting, landscapes etc). Presented on the walls of an iconic architectural monument from the end of the XIXth Century, Eustațiu Stoenescu’s paintings, especially the portraits, gave a stateliness and dignity, equilibrium and elegance to the environment in which the visitors can explore the evolution of Romanian Art.


Ion Țuculescu

1910 - 1962