Friday, April 23, 2010

(Social) Realism: Romania

Nicolae Grigorescu (1838—1907)

Nicolae Grigorescu (May 15, 1838—July 21, 1907) was one of the founders of modern Romanian painting. In the autumn of 1861, young Grigorescu left for Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts. He also attended the workshop of Sébastien Cornu, where he had as a colleague Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Knowing his weaknesses, he concentrated drawing and composition. However, he soon left this workshop and, attracted by the artistic concepts of the Barbizon school, he left Paris for that village, where he became the associate of artists such as Jean-François Millet, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Théodore Rousseau. Under the influence of the movement, Grigorescu looked for new means of expression and followed the trend of en plein air painting, which was also important in Impressionism. As part of the Universal Exposition of Paris (1867), he contributed seven works. Then he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1868 the painting Tânără ţigancă (Gypsy girl).

Nicolae Vermont (1866 – 1932)
Nicolae Vermont (October 10, 1866 – June 14, 1932) was a Romanian realist painter, graphic artist and muralist. He was noted for his wide range of subjects and his interest in social issues, and was an associate of the post-Impressionists Ştefan Luchian and Constantin Artachino, as well as a friend of the controversial art collector and political figure Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti.

Born in Bacău, Vermont belonged to the Jewish community. Late in his life, Vermont abandoned Judaism and converted to the Romanian Orthodox Church. He began his career in 1884, as a contributor to the journal Universul, while studying with Theodor Aman at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bucharest (graduated 1886). Vermont completed his training at the Munich Akademie der Bildenden Künste (1893). He was able to attend the latter institution after being endorsed by the major Romanian artist Nicolae Grigorescu.

While still in Munich, Vermont joined Tinerimea Artistică, a loose grouping of artists who rejected Academism—it rallied together Luchian, Arthur Verona, Kimon Loghi, Ipolit Strâmbu, Marius Bunescu, Alexandru Satmari, Oskar Späthe, Jean Alexandru Steriadi and Ştefan Popescu, and received backing from poet Ştefan Octavian Iosif. Like the rest of Tinerimea Artistică, Vermont was heavily influenced by Grigorescu during his youth.

In 1896, Vermont, Luchian, Artachino and Bogdan-Piteşti, founded Salonul Independenţilor, the local version of the French Société des Artistes Indépendants. The movement which they attempted to create accommodated various tenets, and, while proclaiming a need for renewal in Romanian art, stressed the importance of earlier traditions. As Luchian incorporated Symbolism, Vermont developed his own style, a religious form of Realism. In parallel, with Luchian, Juan Alexandru Paraschivescu-Alpar, and Artachino, Vermont was one of the first to introduce themes related to the lives of unemployed individuals and social drifters. Such work was influenced by the Akademie der Bildenden Künste's genre painting.

Bogdan-Piteşti declared Vermont "one of the most accomplished" among Romanian painters, and bought many of his works. Two years after Salonul Independenţilor opened for the public, its initiators (together with Ioan Bacalbaşa) founded Societatea Ileana, an association dedicated to promoting new styles in art. In 1906, during the 40th celebration of King Carol I's ascension to the Romanian throne, Vermont's paintings were exhibited in Bucharest alongside the works of Grigorescu, Verona and Loghi (they won the admiration of Krikor Zambaccian, the future art collector, who declared himself "obsessed" with their image).

Many of his works are hosted by public collections such as the National Museum of Art, the Vasile Pârvan Museum in Bârlad, the Bucovina Art Museum in Suceava, and the Art Museums in Constanţa and Râmnicu Vâlcea. A large portion of his art, belonging to collector Lazăr Munteanu, was destroyed during the 1944 Luftwaffe bombing of Bucharest. During his artistic career, Vermont also painted churches in Cernavodă (1893) and Măneşti, Prahova (1895), as well as decorating the ceilings of the Kalinderu (1904) and Cantacuzino Palaces in Bucharest.

Two Workers on Strike

Corneliu Baba (1906 — 1997)
Corneliu Baba (November 18, 1906, Craiova—December 28, 1997) was a Romanian painter, primarily a portraitist, but also known as a genre painter and an illustrator of books.
Having first studied under his father, the academic painter Gheorghe Baba, Baba studied briefly at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Bucharest, but did not receive a degree. His first public exhibition was in 1934 in the spa town of Băile Herculane; this led to his studying later that year under Nicolae Tonitza in Iaşi, finally receiving a diploma in Fine Arts from the faculty at Iaşi in 1938, where he was named assistant to the Chair of Painting in 1939 and a Professor of Painting in 1946.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

1 comment:

zeltil said...

Although Grigorescu is the top-shelf, I think more relevant here would be the social-themed expressionist artists (usually engravers) of the 1930's, such as Aurel Marculescu, Alex Leon and Vasile Dobrian - most of these works are pretty hard to find though without digging through bibliographies...