Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nicolae Grigorescu

Andreescu at Barbizon
oil on canvas
61.5 x 46 cm
National Art Museum in Bucharest, Romania

Nicolae Grigorescu (1838-1907) is the first of the founders of modern Romanian painting,
who strived to identify and bring to light the profoundly characteristic values of Romanian spirituality. He was also a writer.

He was born in Pitaru village, Wallachia, as sixth child. In 1843, when his father died, the family moved to Bucharest, in an aunt's house. After an early apprenticeship (1848-1850) in a workshop of a Czech miniaturist and church painter, he painted icons for church and monastery.

In 1861, as he received a scholarship to study in France , he left for Paris, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He also attended a workshop, where he had as a colleague Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 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-Francois Millet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Theodore Rousseau. Under the influence of the movement, he 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 in 1867, he contributed seven works.

He returned to Romania a few times and starting in 1870 he participated in the exhibits of living artists and those organized by the Society of the Friends of the Belle-Arts. In 1877 he was called to accompany the Romanian Army as a frontline painter in the Romanian War of Independence.

From 1879 to 1890 he worked in France, especially in Vitre, Brittany, and in his workshop in Paris. In 1889 he was named honorary member of the Romanian Academy, and his work was featured in the Universal Exhibition in Paris and at the Romanian Atheneum. In 1890, he settled down in  Campina, Romania and devoted his work mainly to rustic themes, in an endless variation of motif, painting peasant women's faces, carts pulled by oxen along dusty country roads and numerous landscapes with a Romanian specific. In 1899, he was elected member of the Romanian Academy, being the first plastic artist to whom this honour had been granted.