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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Romanian Painting - Encountering Romania part VI

There are two superb guidebooks on cultural Romania – The Pallas Guide to Romania (2009) edited by John Villiers who worked for the British Council here for 3 years; and Caroline Juler’s Blue Guide Romania  (2000) – curiously out of print already. (Her blogsite Carpathian Sheep Walk  gives a good sense of the life of one of the many sections of people still trying to life off the land here).

Villier’s book has chapters on the country’s history; the painted monasteries; the wooden churches and fortified churches of Transylvania; art and architecture; and Bucharest. But its section on art only lists about 10 painters in a couple of lines – very curious treatment for a book which purports to be about culture!

Having been so bowled over in recent years ago by Bulgarian realist painting of the first part of the 20th Century that I produced a booklet about it, events seemed to conspire against a similar appreciation of Romanian painters of the same period. Bulgarian galleries and books, somehow, were more evident and accessible in Sofia than their equivalents in Bucharest
I have, however, made some effort in the past year to track down the full beauty of the Romanian painting which were in such evidence a hundred years ago (it’s amazing how many superb Romanian painters were born around 1880!). Not easy since so many were secreted in private collections during the Communist period – some even before then eg the Zambaccian collection
And quite a few of the nouveaux riches after 1989 have developed their own private collections - which have been captured in a huge book in 2012 by painter Vasile Parizescu. One of the collectors is "businessman" Tiberiu Posteinica who was so brazen as to produce a sizeable book to glorify his ill-gotten collection. I was lucky enough to find a copy in a second-hand bookshop here.

The national art galleries here (and various publishing houses) have, of course, published various books on Romanian painters but making no concessions in recent years to those without the Romanian language and focussing on a favoured few such as Nicolae Grigorescu, Theodor Amman, Camil Ressu and Theodor Pallady
Things were actually better in the 1960s when the Meridian publishing house produced a great series of affordable booklets on Romanian painters (with attractive pasted prints). From the second-hand bookshops here I have slowly acquired many of these – eg Nicolae Darescu, StefanPopescu, JeanSteriadi and Josef Iser.
And last year I came across two great websites which have allowed me to access the Romanian painting tradition – a personal one ; and ArtIndex – a Romanian Art Review. So I now have a list of 75 classic Romanian painters (compares with a list of 150 Bulgarian for a country one quarter of Romania's size). 
My initial selections have been posted here 

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