Friday, January 20, 2012
I had noticed in the Humanitas bookshop a new book (rather pricey at 25 euros) on a superb classic Romanian painter unknown to me Camil Ressu (born 1880) A good video of his portrait work is available here.
But I was persuaded to buy in Artmark a fascinating and well-crafted 300 page plus book (in English) – The Self-Punishing One; arts and Romania in the 1980s and 1990s on the works and times of 3 uncompromising Romanian artists (Stefan Bertalan; Florin Mitroi, Ion Grigorescu). How writers coped with the "communist" repression is a common theme of discussions (I mentioned the Herda Mueller exchange here in November recently) but I come across discussions about the effects on artistic endeavours much less frequently. The only thing I can find online on a similar theme is in German.
Whence to the experience of visiting the Ploesti Art Gallery – The "Ion Ionescu-Quintus" Art Museum of Prahova county's activity, with the two departments, Art Museum Ploieşti and Memorial House of painter Nicolae Grigorescu in Câmpina, in accordance with the Law 311/2003 to give it its proper title (needed if you are to find it on the internet!). It is housed in a splendiferous palace in Ploiesti’s centre - which is a large city 50 kms north of Bucharest on the main highway to the Carpathians and Europe. Its oil resources gave it strategic and economic importance at the beginning of the 20th century – evident in some of the architectural gems which can be seen if you look hard enough. Josef Isser is perhaps the city’s most famous artistic son although the country’s most famous painter (Nicolae Grigorescu) comes from the county (Prahova) and is also well represented in the gallery’s collection - as is Theodor Pallady.
However, we apparently arrived at an inopportune time – 15.50 Friday – and got no response when we rang the bell as requested. The security guard was concerned – not least because an alarm was ringing - and ran around the building a couple of times before assuring us that the gallery was open until 17.00. After 10 minutes I was depositing my business card with a message of disappointment when the huge door suddenly opened and a surprised-looking woman explained – to the security guy not us – that there was no electricity although the lights appeared a few seconds after her “explanation”. Thereafter the usual shrill altercation between Romanian custodians and citizens – with no sense from the former that any apologies were due. And a special graphic exhibition had taken over the building – with only half a dozen of the permanent exhibits being on display. The (European) graphics had been hung so low that it was very difficult to see their detail. The best feature for me was the building - with superb entrance hall, painted ceilings and old and fully-functioning tiled stoves keeping the rooms at their required temperature. We were supposed to pay 2 euros – but somehow managed to emerge without payment. Another typical Romanian experience of public services!