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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!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The politics of painting

Bucharest is a city I would normally avoid in high summer like the plague – but dental issues have forced me to divide what summer I’ve had since my return from Germany in early July between the place and my mountain retreat. And the cooler summer weather has actually made the city much more bearable.
Having bemoaned what I saw as the lugubrious state of Romanian painting with which I was being served up in Bucharest galleries and museums in the past decade, my eyes have been opened in the past 12 months.
The new Museum of (22 separate!) art collections; a website; various finds in antiquarian bookshops; and a small new private gallery have helped me at last to appreciate the beauty of Romanian realist painting of the past century!
New names for me are Bassarab Louis/Ludovic (1866-1933) whose reputation seems to have been unfairly eclipsed by Grigorescu and Andreescu; the exquisite works of Grant Nicolae 1868-1950; Artachino Constantin (1870-1954); Strambu Hippolytus (1871-1934); Baesu Aurel (1896-1928); Leon Bijou (1880-1970); Georgescu Marian (1892-1932); and Aurel Popp 

It is Grant and Popp who intrigue me the most – for the neglect each has suffered – for very different political reasons.
Grant (as his name would suggest) was of Scottish (and high bourgeois) origin – his father was UK consul in Romania and Nicolae came of age when Romanian impressionist painting was at its height  - being part of the great generation of Artachino, Baltazar, Biju, Bunescu, Dimitrescu, Darescu, Eder, Muntzner, Pallady, Popescu, Popea, Ressu, Schweitzer-Cumpana, Steriadi, Theodresci-Scion, Tonitza, Vermont and Verona – all, amazingly, born within ten years of one another!
Nicolae Grant, however, seems to have been air-brushed out of history – his name does not appear in the key 1971 text by Dragut et al of the Meridian publisher’s Romanian Painting in 1111 pictures whose German version I was lucky enough to find this week (for 5 euros!). And, at the moment, I can find no site with which to illustrate his work - but one example is at the side here.

Aurel Popp was born in Satu Mare in 1879 and was (not unlike many painters of the time) a passionate Socialist - which landed him in deep trouble with the Hungarian authorities of the time. Not least because, in 1918, he was elected to the Budapest Soviet. For that heinous offence he was imprisoned, escaped and was hounded in post-war Transylvania. Last week I was delighted to pick up a copy of the 1968 Meridian series (German version) on his work.
And it is one of his paintings which tops this post

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