Krikor H. Zambaccian, Important Romanian Collector of Modern Art

Today I thought I’d post something about the Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest, which I last visited in February this year. Unfortunately my old phone couldn’t always take decent photos, so I’m showing you less artworks than I’d like.

Krikor H. Zambaccian was one of the most famous private collectors of modern art—Romanian, mostly, but also French—in Romania. He supported many local artists and built his collection with a view to donating it to the Romanian state.

Here’s a little about Zambaccian, mostly based on the museum brochure, authored by Dana Dragomir.

Krikor H. Zambaccian (1889–1962) was born in Constanța. His father Hagop, of Armenian origins, came from present-day Turkey (the family name comes from Turkish zambak, which means “lily”).

Krikor’s father was an accountant, and Krikor followed close to his footsteps in his initial choice of career, studying commercial affairs at higher-education institutions in Constanța, Antwerp, and Paris. A lover of music and art from his years in secondary school in Bucharest, Zambaccian truly fell in love with visual art and artists in Antwerp and Paris. He then worked all his life as a businessman, art critic, and even art historian, writing important monographs on Romanian artists. This was the beginning of a journey where he became astute in spotting and supporting emerging talent and in building strong relationships with living artists.

Krikor Zambaccian also opened the first art consignment store in Romania, on Victoriei Avenue in Bucharest.

Nowadays the Zambaccian House—a jewel in its own right, built by C.D. Galin both as a living and exhibition space (opened to the public once a week during Zambaccian’s lifetime)—showcases major milestones in the history of Romanian art of the first half of the twentieth century, along with some Impressionist and Post-Impressionist French painting.

In his last fifteen years of life Zambaccian made two donations—hundreds of works—to the Romanian state, followed by another one made by the family upon his death. Unfortunately, the big 1977 earthquake damaged the beautiful, airy building, built on two levels around a central, open space, and the collection was exhibited away from its home for almost two decades—until 1996, when it returned to Krikor Zambaccian’s home on the street that now bears his name.

Here are some paintings and sculptures from the Zambaccian collection.

Muzeul Zambaccian (modern art museum) in Bucharest

Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest, February 2022

Elegie (Elegy), bronze sculpture by Romanian artist Oscar Han, in the courtyard of the Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest

Oscar Han, Elegie (Elegy), in the courtyard of the museum

Sarutul (The Kiss), bronze sculpture by Romanian artist Oscar Han in the courtyard of the Zambaccian Museum

Oscar Han, Sărutul (The Kiss), also in the courtyard

Taranca culcata pe iarba (Peasant Woman Lying on the Grass), painting by Romanian artist Nicolae Grigorescu

Nicolae Grigorescu (1838–⁠1907), Țărancă culcată pe iarbă
(Peasant Woman Lying on the Grass), oil on canvas

Detail of Taranca culcata pe iarba (Peasant Woman Lying on the Grass), painting by Romanian artist Nicolae Grigorescu

Nicolae Grigorescu (1838–⁠1907), Țărancă culcată pe iarbă
(Peasant Woman Lying on the Grass) (detail)

Stefan Luchian, Lorica, painting at the Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest

Ștefan Luchian (1868–⁠1916), Lorica, oil on cardboard

Lautul (The Bath), painting by the Romanian modern artist Stefan Luchian, at Muzeul Zambaccian in Bucuresti

Ștefan Luchian (1868–⁠1916), Lăutul (The Bath), oil on canvas

Detail of the painting Lautul (The Bath), by Romanian modern artist Stefan Luchian

Ștefan Luchian (1868–⁠1916), Lăutul (The Bath) (detail)

Portret de fetita (Portrait of a Little Girl), painting by Romanian artist Camil Ressu

Camil Ressu (1880–⁠1962), Portret de fetiță
(Portret of a Little Girl), oil on cardboard

Detail of Portret de fetita (Portret of a Little Girl), by Camil Ressu, Muzeul Zambaccian, Bucuresti

Camil Ressu (1880–⁠1962), Portret de fetiță
(Portret of a Little Girl) (detail)

Portretul lui Stefan Luchian, painting by Traian Cornescu, Muzeul Zambaccian, Bucuresti

Traian Cornescu (1885–⁠1965), Portretul lui Ștefan Luchian
(Portrait of Ștefan Luchian), oil on canvas

Portret de copil (Portrait of a Child), famous painting by Romanian modern artist Nicolae Tonitza

Nicolae Tonitza (1886–⁠1940), Portret de copil (Portrait of a Child),
oil on cardboard

Nicolae Tonitza, Portret de copil (Portrait of a Child), at the Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest

Nicolae Tonitza (1886–1940)⁠, Portret de copil (Portrait of a Child)

Femeie cu chitara (Woman with Guitar), painting by Romanian artist Alexandru Ciucurencu, Zambaccian Museum, Bucharest

Alexandru Ciucurencu (1903–⁠1977), Femeie cu chitară (Woman with Guitar),
oil on cardboard

Detail of Femeie cu chitara (Woman with Guitar), by Alexandru Ciucurencu, Muzeul Zambaccian, Bucharest

Alexandru Ciucurencu (1903–⁠1977), Femeie cu chitară (Woman with Guitar)
(detail)

Cimitir tatarasc din Balcic (Tartar Graveyard in Balcic), painting by Romanian modern artist Nicolae Darascu

Nicolae Dărăscu (1883–⁠1959), Cimitir tătărăsc din Balcic
(Tartar Graveyard in Balcic), oil on canvas

Tataroaica (Tartar Woman), painting by Romanian artist Iosif Iser

Iosif Iser (1881–⁠1958), Tătăroaică (Tartar Woman), gouache on paper

Detail of Tataroaica (Tartar Woman), by Iosif Iser, at Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest

Iosif Iser (1881–⁠1958), Tătăroaică (Tartar Woman) (detail)

Two paintings by French modern masters (Alfred Sisley, Bridge over the Seine, and Camille Pissaro, Portrait of a Little Girl) at the Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest

Alfred Sisley (1839–⁠1899), Bridge over the Seine, oil on canvas
Camille Pissaro (1830–⁠1903), Portrait of a Little Girl, oil on canvas

Side door at the Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest

Zambaccian Museum in Bucharest, side door

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Theodor Aman Masterpieces at Art Safari 2022, Ninth Edition

Entrance to the Art Safari fair in Bucharest's Old Town, May 2022
Art Safari in Bucharest’s Old Town, May 19, 2022

I’m getting ready to go to this year’s second edition of Art Safari here in Bucharest, but for now I thought I’d post some highlights from this spring, starting—for this installment—with some works of Theodor Aman and his biography, which were showcased at the fair.

Aman was the first Romanian modern painter and, by the looks of it, much more accomplished—and modern—than I’d appreciated before. I’ve visited his museum in central Bucharest (close to the National Art Museum), but it looks like most of his better works have taken flight elsewhere, to other museums and collectors in Bucharest and the rest of the country. This show, curated by Elena Olariu, was marvelous: great pieces and wonderful information panels in the exhibition halls.

Theodor Aman’s life begins in 1831. He is the son of Dimitrie, a wealthy merchant of Aromanian origins, and Despina, a music and literature enthusiast of Greek lineage. Upon Dimitrie’s death in 1834, Despina becomes Theodor’s sole parent. She will make sure that her son gets a good education. He studies in Craiova and then, for high school, at the best college in Bucharest, Sfântul Sava.

In 1850 Aman leaves for Paris, where he will remain for the next seven years. He studies with two disciples of Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), the great Neoclassical painter. In Paris, at the Bibliothèque nationale, Aman copies portraits of Romanian rulers and studies Turkish costumes from the time of Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul) in preparation for his 1852 work The Last Night of Michael the Brave. In 1852, at 22, he exhibits a self-portrait (now lost) at the French Salon. It’s his first painting juried into the Salon. He paints two more historical paintings, in 1854 and 1855, respectively, and continues to show other works at the French Salon. In 1857 he paints the allegory The Union of the Principalities, a reflection of his wish to see Wallachia and Moldavia become one country, which will come to pass in 1859.

He travels to Rome, Venice, and Milan, and in 1858 returns for good to what in 1862 officially becomes Romania. He starts painting commissioned portraits along with paintings for the state.

In 1864 Theodor Aman and Gheorghe Tattarescu establish a School of Fine Arts in Bucharest, the second such institution of superior education in Southeast Europe, subsequent to one in Greece. A second such School of Fine Arts is set up in Iasi by G. Panaitescu-Bardasare, who took inspiration and guidance from Aman.

Aman becomes director and painting professor at the School of Fine Arts he has cofounded in Bucharest.

He marries in 1965. His wife, Ana, had been married before and had three children. They will not have children together. Aman organizes the first edition of an exhibition with works by living artists. He participates with twenty-four paintings and other art pieces.

In 1867–68 he starts work on a house of his own design, with exterior decoration by sculptor Karl Storck. The house will be finished in 1869. Aman will design the furniture as well. This house will become a magnet for figures of the local elite, including, on certain occasions, future queen Elisabeta.

On a personal note, when I last visited the museum sometime in the 2010s I noticed Aman’s cello. He was a talented cellist, and he often played at his soirées. Now that I think about it, I may have seen a piano at the house as well. His stepdaughter Zoe played the piano and they often performed together at Aman’s home.

Exhibited at Aman’s memorial house are also a number of prints. Aman starts learning printmaking in 1872 and by his death in 1891 he has become quite accomplished in this medium as well.

In his last decade of life Theodor Aman has three large retrospective exhibitions. He also receives various state honors during his lifetime as a token of the appreciation lavished on him in his country.

In 1904 Ana Aman donates their former home—which was also Aman’s atelier—to the Romanian state, together with all the works in it. Aman House opens its doors as a museum in 1908.

(Biography based on the info panels at Art Safari, with an added note regarding Despina’s interest in music and literature.)

Here are some of Theodor Aman’s paintings from the Art Safari exhibition of May 12–August 7, 2022.

Lady Painting (Doamna pictand), by the Romanian painter Theodor Aman, 1862

Theodor Aman, Doamnă pictând (Lady Painting), 1862

Young Woman in a Hammock (Tanara in hamac), artwork by the Romanian painter Theodor Aman

Theodor Aman, Tânără în hamac (Young Woman in a Hammock)

Still life by the Romanian painter Theodor Aman, shown at Art Safari, no title given

Theodor Aman, still life [no title given]

Round-Dance at Aninoasa (Hora de la Aninoasa), by the Romanian painter Theodor Aman

Theodor Aman, Hora de la Aninoasa (Round-Dance at Aninoasa)

Plastic Ocean, Installation by Tan Zi Xi

Trash sign on a beach, made with plastic straws
Trash sign on a beach (Image by Filmbetrachter from Pixabay)

José Angel Araguz at TheFridayInfluence.com posted yesterday a brief notice that included a reference to Singapore-born, London-trained artist Tan Zi Xi, creator of the installation Plastic Ocean. Made of over 20,000 pieces of plastic refuse, Plastic Ocean was exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum in 2016. Here’s more about it, along with five impactful images, in an interview with the artist on oceanic.global.

Nostalgia for Nature: Three Seasons by Dan Mohanu

Dan Mohanu, Veduta--End of Winter
Dan Mohanu, Veduta—End of Winter, tempera with emulsion

Browsing the current exhibition at Elite Art Gallery the other day I was struck by how gripping Dan Mohanu’s seasonal landscapes were. They were the stuff of virtual reality. I felt part and parcel of each of those three landscape vedute: Summer, End of Winter, and Beginning of Spring.

Dan Mohanu, Veduta--Beginning of Spring
Dan Mohanu, Veduta—Beginning of Spring, tempera with emulsion
Dan Mohanu, Veduta--Summer
Dan Mohanu, Veduta—Summer, tempera with emulsion

The only thing missing was, of course, a scene for autumn/fall. Fall is glorious outside these days (still), and yet I was nostalgic for the kind of season captured by Mohanu, with brushstrokes that make the grass almost rustle, and the light almost more natural than any captured by cinematographers. Yes, I was that taken with these paintings. They were detailed yet not overdone in the foreground and middle ground, and rather abstract when it comes to gestural strokes sketching foliage and land in the distance. But notice how the light hugs the tree trunks (and canopies) in summer, and how it seems to suffuse them in winter.

And notice how faint sunlight is at the beginning of spring, where only the leaves of new plants and some small and tiny spots of snow bring hope into the landscape.

I’ll leave you to enjoy these images on your own some more. If you wish to see the actual paintings, they are on display until Nov. 5.

A bit about Dan Mohanu, courtesy of Elite Art Gallery. He’s been working in mural restoration for decades. In fact, he is the founder of the Department of Conservation and Restoration at the National University of Art in Bucharest, and was the head of this department between 1990 and 2016.

The current exhibition, which includes several painters, has been organized under the patronage of the Romanian National Commission for UNESCO.

If you’re interested in acquiring the featured paintings by Dan Mohanu, you can do so at Elite Art Gallery for 5,400 lei/approx. €1,090.

If you can stop by the gallery, there’s a lot there to enjoy. It’s one of my favorite places in Bucharest.

Fragments Pushed Forth, Fractures Swept Along

Doris Salcedo, Colombian sculptor and conceptual artist
Doris Salcedo, Colombian artist

Aesthetica, the magazine and its website, is one of my favorite go-to places for contemporary art. Here’s a piece about Doris Salcedo sliding a crack along the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, Baptiste Debombourg’s sending a gallery wall cracking and tumbling toward us, and more ado about fragments and fragmenting.

Visual Inspiration: Art as Fragments (brief Aesthetica article)

Doris Salcedo’s 2007⁠–2008 installation and intervention piece fractured the floor of the Turbine Hall—after adding a new layer to it for this purpose—with a crevice of various widths and depths and set chain-link wires inside it. She called it Shibboleth.

In the Bible, in the Book of Judges, there’s a passage about a battle between two Semitic tribes, the Ephraimites and the Gileadites. When the Ephraimites tried to escape, the Gileadites put them to a test of saying the word shibboleth. The Ephraimites couldn’t pronounce the initial sh sound (they turned it into an s) and were thus exposed.

As a noun, a shibboleth came to mean a custom, such as a way of speaking, a belief, or a tradition which distinguishes a group of people. It’s a marker used to both include and exclude, to differentiate between an in-group and out-group. According to her own statements, Doris Salcedo uses the notion of shibboleth in a vein close to its biblical context, as a signifier that rather than benignly evoking group differences points instead at discriminatory practices and also violence against members of out-groups, with particular reference to immigrants who come to Europe from the so-called “third-world” countries. The work is meant to reflect both pressure and division, Salcedo says. But there is so much suggestion of struggle, too, in the work, and of calling into question, as Salcedo suggests, the direction of our gaze—toward those who struggle, toward those fallen through the cracks, toward those who push from the crevices to free themselves only to find themselves, in many cases, in circumstances that hold them back like those bits of chain-link fence incorporated into the crevice walls of the installation.

Here’s more about this piece from Tate Modern and from the Khan Academy.

And here’s a photo:

Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth (installation), Tate Modern, 2007–2008
Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth, Tate Modern, 2007⁠–2008

(Photo by Nmnogueira on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Surrealist Interventions: The Art of Marcus Møller Bitsch

Giraffe and Hot Air Balloon, by the Indonesian photographer Syaibatul Hamdi

But this post won’t be about Hamdi. I chose this image because it was freely shared on Pixabay and it shows some of the thought processes behind Marcus Møller Bitsch’s work, the Danish photographer featured recently on Aesthetica Magazine‘s website.

Unlike most Surrealist artists, Marcus MB, as he likes to be called, doesn’t use digital manipulation if he can help it and instead creates his version of Surrealism using simple props, such as a photograph of a blue cloudy sky cracked open in the middle to reveal a night sky with small sparkly stars. Or a photograph of the sea, torn in places in order to insert what could be actual small rocks—which then end up looking like large outcrops in the middle of the sea.

Here’s a selection of his photos on Aesthetica Magazine‘s website

Golden Dream, Glass Painting; and a Note on Art Galleries in Downtown Bucharest

Whether you’re an art aficionado or not, I think you may find you’ll enjoy some of the art galleries in downtown Bucharest on your next trip here. Entrance is free and I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. I’m amazed myself every time I go for a leisurely stroll and stop at Artmark or Galateca or Cercul Militar / Military Circle (the latter one where Victoriei Blvd crosses Regina Elisabeta Blvd, close to University Square). I had another favorite gallery on Victoriei Blvd, but unfortunately it closed down sometime this year. Other galleries I invite you to explore are Elite Art Gallery close to Unirii Square and Art Yourself Gallery near Romana Square.

All of these spaces showcase contemporary art, but Artmark also has an impressive collection of nineteenth-century art (along with collections of various objects they sell at auction) which rivals in many ways that of the National Art Museum (not in size, of course) and is free to visit. So you have nothing to lose; give it a try! Artmark’s building lies close to the National Art Museum, on a street (C.A. Rosetti) which connects Victoriei Blvd to Magheru Blvd.

Here’s a photo from my last promenade in the area, when I caught some contemporary pieces right after the official close of an exhibition.

#Supercontemporary exhibition of contemporary art at Artmark Auction House in Bucharest
#Supercontemporary at Artmark Auction House, Bucharest, Romania

And here’s an amazing piece from yesterday’s walk, when I swung by Cercul Militar and caught a glass painting exhibition by Elena Cioclu. The two images presented here are on show until August 5. My favorite is Golden Dream. It includes not only a cross, a (church) bell and angels, but also an axis mundi (through the cross), a liminal circular area which includes references to vegetation and organic forms, and a spiritual realm where angels support the structure of this world, including by holding on to the edges of the bell (and therefore helping it move in the world). The color composition is also intriguing, with golden, blue, and turquoise hues (which I haven’t captured very well) and with a more intense, orange reddish dot at the center of the cross, in a blue square. This bit is very significant, as it may refer both to the human nature of Christ and to His sacrifice, and also to the intensity of the center that holds all things together.

Note as well the circle around the meeting point of the arms of the cross, which is an ancient symbol of the Sun adopted by the Celts. Given that it’s also split in four, it also references, just as crosses do, the four corners of the Earth and the four elements that—at least in Western symbolism—make up this world (earth, water, air, and fire). And if you don’t see any symbols of the Trinity, keep your hair on: the vertical arm of the cross is flanked by three beams on each side, making up a total of seven, which is said to represent the unity between the Holy Trinity and the created world, among other things (the seven days of Creation, for one).

Golden Dream sells for €1,800.

Vis de aur (means "Golden Dream"), glass painting by Elena Cioclu at Cercul Militar National in downtoan Bucharest
Vis de aur (Golden Dream), glass painting by Elena Cioclu

NB: I had to take the photos at an angle because I developed a smudge on my camera lens (can’t fix it) and also this is glass, so I didn’t want my profile reflected in the photos.

Echilibru (means "Balance"), glass painting by Elena Cioclu at Cercul Militar National in downtown Bucharest
Echilibru (Balance), glass painting by Elena Cioclu

If the above two pieces are too spiritually charged for you, I’ll leave you with a photo of marigolds from nearby Cișmigiu Park 🙂 (It’s a trick, of course. Marigolds got their name from Virgin Mary. They have been the flowers of choice for the Day of the Dead in Mexico and Latin America, where they originated. While in pre-Hispanic times they were offered to Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec Lady of the Dead, after Día de los Muertos merged with All Saints’ Day they’ve started decorating altars to the Virgin Mary, which have become integrated into Day of the Dead shrines. And so these fragrant flowers, which in Día de los Muertos rituals are believed to have the power to lead souls to the homes of their families, became known as “Mary’s Gold.”)

Marigolds in Cismigiu Park in downtown Bucharest
Marigolds in Cișmigiu Park in downtown Bucharest

Discovering texture

Some wonderful ways to add texture to paintings

Laura Hunt, Artist

Helping people deepen their experience of art is something I enjoy; exploring the various elements of art is one way to do that. Here’s an introductory excerpt from my most recent post.

To set the stage, here are the seven elements required to create art: line, shape, form, value, space, color, and texture. Some artists use all of them in a given work, some may only use two or three, but each artist has her own way of employing the elements and choosing what expresses her intent. The elements required to create art are line, shape, form, value, space, color, and texture.

Last time I wrote about line, an element that makes frequent appearances in my paintings. This time I’ll select another one off the shelf –texture.

The element of texture doesn’t require much explanation. You know when a tactile quality catches your eye, begging to be touched. Running…

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Notre-Dame Cathedral: The Three Rose Windows Still Intact

Notre-Dame Cathedral in ParisMy first worry when I saw the fire at Notre-Dame was that it would blow up the rose windows. Had the roof not collapsed, they would have been most likely destroyed. It remains to be seen how the lead frames are faring, and how the glass has been affected, once a detailed survey of the damage begins. President Macron wants the cathedral restored in time for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, but that goal may be too ambitious.

Here’s more:

“Notre Dame: experts explain why Macron’s five-year restoration deadline is impossible” (Hannah McGivern and Nancy Kenney, The Art Newspaper, April 26, 2019)

“Fate of Priceless Cultural Treasures Uncertain After Notre-Dame Fire” (Alex Marshall, Liam Stack, and Heather Murphy, New York Times, April 15, 2019)

The Streets of London: Chihuly at Kew Gardens—on Chez l’abeille

Chihuly Extravaganza at Kew Gardens

I was lucky enough to see some of his works at a museum. They’re very much alive when you’re in their presence, especially if they’re under natural light.

Chez l'abeille

During the Easter break we were fortunate to have some extraordinarily unseasonable weather – the sun shone, the sky was a bright summer blue and the thermometer rose – so this seemed the perfect opportunity to see an outdoor glass installation by a favourite artist.

The Dale Chihuly Exhibition, “Reflections on Nature” at The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is a sequence of artworks, both indoors and nestled within the famous glasshouses. It took a couple of hours of gentle strolling to see them all and to spend time really looking at these beautiful works within the natural environment.

Enjoy!

As well as seeing the installations in the garden, we visited the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art (located inside Kew and included as part of your ticket). There is a large exhibition of classic pieces by Chihuly, some of which I already knew. However, I particularly liked seeing his…

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