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, Lady Painting (Doamnă pictând), 1862
Young Woman in a Hammock (Tanara in hamac), artwork by the Romanian painter Theodor Aman
Theodor Aman, Young Woman in a Hammock (Tânără în hamac)
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, Round-Dance at Aninoasa (Hora de la Aninoasa)
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Nostalgia for Nature. Three Seasons by Dan Mohanu

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, tempera with emulsion
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’s brushstrokes: the kind of touches 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 then 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.

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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Watercolors by Ioana Nicoară

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IMG_20171128_145818_sm_ioana nicoara_annart_bucharest
IMG_20171128_145840_sm_ioana nicoara_annart_bucharest

Watercolors by Ioana Nicoară, AnnArt Gallery, Bucharest, November 2017

Upon seeing them, I had the sense right away that they visualize inner life. Inner life of the cells, or, barring that (we think of cells as contained and never quite imagine them at further microscopic levels), the life of our emotions permeating us like breaths or whooshing over us, coming together with neurons that fire sparks of thought—and cells responding to all that energy, electric . . .

“I like the search, the constant tearing apart of landmarks.”—Ciprian Istrate

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing Ciprian Istrate’s exhibition A’TOPIA at Galateca in downtown Bucharest. His portraits are arresting—which is no surprise given that he painted church murals for twenty years. Have a look for yourself! I could see speed, assurance, and “mirror eyes,” as the curator Iulia Gorneanu dubbed them, eyes which draw our attention in so many ways, and every time with a vigorous intensity which both pulls us in and keeps us at a distance as if in awe of their presence.

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Ciprian Istrate, A’TOPIA, Galateca

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Bride in Times of War

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Angel During War

Jagged Inflections

Marian Ionescu of the band Direcţia 5 has had his first painting exhibition this year at the largest contemporary art fair in Romania, Art Safari. He then exhibited at ARCUB. Here’s one of my favorite paintings of his show there. It’s titled Urban, and for some reason reminds me of Keith Haring’s lines. It also speaks to me of how we try to impose rational lines onto a city to oppose its organic growth, and how at the end the fabric of that city is a jumbled mixture of lines that make up a palimpsest of its urban history.

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Urban, 200 x 180 cm

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Urban, Detail

Remember him? Gerhard Richter, Eisberg (1982)

Gerhard Richter’s 1982 painting Iceberg (Eisberg) sold for £17.7 million (20,4 million) at Sotheby’s in London on March 8 this year, setting the record for the most expensive landscape painting sold at auction.

I can’t show you Richter’s painting (see the link above), but here’s another nice iceberg from Wikimedia Commons.

Iceberg near Baffin Island, Photo by Ansgar Walk, 1997, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Betsy Eby, Musical Textures in Space

An interview with Betsy Eby, a pianist and painter who works in the encaustic style, with pigments mixed with liquid wax and dammar resin. From IKONESS.

NB February 25, 2021: The links in the reblogged post that appears below don’t seem to work anymore. Here’s a link to Betsy Eby’s website.

I K O N E S S

In her paintings, Betsy Eby fuses the line between the musical and the visual composition. A classically trained pianist, she seeks in her work what Rothko described as “the place where music lives.” The layers and gestures of her paintings evoke musical spaces and rhythms while drawing on patterns found in nature. From her early childhood, musical and natural rhythms blended in Eby’s sensibility. She spent her first years of life in a small town on the Oregon coast, practicing at the family piano by the age of five. Today her work reveals that interconnected sensitivity: her delicate, organic compositions become synesthesias of sound and image.

Painting with Fire features the artist’s recent paintings that utilize the technique of encaustic, which means “to burn.” The process is an ancient one by which layers of pigments, sap, and wax are fused together by the flame of a torch. Eby has slowly…

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Zlatko Mušić’s Paintings, and a Short Interview with the Artist

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Zlatko Mušić, Beauty Lies in Imperfection

Zlatko Mušić is a 31-year-old artist from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Recently one of his paintings (shown above) was chosen to be displayed on a hi-res screen by the Saatchi Gallery in London.

I’ve had the pleasure of an interview with the artist. Here it is.

Mira Tudor: Hi Zlatko, looking through your portfolio at https://zlatkomusicart.wordpress.com/portfolio, I’m struck how versatile you are, moving with gusto from one style to another. I see the influence of Cézanne, Expressionism and de Kooning, but also of Caillebotte, Collage, and Digital Art. I would like to ask you, what are your favorite artists and why?

Zlatko Mušić: The diversity in my artworks probably comes from different styles and artists that had an influence on me, but among the many great artists I like, I consider Cézanne the greatest. Besides Paul Cézanne I would like to mention also Marc Chagall, Edward Hopper, and Mark Rothko as some of my favorite painters and influences.

All of these artists together are definition of pure art, in my opinion. Chagall with his imaginative storytelling scenes and bold use of colors, Hopper, on the other hand, with his use of light and the suspenseful atmosphere in paintings, and Rothko, of course, with his monumentality and his understanding of space in painting. They all influenced my work greatly, but in the words of Picasso, Cézanne is the father of us all.

MT: What medium was your favorite when you started making art? Was it always painting?

ZM: Painting was always my favorite medium. In the past, I liked to draw a lot besides painting, but with time as I took more interest in abstract and semi-abstract styles of painting I started to use colors more and to draw less.

MT: Do you work on commission? What are some of your paintings that you created on commission, and what can you tell me about your experience of working with a client to create a painting?

ZM: I work on commission often lately and it’s very challenging. For me, lots of commissions are based on earlier paintings I did—the client often wants something similar to my paintings that he saw in my portfolio or somewhere else. It’s very important to retain creative freedom, but at the same time meet the needs of the client. I’ve also had a few commissions where I had total freedom to do what I wanted, so it all depends on the client. The latest commission I had was a series of abstract landscapes also based on some of my earlier works. You can see one of them on my blog: https://zlatkomusicart.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/the-new-world-abstract-landscape

MT: Do you sell prints of your art?

ZM: Yes, I sell prints. They are available on http://zlatko-music.pixels.com

MT: Anything else you’d like to add?

ZM: I also have a shop on Etsy where you can find some of my original paintings for sale: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ZlatkoMusicArt. And you can find me on Facebook, too: www.facebook.com/ZlatkoMusicArt, or on my blog: https://zlatkomusicart.wordpress.com/portfolio

MT: Thank you, Zlatko, for this interview!