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

Advertisement

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)

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.

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

Tell Me—in Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel (99¢ until April 25)

Mira Tudor_Poets, Artists, Lovers. A Novel_ebook cover_blog

“Later that week Anca sent a number of poems to the magazine Literary Romania. “Tell Me” was among them. It talked of roasted potatoes and onions, rooibos tea with honey, and perky sad music on the CD player. It considered whether life is ever more than swapping stories in a kitchen over a poor man’s meal shared threeways, each bite charmed with sunlight and music. It described an intoxicating scene with a long-haired woman in a vaporous dress, pirouetting on the kitchen table to humor her boyfriend, who then grabbed her by the thighs and hips and put her down in front of the piano, where she played God knows what, for she used no sheets, and she and her man were the only musicians in the room. Finally, it mentioned her bare foot pushing the brass pedal with conviction, her launching into Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, whirling its listeners like a tornado, and her cutting loose as more water for tea boiled on the stove, and the guests were invited to crack walnut shells for a makeshift dessert.”

Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel is now selling at $0.99 and £0.99 (until April 25).

Lucia Lobonț, Moody Pictures

I love the aesthetics of Lucia Lobonț’s ceramics, whether they be tamer decorative pieces, moody portraits, or mixed-media-informed collage-like compositions with more recognizable use of decalcomania. (Here’s an example of the latter.)

I discovered Lucia Lobonț about a week ago at Elite Art Gallery in downtown Bucharest, where she had two portraits and a mirror frame on show. Here’s one of the portraits and part of the mirror.

Lucia Lobont, Reflection and Portrait, glazed ceramics, Elite Art Gallery, Bucharest

Lucia Lobonț, Reflection and Portrait
Glazed Ceramics

In the piece to the right, I’m drawn to the economy of gestures in marking shadows and red cheeks, and, of course, the moody tone, set by those wonderful droopy eyes, the chubby chins, the quirkily curved lips, and the full ovals of the faces.

A Kiss Withheld

The_Kiss_(Auguste_Rodin)
Auguste Rodin, The Kiss 
CC BY-SA 3.0 (Wikimedia Commons)

“So when it was conceived,” Alice began again, “The Kiss was about Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini, contemporaries of Dante who appear in his Divine Comedy, in Canto V of his Inferno. While in reality they carried on as lovers for years, in Dante’s Inferno they were surprised one day by Francesca’s husband as they kissed each other for the first time while reading about Lancelot and Queen Guinevere’s first kiss. Francesca’s husband, who was Paolo’s older brother, killed them both, condemning them along with other lustful sinners to the raging storm winds of the second circle of Hell.”

. . .

“I was browsing the other day through Rodin on Art and Artists: Conversations with Paul Gsell,” Alice said, “that Dover edition from 1983 Har gave me for my birthday last year, and it was wonderful to read, in Rodin’s own words, how he looked at Greek Classical art, how much he admired it for the way it answered to both nature and one ideal form or another, for being rooted in close observation of the particular as well as in a quest for the essential. He saw the academic art’s disdain for the truth of the flesh as misguided, leading not to beauty but to cold sculptures, devoid of life. Besides, for Rodin showing beauty meant showing spirit, character.”

Henriette took a drink from her mug. “Yes, the marble version of The Kiss is certainly more than a knickknack. I wonder why he called it that. Did he see it as too decorative—not arresting enough?”

“I think it was his way of saying that his sculpture presented a kiss too superficially, yes. That it didn’t capture enough expressions of deep feelings, that it didn’t do enough to invite the imagination to explore narrative dimensions,” Alice said, basking in the gentle glow of autumnal morning light. “But I think quite the opposite is true. Sustaining this representation of a passionate embrace is the great arc of Rodin’s art, with the transformations his own passion and intellect operate in order to show inner truths: the truth of a kiss withheld for a long time, of passion marrying the tender feelings of love, and of an embrace that tells a story, not least because you can easily see it in motion.”

“In motion?” Henriette asked. “Various poses? Many sculptors did that.”

“Yes, they did,” her sister answered. “In Rodin on Art and Artists Rodin describes how he, too, conceived his figures by putting together fragments of various poses normally seen in sequence, and I think you see here how Paolo and Francesca turn to each other. You see the tightness of his leg muscles under the impact of intense, heart-stopping desire, when she first moves towards him, you see his hand resting gently on her thigh, his arm muscles firm so he doesn’t lay too much weight on her, and then you see him bending his neck to kiss her and abandoning himself to his emotions.”

Read this and more about Rodin’s Kiss and other works of modern and contemporary art in Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel, this weekend only $0.99 and £0.99! Enjoy! 🙂

Art, music, love, friendship—PAL offers all this and more; now only $0.99 or £0.99

Mira Tudor_Poets, Artists, Lovers. A Novel_ebook cover_blog_sm

Henriette, an accomplished sculptor, lives for her work and her dalliances—until she loses the one man she truly loves. Ela, a piano teacher, meets dashing Pamfil, a violinist, and discovers the confusing taste of passion. A bittersweet story of love and friendship for fans of David Nicholls’s One Day.

Poets, Artists, Lovers (Amazon US, Amazon UK) is available for $0.99 or £0.99 until October 29. Enjoy!

Ion Iancuț’s Light Seekers

Earlier this month I saw Ion Iancuț’s personal exhibition Light Seekers (sculpture and pastels) at Senso Gallery here in Bucharest.

Most of the works were quite memorable, as I expected. Here are some of them.

Bronze sculpture by Ion Iancut, titled Light Seekers (2017), at Senso Gallery in Bucharest

Light Seekers, 2017
Bronze
44 x 77 x 6.5 cm (17.32 x 30.31 x 2.55 in)

Look how these Light Seekers seem to rest on their walking sticks, as if they had found something like Archimedes’s fulcrum (“Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”).

Alternatively, I see them pointing down from the sky with sticks like diving rods—rods which point us to the light hidden in our earthly lives, under our worries, disbelief, and general lack of interest in higher forms of existence we could embrace . . . if we only paid attention to the many fulcrums in our paths which could help rise us aloft.

Bronze sculpture by Ion Iancut, titled Accordion (2017), at Senso Gallery in Bucharest

Accordion, 2017
Bronze
17.5 x 47 x 42 cm (6.88 x 18.50 x 16.53 in)

Ion Iancut, The Archers (2017)

The Archers, 2017
Bronze
78.5 x 35 x 49 cm (30.90 x 13.77 x 19.29 in)

Ion Iancut, Tired Angel (2017), personal exhibition at Senso Gallery in Bucharest, June 2018

Tired Angel, 2017
Bronze
43 x 32 x 10 cm (16.92 x 12.59 x 3.93 in)

Ion Iancut, Star Seeker, personal exhibition, Senso Gallery, Bucharest, June 2018

Star Seeker [n.d.]
Pastel on colored cardboard
70 x 50 cm (27.55 x 19.68 in)

Ion Iancuț was born in Răducăneni, Iași county. He graduated from the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Fine Arts in Bucharest in 1974.