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While in France, Nicolae Grigorescu spent long periods of time in Vitré, “a small medieval town in Brittany, where the narrow streets are stranded between old buildings with sharp, hood-like roofs, while the people themselves are stranded in their ancient, patriarchal traditions” – as the famous art collector Zambaccian describes it. The picturesque town fascinated Grigorescu who thus became the first Romanian painter to have immortalized it. And on canvas, this fascination was translated into a series of masterpieces. The brushstrokes transformed the landscape which became a visual equivalent of the sight which stirred up the painter’s deepest, most sincere emotions. He painted everything: streets, houses, people, villages, towns, nature; what seems difficult to render on canvas – the specific features of the places – came with ease, flowed naturally, under his touch. Street in Vitré and Houses at Vitré (ca. 1879-1886) show the artist’s preoccupation to exploit the values of light and air, to capture and render them in such a manner that the objects, in a variety of hues of grey, interpose the eyes of the viewer.

Details

  • Title: Street in Vitré
  • Creator: NICOLAE GRIGORESCU
  • Date: 1879 - 1886
  • Physical Location: Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania
  • Physical Dimensions: w53 x h65 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist Biography: Nicolae Grigorescu, one of the founders of modern Romanian painting, broke with the ambiance and with the obsolete formulas of academism. Grigorescu did not study only in Paris, he spent a lot of time in Barbizon, the melting pot of the new language of European painting, where he had the epiphany of the new perspectives. He assimilated the influences of artists like Millet, Corot, Courbet and Theodor Rousseau. Seeking an innovative artistic language he was open to impressionistic suggestions which, with talent and sensitiveness, he engrafted on the traditional Romanian expressiveness. At the 1867 Paris Universal Exhibition, Emperor Napoleon III bought one of his paintings, Gypsy Woman. This was probably his ticket to all the official salons in the following two years. Three years later, at the Exhibition of Living Artists, he was discovered by Elizabeth, future Queen of Romania, who purchased some of his paintings thus bringing him even more to the public eye. Summoned to do his duty as a soldier, Grigorescu became a war reporter; which would bring the theme of the war and of the Romanian soldier in his creation in the years to come. Between 1879 and 1890, he worked more in France than anywhere else, and kept in contact with the effervescent artistic centres of Europe. A very prolific artist, his paintings were seen in many exhibitions in France and in Romania and he became even more popular and famous. In 1881, in Bucharest he displayed 200 works in a personal exhibition. They were solid proof of his command of the impressionistic technique and language. Typical Romanian themes, portraits of young peasants and peasant women, ox carts, often appear in his creation as a result of the time he spent in Romania. With them, Grigorescu, solar, vital, optimistic, becomes a symbol for the Romanian spirituality. The artist had a remarkable ability to explore the values of light and colour as they were understood by modern painting, choosing a realism which does not distort nature rather than resorting to extreme formulas. In 1899, Nicolae Grigorescu was made Honorary Member of the Romanian Academy. It was an expression of gratitude for his overwhelming contribution to the evolution of Romanian painting.
  • Provenance: Brukenthal National Museum
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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