Nicolae Grigorescu (May 15, 1838—July 21, 1907) was one of the founders of modern Romanian painting.
He was born in Pitaru, (judeţul Dâmboviţa), Romania. In 1843 the family moved to Bucureşti. His three-year apprenticeship, begun at an early age (1848), to Anton Chladek, a Czech painter living in Bucharest, was followed by a time when he created icons for the church of Băicoi and the monastery of Căldăruşani. In 1856 he created the historical composition Michael the Brave dropping the flag, which he presented to the Wallachian Prince Barbu Ştirbei, together with a petition asking for financial aid for his studies. Between 1856 and 1857, he painted the church of the Zamfira Monastery (Prahova County), and in 1861 the church of the Agapia Monastery. With the help of Mihail Kogălniceanu, he received a scholarship to study in France.
His first years in Paris were spent at Sebastian Cornu's studio, where Renoir also made his apprenticeship. He used to go to the Louvre for reproducing children faces in Gericault's, Rubens's and Rembrandt's pictures. Being obsessed with the "plein-air" genre, which paved the way to the irruption of the Impressionistic school, Grigorescu spent each summer, as far as 1869, painting at Barbizon and some other places in the neighborhood of Paris. His paintings were shown at the Paris Salon in 1868, at the Bucharest Exhibitions of Living Artists (since 1870) and at the Art Exhibitions of the "Les Amis des Beaux-Arts" Society (since 1873). During 1873-1874 he would go on a study tour to Italy, Vienna, Greece and Constantinopole.
As frontline painter, he joined the troops in the 1877-1878 Independence War, and realized drawings which were to inspire his later compositions. One year after the Independence War he would paint in France, mostly in Bretagne, at Vitre, and at his Paris studio for twelve years (1879-1890). After his coming back, a succession of personal exhibitions would be organized at the Romanian Athenaeum in 1891, 1895, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1904. In 1889 his work was featured in the Universal Exhibition in Paris. He built a house at Câmpina, later to become the "Nicolae Grigorescu" Museum. He was named honorary member of the Romanian Academy in 1899.
At the dawn of modern Romanian culture, a time originating Eminescu's poetical genius, the pictorial language of Grigorescu became highly innovative. Grigorescu's painting art, diverse as it was, from that of a young mural painter to that of an Impressionistic School cognizer, was always on the acme and reverberated in the 20th century, long after his death. Father of modern Romanian painting, with Andreescu and Luchian as successors, Grigorescu was the great master worshiped by new generations of artists, who, early this century, were striving to reveal the profound wealth of the Romanian soul.
The uniqueness of his style and vision is to be remarked in portraits (D. Grecescu, Carol Davila, Andreescu at Barbizon), in self-portraits, in his compositions on the Independence War (Attack at Smârdan, A mounted rosior, Scenes with Turkish prisoners), in his several "Oxen Carts" pictures, in the country landscapes and the landscapes painted elsewhere (At Posada, The Grainville Fisherwoman, Crossroads at Vitre, The Old Woman in Brolle, A Wood Hut, An Autumn Landscape). His French "plein-air" experience matured into bringing light in his work and into rendering his composition genuinely rigorous and spontaneous.
The reality in his pictures is profoundly unaltered. The "secret geometry" of the picture keeps it unaltered, while, in the forefront, events seem to take place and the colors are bewildering. Grasping reality as the light changes it was one of the painter's great pleasures. In doing so he never got tired with the visible world. He was not prone to looking for picturesque in it, but to finding the valuable depth of a too common reality.