Nicolae Tonitza (April 13, 1886, Bârlad – February 27, 1940, Bucharest) was a Romanian painter, engraver, lithographer, journalist and art critic. Drawing inspiration from Post-impressionism and Expressionism, he had a major role in introducing modernist guidelines to local art.
In 1902 he joins the National School of Fine Arts in Iaşi. In 1908 he left for Munich, where he attended the Königliche Bayerische Akademie der Bildenden Kunste (Royal Academy of Fine Arts); he began publishing political cartoons in Furnica (The Ant), and contributing art criticism articles to Arta Română (Romanian Art). Tonitza spent the following three years in Paris, where he visited artists' studios, and studied famous paintings.
After his return, Tonitza finished his studies and received also a church painter diploma. He then painted the churches of Grozeşti, Scorţeni, Silişte, Poeni, Văleni in Moldavia and worked as an art teacher, and then, together with Cezar Petrescu, as editor of Iaşul newspaper. He married Ecaterina Climescu in 1913. In 1916, after Romania entered the WWI, Tonitza was drafted into the Army and fell prisoner to the Bulgarians during the Battle of Turtucaia. Interned, he became ill with malaria and rheumatism, which would plague him until his death. He was set free and returned in 1918. During the 1920s, he was a member of the Arta Română group (alongside Gheorghe Petraşcu and others).
His commitment to social commentary is best perceivable in his graphic work, malicious and sometimes dramatic — he sketched for many contemporary, usually political and leftist, magazines. In 1921, Tonitza expanded his range, painting prototypes for a ceramics factory, and organizing a ceramics exhibition; the same year, he moved to Vălenii de Munte, and decided to cease contributing to the press. It was at the time that he developed on his characteristic style and themes, both of which, Zambaccian contended, were determined by his experiences as a father. In 1926, Tonitza, Oscar Han, Francisc Şirato, and Ştefan Dimitrescu, organized themselves as Grupul celor patru ("The Group of Four"). He met success in 1925, after opening a large exhibit in Bucharest, while raising controversy (including criticism from Ressu) over his "poster-like" style.
He begins must to be more and more appreciated and to considered in the time as the most important painter of moment, also by exposing abroad (Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona). Despite his fame, he continued to live an impoverished and hectic existence, which probably contributed to the decline of his health. Upon Dimitrescu's death in 1933, Tonitza held his chair at the Fine Arts Academy in Iaşi. A participant in several national exhibitions and World Fairs, he painted his last works around Balchik. He fell severely ill in 1937, and died three years later.
His aesthetic options were built around the problems of Impressionism, the achievements of the Post-Impressionists, the decorative trends of Modern Style. His equilibrium, his hedonism, his tempered sensitiveness are turned into the brilliancy of light and color in the harmony between color and line. Beyond the everyday torments, his painting remained serene, expressing a classicist artistic ideal. Highly influential and admired, he inspired several generations of artists with his works, which were at the same time original, strong and vivid.
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