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The Baia Mare Artistic Centre (1896 – 2013)

The Baia Mare Artistic Centre (1896 – 2013)


Dr. Tiberiu Alexa

 City of painters. The individual and collective awareness of a wide national and foreign audience has defined a mental reflection of the city of Baia Mare through the image of ”city of painters”. The configuration of such a symbolic image and its subsequent permanence for more than a century, are the result of a complex evolution process. Consequently, the artistic movement of Baia Mare was founded on the permanent structures of specialized institutions whose functioning continuity moves along the stream of its own history and ties our present days to the founding act of Simon Hollósy, back in 1896.
During its 117 years of existence over 4.000 fine artists came to Baia Mare from the most diverse cultural spaces of Europe (painters, sculptors, drawers, ceramists, designers, scenographers, etc.) have contributed to a remarkably rich and varied artistic patrimony. Justifying the identity of an urban centre and its community through a cultural symbol, in our case located in the field of visual arts, is undoubtedly a rarity at the scale of the European environment as a whole.

Within the Romanian space, the case of the Baia Mare Artistic Centre is unique and the same happens in Hungary where similar functions of social and cultural identification were accredited to the Kecskemét and Szentendre artistic centres. The fact is not at all random, also due to the existence of a direct generative filiation and consistent communication ties between the art colonies of the three centres. Being, on the one hand, the first and the oldest, the colony of Baia Mare provided the force and the attraction of an initiatory and reference pattern that widely inspired the founding and structuring processes of the Kecskemét (1909-1912) and Szentendre (1925-1928) colonies.
Within these evolution contexts, significant human resource transfers have occurred between Baia Mare and Kecskemét – both in the artistic and enterprising areas (an entire ”founding” group recruited among the first generation of Baia Mare avantgardists adopted the structural and mentoring leadership of Béla I. Grünwald: Dezső Czigány–Wimmer, Rezső Bálint, Vilmos Csaba Perlroth, Géza Bornemisza, András Mikola), between Baia Mare and Szentendre (Tibor Boromisza, Béla Czobel, Margit Gráber, again the same Béla I. Grünwald who became, in 1928, president of the Painters Society of Szentendre). On the other hand, we should notice a significant number of artists who, in time, have made „round-trips” between the three colonies and have contributed in one way or another, to a mutual dissemination of practices, models, individual and collective experiences (Károly Ferenczy, Béla I. Grünwald, István Réti, Vilmos Csaba Perlroth, János Kmetty, István Boldizsár, Andor Kántor, Mária Modok, János Pirk, and during the last years László Bód, József Buhály, Gyula Dudás, Zoltán Bitay, Gheorghe and Iudith Crăciun, Nicolae Suciu, Ágoston Véső, Károly Ballany).

The concept based on these historical ties, now establishing a sort of common Romanian-Hungarian cultural tradition is meant to bring forward the actual component of contemporary artistic life thus facilitating a wide audience dissemination of the vitality of artistic ”products” of Baia Mare Artistic Centre in the European context – both by similarity and dissimilarity of aesthetic vectors. I believe that the approach itself contains exceptional meanings covering the scale of Pan-European cultural geography.
On the one hand, at the regional level of mutual knowledge deepening of traditional and actual common values, nowadays unveiling on a scale much wider and consistent than we could have and/or would have believed until recently.
On the other hand, at the global level of a cultural Europe, towards which we expect that our museum’s new permanent exhibition ‘Baia Mare Artistic Centre. European Landmarks Between Traditions and Renewals’ will send a consistent and firm message concerning the actual vitality and viability of the Baia Mare centre – one of the most longeval art colony in Europe, and also one that survived to forward to the third millennium those cultural and identity oriented Pan-European artistic values that international colonism has shaped and validated throughout XX th century Europe.

 The Baia Mare Artistic Centre – identity structures.. The beginning, in Baia Mare, of the art colony în 1896 and the consequent founding of the Baia Mare Artistic Centre lay the stepping stone of some institutional restructuring processes that have generated favourable impulses to the development of modern fine arts in the Transylvanian environment – a space of Romanian and Hungarian cultural interference and confluence. In the thematical and problematical framework brought forward by the Connection 20 exhibition and volume, ”the Baia Mare artistic case” deserves an approach from the perspective of its following complementary functions: alternative artistic centre, provider of educational and professional services for skills development and also provider of professional skills able to generate a market of symbolic goods.

The function of «alternative artistic centre». While searching for convincing answers whether the identity of Baia Mare will be that of „School, Colony or Artistic Centre?”, years ago I wrote these preliminary remarks: „The dilemma is not a new one. Or at least we may notice that it represented from time to time an issue of historiographic reflection. In 1966, Antal Kampis reached the conclusion that the colonists of the Hollósy group «First settled there in 1896 and from that moment on Baia Mare remained the seat of a group and of a school of painters, a permanent art centre » .(…) Although expressed in a different manner, the idea resurfaces at the beginning of the 70’s in a study entitled by Raoul Şorban The Art Centre of Baia Mare . (…)

The arising principle issue concerns the field of artistic geography and resides in establishing whether we are dealing with a satellite cultural area, a periphery (structurally relying on a strong cultural centre), or – on the contrary – with an autonomous and self-structured space. In other words, should Baia Mare be identified as a periphery or as a centre?. (…)” Back then I established the following configuration of identity traits on the basis of which I was to assert that the cultural and artistic phenomenon of Baia Mare has to be identified as an artistic centre:
a) the continuous existence that suits the longue-durée historical series paradigm that particularizes the statute of centre as opposed to that of periphery ;
b) the structuring and permanent functioning of own specialized institutions that helped Baia Mare gain a significant identity and a constant polarizing and absorption capacity (temporary and/or final) of external human resources ;
c) the capacity to promote „beyond the geographical space itself”, by means of own educational programs, ”a sort of know–how exportation” that also represents a feature of the ”centre, because the centre is the producer and the periphery is the consumer” ;
d) the impact generated both towards the inside and towards the outside by the network of its own ”full institutional system” upon the activation of the areas of ”a dynamic, complex and radiant artistic life” .

Although it may be enriched and amplified, I think that my former opinion still maintains its viability: „(…) these conditions being met, Baia Mare may and has to be defined as an authentic artistic centre as we may assert, in complete harmony with Enrico Castelnuovo and Carlo Ginzburg that Baia Mare as well is «a place characterized by the presence of a significant number of artists and important groups of patrons… ready to invest a part of their wealth in art works…»; that Baia Mare as well was «…endowed with institutions aimed at guarding, forming, promoting artists and distributing their works of art.» Still in agreement with the two essayists, we are compelled to notice that it has been already [more than] a century since in Baia Mare [and within the Transylanian environment] emerged «…an audience much broader than the one consisting of the patrons themselves; an audience which, far from being homogenous, will be divided into groups, all of them endowed with own perception habits and own evaluation criteria that may well be translated into specific expectations and requests ».”

foto 6 Hollosy_Portret 2 prel 2 color

Initiated in 1896, the structuring process of the artistic centre identity may be perceived as fully crystallized no later than 1924 with the legal recognition of the Statute of the Painters Society of Baia Mare by the Satu Mare Court of Law.

As compared to its cultural geographic proximities with whom has establised direct relationships, the Baia Mare artistic centre is characterized by the following functions:
a) On a horizontal level – at an extended Transylvanian scale – the functions of cultural and institutional initiatory model, that is polarizing/recruiting and promotion centre of professionally specialised human resources;
b) At a state/national level – the functions of alternative and dialogue centre in its relationships with metropolitan centres (Münich, Budapest, Paris, Bucharest) and/or regional centres (Krakow, Odessa, Cluj, Szolnok, Kecskemét, Balcic, Szentendre, Iaşi, Timişoara); polarizing/recruiting and promotion/„export” centre of professionally sepcialized human resources;
c) At a trans-state/transnational level – the main function of partner centre in dual/complementary processes of creative absorption/reshaping of cultural and aesthetic matrixes moving across borders on a Pan-European continental scale.

What kind of «centre»? Maybe by the very answer to this natural question we may emphasize more clearly that atypical trait of the Baia Mare phenomenon. Rising from the energy of the initial impulse of the exploring temporary colonism, the artistic movement of Baia Mare rapidly became a temporary performance colonism. Meanwhile, the permanent colony became the main element of evolution of Baia Mare from the condition of satellite area orbiting around its reference centre (Münich), to that of viable alternative-centre with a regional power of attraction exerted upon a transnational geographic area and upon some overlapped and internationalized cultural areas. Even if regarded solely from the perspective of this complementary involvement in the Romanian and Hungarian areas, the artistic movement of Baia Mare has to be entirely in both countries’ art histories and its secondary cultural and artistic irradiations need to be added to this cultural background, leading us towards other European cultural areas such as Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, etc.”.


Provider of educational and professional services for skills development. In this framework, the very positioning of the Baia Mare Artistic Centre within the field of Transylvanian fine arts was and remains atypical, distinguished by a unique particularism.
On the one hand, the centre has fulfilled for a long time the function of „free and private educational centre” of similar/comparable – and equivalent/complementary – to the higher acedemic education: as an individual centre until 1924 and together with the School of fine arts of Cluj (state institution: 1925-1933), then with the School of Fine Arts of Timişoara (atfer the relocation of the Cluj school: 1933-1941). After 1950, the educational function was shifted to the state owned system: firstly (and with two interruptions) at a high school education level, then, starting with the year 2000, (with the Fine Arts Department of the North University) at an academic, higher education level, alongside state universities as Timişoara, Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu and Oradea.

On the other hand, the Baia Mare artistic centre has ”supplied” the regional and metropolitan artistic centres with own human resources (recruited within its own hinterland), and with human resources attracted from variable and widely spread geographically cultural areas on the map of Europe . These human resources underwent a preliminary professional training (initiation, partial and complementary refinement,) or a complete one (at least between 1896-1930, and since 2000), and subsequently their promotion was launched on regional, national and European markets.

foto 11 Baia Mare anii 1920 Centrul Vechi spre Dealul Crucii
Only a statistic evaluation of the evolution of temporary colonism, however ”cold” and less habitual in the context of an art historiography approach, may provide interpretation certainties based on the scientific strictness of quantitative values.
The summation of annual values of the lengthy historical course of the 1896-2008 period emphasizes the presence of 6092 registered temporary colonists with a statistical yearly average presence of 53,9 pupils, students and artists in Baia Mare. Undoubtedly their real allocation indicate obvious uneven values.

The chart above indicates the succession of six relatively distinct cycles and three types of evolution processes: three rising processes – a (1896-1925); c (1956-1979) and f (1990-2008) cycles; two regression processes –b (1926-1935) and e (1980-1989) cycles and a relative stagnation process at a level close to the critical threshold – c cycle (1936-1955). The interesting aspect of this evolution chart would be, firstly to explain the origin and nature of the regression registered between 1927-1956 whose statistical values indicate a lasting crisis of temporary colonism. We are therefore fully entitled to speak about the bivalent source, both institutional and cultural, of this crisis.
The group of institutional factors has acted conjuncturally and on medium term. The pressures it exerted on the Baia Mare temporary colonism sprang from its own state of crisis that lasted for some decades, from its own institutional system as well as from the relationships with the reference centres. The structural rehabilitation lead to a recovery of the growing cycle after 1957 by maintaining the same sources of temporary colonism: own education system, the capacity to stimulate individual artistic colonism, the directed promotion of certain special programs. The ending of the crisis through the mechanisms of such a continuity remains one of the main arguments contradicting the hypothesis of a hystorical fracturing of the centennial existence of the Baia Mare Artistic Centre .
There is still, a discontinuity. A discontinuity that did not affect the functioning of the institutional structures but the art practice itself. According to all evidences, this discontinuity came into being on the background of the deep cultural model crisis that Baia Mare underwent between 1926 and 1965 then slowly crystallized throughout the lasting process of marginalizing/replacement of the original and anachronic plein-air hegemony. The natural result was the marginalizing of the so-called “Baia Mare landscape painting” and the emergence of more intellectualized models, inspired by the late avantgarde and then by postmodernism. This cultural model shifting generated the ending of the crisis process of temporary colonism that, beyond a clear quantitative refreshment, seems to have acquired a distinct cultural identity.

Provider of professional skills able to generate a market of symbolic goods.The permanent colonism provides a substantially different global representation. The roots of local artistic professionalism, to which have contributed both local and resident colonists, have been set between 1880-1900 through the academic training sessions and the early careers developed in European artistic centres as Münich, Paris, Budapest and Madrid, by Simon Hollósy, János Thorma, István Réti and Zsigmond Nagy, Károly Ferenczy, Béla I. Grünwald, Pál Benes, Caesar Joachim Herrer. Jenő Maticska would become the first local artist entirely educated at the premises of the Baia Mare Artsitic Centre and also its first ”pure” exponent. Subsequently came the pre-war golden class – the first ”series” of avantgardists related especially by the consequences of the training and the performance sessions spent in Paris: Tibor Boromisza, Sándor Ziffer, Sándor Galimberti, Csaba Vilmos Perlroth. ”The French group” was doubled by the German one (Münich, Berlin). The major role vested to the „Budapest group” that, until 1918, managed to polarize the great majority of permanent colonists, its remarcable examples being János Krizsán, András Mikola, Erik Bienerth, Jakab Zoltán, as well as the three Ferenczy brothers – Valér, Noemi and Bénjamin. A special case, somehow similar to that of Maticska, a complete product of the Baia Mare Artistic Centre, is that of Alexandru Duma (prematurely deceased on the Galitian front).

foto 12 Baia Mare 1921 Colonia si Scoala de Pictura

Belonging, from the age perspective, to the former generation, three important personalities have left an imprint on the 20’s Baia Mare: Dimitrie N. Cabadaieff (educated in Sofia and Venice and frequent exhibitor of the Artistic Youth in Bucharest), Grigore Negoşanu (educated and active in Bucharest, Münich and Paris) and Hans Mattis Teutsch. A ”second wave” – consisting of both avantgardists and traditionalists was ”forged” during the years 1913-1925 – alternatively in the metropolitan artistic centres of Budapest, Bucharest, Paris and in Baia Mare, where names such as Eugen Pascu, Sara Égly, Gheorghe Florian, István Boldizsár, Sándor Szolnay, Dávid Jándi, Traian Bilţiu-Dăncuş, Tasso Marchini, Oszkár Nagy, Vincent Korda, Gizella Dömötör şi Hugo Mund, József Klein emerged and successively found their places in the national and European artistic milieus. The 30’s brought forward the local born artists Gheza Vida, Lidia Agricola and Constantin Dipşe, and the residents Peer Merloe (Danish citizen naturalized in Romania) and his wife, the tapestry artist Didie Merloe, Petre Abrudan, János Kmetty, Antónia Csikos, while the new artists of the 1940-1944 period were Iván Szilárd, François [Ferenc] Gáll and János Pirk. Anticipated by the growing number of locally educated artists, in the sixth and seventh decades, in the academic environments of Cluj and Bucharest (Alexandru Şainelic, Agoston Véső, Traian Hrişcă, Mircea Hrişcă, Mihai Olos, etc.), a new upward trend marks the reclaiming of the growing processs of permanent colonism with the absorption of new groups of resident artists.

foto 13 Colonisti bucuresteni 1929

 Besides, the ending of the proletcult crisis, the subsequent intregration of the late avantgarde and the emergence of the postmodern values are mostly the result of this important fresh and dynamic human capital contribution. Thus, the Generation of the 50’s brought forward names as József Balla, Gyula Dudás, Gheorghe Chivu, Paul Erdös, Zoltán Bitay, Ida Mayer – Grumaz and Walter Friedrich, and has become the generation of drawing. The Generation of the 60’s came with a remarkable group of artists, among them Nicolae Apostol, Ilie Cămărăşan, Traian Moldovan, Ion Sasu and Gábor Törös (which, in a somehow particular way has become the generation of sculpture). The upward trend reached an absolute maximum level in the 70’s and a relative stability with the representatives of the Generation of the 70’s – the locals Gheorghe Crăciun, György Madarassy, Gheorghe Makkara, Bertalan Kovács and the residents Alexandru Szabo, Mircea Bochiş, Károly Kádár, András Szántó, Iudit Crăciun, László and Edith Lugossi.) and with those of the Generation of the 80‘s – the locals Péter Hutira, Dorel Petrehuş, Vasile Corneştean, István Magyar, Cristina Pârvulescu–Cucu, Ioan Marchiş and the residents Ioan Anghel Negrean, Nicolae Suciu, Marius and Lucia Atanase, Dan Dociu, Sándor József Atilla, Aurel Cucu, Rozalia Sütő – Péter, Viorel Nimigeanu, Christian Stroe. Finally, the period of the two post-comunist decades brought a substantial ”rejuvenation” of the fund of permanent colonists with reference names as Laura Ghinea, Marcel Stanciu, Marius Mureşan, Barbu Crăciun, Csaba Györi, Valer Sasu, Valentin Itu and Dorel Topan, Mihai Ciplea.

foto 14 Baia Mare 1938 Centrul Vechi-Dealul Florilor
To finish, as an open conclusion and based on the previously expressed arguments, we may support the statement that, within a wider Transylvanian framework, the Baia Mare Artistic Centre was and still is one of the most active factors aimed at stimulating the modern and contemporary artistic life. From today’s interpretation of the entire historical legacy of this colonist process undergoing a spectacular rebirth during the postcomunist era, the main ideal entrusted for preservation and perpetuation resides in the idea of Pan-European artistic communication and solidarity. It is a major ideal… it is, after all, an authentic foregoing historical model whose validity can and has to be interpreted from the viewpoint of the European integration process vividly unfolding in our times. The sampled description of the landmarks identified as „Baia Mare contemporary artistic brand” wishes to point out some actual references concerning the communication, confluence and transfer processes shaping the actual ever-changing history of the Artistic Centre of Baia Mare.


(1)See the detailed analysis and the argumentation of Tiberiu Alexa, „O incursiune neconvenţională în istoria Centrului Artistic Baia Mare”, in Tiberiu Alexa, Traian Moldovan, Mihai Muscă, Centrul Artistic Baia Mare. 1896 – 1996. Expoziţie organizată de Muzeul de Artă Baia Mare cu sprijinul Guvernului României • The Baia Mare Artistic Centre 1896–1996. Exhibition held by the Baia Mare Art Museum with the support of the Romanian Government, The Maramures County Culture Directorate – The Maramureş County Museum, Baia Mare, [1996], (further on: Alexa 1996), p. 7-51.

(2)Out of the extremely rich bibliographical repertoir, especially in the Hungarian historiographic area, for the reexamined issue regarding the founding and evolution of the Baia Mare art colony it is worth considering the massive volume edited by Géza Csorba, György Szücs et al., Nagybánya művészete. Kiállítás a nagybányai művésztelep alapitásának 100. évfordulója alkalmából. Die Kunst von Nagybánya. Ausstellung zur Hundertjahrfejer der Gründung der Künstlerkolonie von Nagybánya. The Art of Nagybánya. Centennial Exhibition in Commemoration of the Artists’ Colony in Nagybánya, Magyar Nemzeti Galéria 1996. március 14–oktober 20., Ungarische Nationalgalerie, 14. März–20. Oktober 1996, Hungarian National Gallery 14. March–20. Oktober., [f.l. Budapest], 1996 [album and catalogue].

(3)Cf. Alexa 1996, p. 7-120.

(4)Cf. Tiberiu Alexa, Baia Mare – Şcoală, Colonie sau Centru artistic? Teză de doctorat, the Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, 1998 (further on: Alexa 1998).

(5)Antal Kampis, The History of Art in Hungary, London–Wellinghborough, 1966, p. 289.

(6)Raoul Şorban, „Centrul de artă de la Baia Mare”, in Centenar muzeal orădean, Muzeul Ţării Crişurilor, Oradea, 1970.

(7)Cf. Alexa 1996, p. 37; 82.


(9)Ibidem, p. 38; 82. For details see also Tiberiu Alexa, „Centrul Artistic Baia Mare (1896-2007). Trăsături identitare individualizate ale unui model european”, in Daniela Dâmboiu, Iuliea Mesea (coord.), Confluenţe. Repere europene în arta transilvăneană – Catalog de expoziţie. Palatul Brukenthal, Sibiu 2007, Editura Altip, Alba Iulia, 2007, p. 101-110.

(10)Cf. Alexa 1996, p. 38; 83; for details see also pages 15-34; 61-77.

(11)Ibidem, p. 38; 83

(12)Enrico Castelnuovo, Carlo Ginzburg, „Symbolic domination and artistic geography in Italian art history”, in the collective volume Sociology of artistic perception, Editura Meridiane, Bucureşti, 1991, p. 223.

(13)Especially in the areas of central, south-eastern and eastern Europe.

(14)Since 1990, some Hungarian historiographers and especially Jenő Murádin of Cluj are making constant editorial efforts (but also debatable ones) in order to certify and promote the idea of the ”conclusion” of the Baia Mare artistic colonism at the end of the World War II and the cease of the effects produced by the second Vienna Award of 1940 (the Cluj historian recently wrote about „… the original values kept [sic !] from the 50 years activity of the most important painting colony of eastern Europe…”: cf. Europa művésztelepei: Nagybánya. MűvészMalom, Szentendre 2005. oktober 1 – 2006. január 15, [exhibit album], Szentendre Művészetéért Alapitvány, Szentendre, 2005, p. 11).

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