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Maxy, M.H. (1895-1971) - 1926 Still Life with a Celluloid Doll and Iron
Oil on artist's board; 51 x 35 cm.
Painter, set designer, and teacher. Max Hermann Maxy was born in Braila, Romania, but grew up in Bucharest, where he studied at the School of Fine Arts from 1913 to 1916. Among his teachers were Frederic Storck and Camil Ressu.
Maxy was mobilized during World War I, an experience that had a significant impact on his painting. In 1918, with the artists Iosif Ross and Iosif Steurer, he organized an exhibit in Iasi that depicted scenes from the front. In 1920, he held his first individual show in Bucharest, again presenting his war scenes. One year later, he participated in a show sponsored by the Arta Romana (Romanian Art) society.
In 1922 and 1923, Maxy studied in Berlin (as did his fellow Romanian artist, Arthur Segal) and became a member of the Novembergruppe (November Group), a German cultural organization of Socialist orientation, promoting expressionist aspirations, founded in 1918 in Berlin. In Berlin, he displayed his work at Der Sturm Galleries, with Paul Klee and Louis Marcoussis.
In 1924, Maxy participated in the International Exhibition of the avant-garde Contimporanul group in Bucharest, along with the group’s cofounder, Marcel Iancu (Janco), Constantin Brancusi, Paul Klee, Hans (Jean) Arp, Arthur Segal, Victor Brauner, Corneliu Mihailescu, and Mili?a Patrascu. That same year, following the spirit of Bauhaus and supporting the idea of unity in artistic style, he established, in Bucharest, the Academy of Modern and Decorative Art. In 1928, the Academy became the Studio of Decorative Art, an institution promoting Art Deco. Maxy also founded the avant-garde review Integral, among whose contributors were Filip Brunea-Fox, Ion Calugaru, Ilarie Voronca, Beniamin Fundoianu (Fondane), and Mattis Teutsch.
In 1926 Maxy spent time in Paris, where under the influence of Samuel Becket he created scenery and costumes for Luigi Pirandello’s L’Uomo, la bestia, a la virtu (Man, Beast, and Virtue) and Andre Gide’s Saul. Upon returning to Romania, Maxy participated in a show of the Arta Noua (New Art) group in 1929 and was awarded a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Barcelona for his work in decorative arts. Between 1930 and 1938, Maxy took part in exhibits of Contimporanul in Bucharest, the Rome exhibition of the Group for Modern Art, and those of the Criterion group, also in Bucharest.
In 1939, he became a set designer for the Jewish theater in Bucharest. With the passing of anti-Jewish legislation, he took on the theater’s directorship in 1941. He also taught at the Jewish School of Arts, a private institution for students who had been excluded from the Romanian public education system. After World War II, he organized a show titled “Work and Art,” displaying the creations of some of his students. In 1949, Maxy was appointed director of the Art Museum of Romania and university professor at the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Arts in Bucharest. In 1954 Maxy was awarded the title artist emerit (emeritus artist), with many other awards being granted by the Communist authorities in the years to come. His works are displayed in Romanian art exhibits in Bucharest, Prague, Moscow, Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest, Sofia, and Belgrade, as well as Athens, Cairo, Damascus, and Istanbul.
Maxy’s early works were dominated by constructivism, but his contribution to the Arta Noua exhibition in 1929 already signaled his turn toward moderate modernism, characterized by realism and a narrative mode. Maxy was also one of the best-known graphic artists and illustrator of interwar Romania; in particular, critics have praised his illustrations for texts by Sasa Pana and Ilarie Voronca. Also of note is the portrait collection of the members of his generation, published in Integral, Contimporanul, Unu, 75 HP, and the Jewish cultural review Puntea de Fildes.
Pruszkowski, Witold (1846-1896) - 1881 Artist's Son with a Dog (National Museum Warsaw, Poland)
Oil on canvas; 112 x 82 cm.
Polish painter and draughtsman. He spent his early years in Odessa and Kiev, subsequently living in France, in particular in Paris, where he studied under the Polish portrait painter Tadeusz Gorecki (1825-68), continuing (1868-71) at the Akademie der Kunste in Munich. In 1871 he moved to Krakow where he studied until 1875 under Jan Matejko at the School of Fine Arts. During ten years in Krakow he produced many striking portraits. In the portrait of Mrs Fedorowicz (1878; Krakow, N. Mus.) he achieved subtle effects of modelling by means of carefully differentiated tones and meticulously distributed light. The Realism of these portraits is subsumed into an advanced proto-Impressionist technique, on occasion using both small patches of distinct colour and broadly applied areas of impasto. Alongside such works, Pruszkowski produced paintings based on fantastic legends, fables and folk-tales. In these works one can trace influences going back to the artist's Munich period; but Pruszkowski's essentially Romantic vision translated his subjects into an entirely Polish context, as in Midsummer's Night (1875; Warsaw, N. Mus.) and Water Nymphs (1877; Krakow, N. Mus.).
In 1882 Pruszkowski moved to the village of Mnikow outside Krakow, where he worked in the isolation he believed essential for creative activity. Contact with the country people, however, provided him with themes for his work; alongside his fantastic and legendary subjects he painted genre scenes of peasant life. He brought to his subjects a diversity of means of formal depiction, from the realistic to the near visionary. However, there are notable recurrent motifs, for example the image of the native willow, the symbolic haunt of spirits, as in Willow on Marshland (1892; Lodz, Mus. A.). The visionary element achieved its apogee in the pastel compositions from the last years of his life. In works such as Death of Ellenai (1892; Wroclaw, N. Mus.) the evanescent nature of forms is expressed through restrained colour schemes, generally tending towards silvery greyish azure or shades of pink. These works draw their inspiration from the writings of the great Polish Romantic poets, in particular Juliusz Slowacki and Zygmunt Krasinski, and constitute a compelling link between Pruszkowski and the painters of the Young Poland (Mloda Polska) group. Pruszkowski was also an excellent draughtsman in a variety of media: charcoal, chalk, pencil and ink.
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