A still life with carnations signed 'Luchian' (lower right) oil on canvas 17 x 16 3/4in (43 x 42.5cm)
Dumitru Marinescu Bragadiru (1842-1915), Romanian industrialist; Dumitru D. Bragadiru, his son; By descent to the present owner.
The son of an army officer, Luchian was guided into pursuing a career as a painter by his first teacher, Nicolae Grigorescu, who was very influential in steering him into a non-academic direction and adopting the views of realist and plein-air painting, that Grigorescu himself discovered during his long sojourn in Barbizon and Paris.
Studying in Paris was de rigueur for a young aspiring painter, thus, after a year at the Munich Academy of Arts, Luchian enrolled at the Academie Julien in the studio of William-Adolphe Bouguereau. A colorist by nature, he further incorporated the Impressionist technique and use of pure, primary colors in his art, while carefully crafting well-structured compositions.
Upon his return to Bucharest in 1892, Luchian quickly became the most interesting and first modern Romanian painter, achieving celebrity status and embodying the strong francophile and cosmopolitan tendencies of Romanian society of the time. He found himself at the forefront of an emerging new aesthetic, that soon adopted the imagery of the Munich and Vienna Secessions in addition to Symbolism, further underlying the international ambitions of various artistic currents of fin de siècle Romania.
At the height of artistic success, Luchian's health started to deteriorate as he suffered the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis in 1900. His new condition seemed to fuel his creative output and, for the next ten years, despite crippling pain, he continued his summer trips through the country, returning with portraits of interesting peasants, idyllic scenes of domestic country life, landscapes and still lives.
Paralyzed and confined to his studio from 1909, the painter found refuge in painting his beloved flowers, now representing his only connection to nature and only model. A major subject in the artist's oeuvre since 1903, his still lives of flowers carefully arranged in traditional Romanian earthenware pots, had become an important category in modern Romanian painting.
Still participating in yearly exhibitions, Luchian's paintings fell out of favor with the public, leaving the painter impoverished and isolated. He worked and exhibited until 1915, the year before he died at age 49, when his art enjoyed renewed success due to the tireless efforts of his friend, the poet Tudor Arghezi.
The present painting may have been acquired by Dumitru Marinescu Bragadiru directly from the artist shortly after it was executed and, therefore, never exhibited. Bragadiru's art advisor was the painter Jean Alexandru Steriadi, Luchian's fellow member in the artistic organization Tinerimea (Youth). He may have served as liaison between the collector and his artists friends, whose works he promoted.
Of humble origins, Bragadiru amassed a fabulous fortune as an alcohol and beer producer and was considered the second-richest man in Romania at the end of the 19th century. A forward-thinker and innovator, Bragadiru built the first telephone network in Romania, linking his estate with his beer factory. After 1948, his family's vast land holdings in Bucharest and suburbs were nationalized. His name was erased from the history books in Orwellian fashion by the communist regime and replaced with Lenin's on the frontispiece of Bragadiru Palace, a cultural and recreational center built for his factory employees. The beer factory continued production for another 40 years under the name Rahova.