Nicolae Grigorescu was born in 1838 in the Romanian village Pitaru, county Dâmboviţa. The family relocated to Bucharest soon, though, where he got early in touch with painting. Because of lack of money, Grigorescu was not sent to school, and his mother taught him to read and write. When he reached 10 years old, he decided to take a job. He was particularly interested in painting houses. There was a Czech painter there, named Anton Chladek, who decided to take Nicolae in his painting workshop. The relationship between master and student was quite a cold one, because Chladek was extremely severe and trying to avoid any kind of competition coming from his newly found apprentice. Grigorescu was especially drawn to icon painting. He would walk across the capital’s street, carrying these sacred images, like a little salesman.
Yet his icon painting, only became notorious in 1853, when people saw really big paintings of his in the church built by Princess Trubetkoi. This was in fact his debut as an icon painter, followed by his painting of the Caldarusani, Zamfira and Agapia monasteries. These were the most significant icon paintings belonging to Nicolae Grigorescu. After his finishing of the Agapia monastery, however, his career of icon painter comes to an end.
With the money earned painting the Agapia monastery, Grigorescu started preparing for his voyage to Paris. He had planned going to France on his own, to learn more about painting from great masters there. Receiving a scholarship to Paris, he embarked on a new adventure to this bohemian artistic world.
When in Paris, in 1961, he was welcomed by an old rival named C.I. Stancescu, from the scholarship contest. Together they went on a trip to Saint Denis. This trip was followed by a drawing dedicated by Grigorescu, to this new friend of his.
Only in March 1862, did he start his painting classes, because he had missed the September admission exam. His main teacher was Sebastien Cornu. His exam results classified them in the middle of the admission list, before Renoir, who had also taken part in the scholarship competition. In the fall of 1863, Nicolae Grigorescu left Cornu’s workshop and started his own in Paris. He also started a workshop in Barbizon. After a long time of exercises made to imitate celebrated paintings, the young painter started doing his very own works.
After he started spending so much time in the magnificent Barbizon, Grigorescu began to get interested in painting landscapes. He returned to Romania during the summer of 1867. Here he came into contact with life in the hills and in the mountains. Two years later, in 1869, he was accepted at the Paris Salon with works that he considered to be interesting to the cosmopolite public, but which turned out to be less appreciated by the critics.
Also, persistent rumors of war and the anxiety that characterized the social and political life in the France of 1870, actually forced Grigorescu to return to his native country, to find his tranquility and inspiration.
Success most certainly followed him there, too. Thus, in 1872, he managed to sell his painting entitled “Ghergani Gypsy Woman” to Ion Ghica for the impressive sum of 10,000 gold Francs. Starting from this point, Grigorescu becames a great attraction for the conversations and comments of all those interested in painting.
In 1870, he started taking part in the Living Artists’ Exhibition, with 26 paintings which sum up to a quarter of all those exposed paintings. He wins the greatest award given by the jury. The year of 1873, is the year of his artistic triumph in Bucharest, with no less than 146 of his works being exhibited at the Friends of Belle-Arts Exhibition. After the exhibition, where he got a great sum of money selling one of his paintings, he succeeded in fulfilling an older dream of his: that of visiting Italy. He, therefore, left for Napoli, and then he went to Athens, Constantinople, and then returned back to his country.
Nicolae Grigorescu died at Campina (still in Romania), on July 21st, 1907. He is considered to be one of the best Romanian painters of all times.