Rudolf Schwietzer Cumpăna

(born May 7th 1886, Pitești – died February 17th 1975, Bucharest)


The Bucharest Municipality Museum continues its Miraculous Healings series with the showcase of two recently restaured paintings and an exhibition dedicated to painter Rudolf Schwietzer Cumpăna, on the 40 years commemoration since his eath.

“… Despite his German name, which might cause him some inconveniences, Mr. Schweitzer shows a very Romanian rustic inspiration, we might even call it exclusively peasant-like…” wrote Nichifor Crainic in 1919.

Born in Pitești on May 9th, son of a forests clerk, he displayed an interest in drawing from a young age. With the support of an uncle, he traveled to Berlin where, from 1904 to 1908, he studied painting, first at professor’s Adolf Schlabitz’s private school and then at the Academy of Arts with professors Erich Hanke, Arthur Kamph and Anton Alexander von Werne. Reminiscing about this period Rudolf said: the deep knowledge on forms, volumes and values, in short, the drawing skills I learned at the Academy, was very useful for me and have become a sort of spine of my art.” (Arta Plastică, no. 2/1957 apud Gheorghe Poenaru, cited work, p. 7).

In 1909 he returned to Romania for his military service.

After his debut at the Official Salon in 1911, in 1912 he exhibited five works at the event organized by the Artistic Youth society; in 1913 opened his first personal show in the Crețulescu Crossing in Bucharest. He took part in many solo and group shows – established himself as an active and prolific author, in galleries and museum both in Romania and abroad.

Mobilized in 1916, he fought in the battles around Brașov and was taken prisoner. He shared the prisoners’ camp with painter Corneliu Michăilescu.

In 1927 he settled in Bucharest. Starting with 1951 he was a member of U.A.P. and professor of painting at the “Nicolae Grigorescu” Institute of Arts in Bucharest.

The following years took him on journeys through Romania and other foreign countries; becoming familiar with varied landscapes and atmospheres he also assimilated the artistic coordinates of the cultures he had met on his journeys. His portfolio includedsportraits, landscapes and genre paintings. He approached a great variety of techniques: oils, watercolors, aquatint, charcoal drawing; his achievements count even decorative panels in the Royal Palace’s dining room.

“Nothing of what he does is like that of other people but not because he doesn’t want it, but because it is an absolute necessity of his soul (…). From this painter we can expect a new formula of our world’s realities.” Said historian Nicolae Iorga (in Neamul Românesc no. 1/1920). As a painter of rustic themes, Rudolf Schwietzer Cumpăna had indeed a different personality. The picturesque that he searched for and reproduced – a picturesque of phenomenons and interpretations alike – came from the construction of the ensembles, from the colors and the brushstrokes; the matter which he represented was not devoured by light, like Nicolae Grigorescu’s paintings, but was reconstructed in colored brushstrokes, each having its own ostentatious presence. In a typical modernist manner, his compositions seem frequently sectioned – like in photography – enhancing the impression of a veridic snapshot and suggesting a cutting of the larger space into centers of interest. His style of work stands out through vigurous brushstrokes that reconfigure not materials and textures as much as optic illusions. Nicolae Tonitza considered that his friend’s work was defined through its „… painterly scrutinized reality” (Universul literar, December 29th 1926, apud Gheroghe Poenaru, „Schwietzer Cumpăna”, Meridiane, Bucharest, 1969, p. 14). Not searching for emotional flashiness, his art proved a concern for the expressiveness of plastic situations, the influence of light through color, the recreation of atmospheres, the grasp of the character’s psychologies.

„A realist, only searching for that pleasure of truth which is the artist’s greatest voluptuousness, Mr. Cumpăna gives us a series of kneaded and radiant paintings, that the Orient lends its silver shining light to and that displays the peasant’s daily life  in all its crude kindness” wrote Elena Văcărescu in a presentation text for Rudolf Schwietzer Cumpăna exhbition opened at Janne Castel gallery in Paris, 1931. Schwietzer Cumpăna was less susceptible to fashion (thus the atemporal feeling he generates); his genuine creation is situated at the interference of impressionism (through the suggestion of light effects on volumes, the spontaneity etc.) and expressionism, a fact generated by the authentic way in which he assimilated his Western classes of paintings by remainign at the same time true to himself and to his own intentions, so that the mediums he used were only those adequate to his vision. The rural scenes he painted were not idilic and yet not sombre or dull either; the social message was secondary, dominated by the focus on the moment displayed and, especially, the character’s presence. He didn’t avoid social themes, but his rural genre paintings avoided being pathetic.

The two restored works – “the stars” of the present exhibition – are part of a well-represented thematic series of genre paintings which he named, almost invariably, “Peasants dining”, “Peasants at the pub”, other times “Dinner”, their pretext being an underlying conviviality, subordinated to painting. The construction is lapidary, with an efficient empathic force. The human characters are convincing through their relationships and experiences subtly seized and skillfully depicted. In his monography of Rudolf Schwietzer Cumpăna, Gheorghe Poenaru created a true portrait of the painter, summed up in two words: „lucidity and modesty”.