Baia Mare

The nearly half-century-long activity of the Nagybánya artists’ colony significantly reshaped the painting palette of Transylvania. Its productive energy recharged Hungary and Romania as well with the new aesthetics and new art from Paris and Munich. In the western part of Europe, the sterile aversion of academism was followed by naturalism, drawing on colours, plein air and impressionism, more boldly experimenting with colourism. The “spirit” of these new styles had been set free by Simon Hollósy, when he established the Nagybánya artists’ colony in 1896. Together with his pupils, János Thorma and István Réti, as well as his circle of close friends, Béla Iványi-Grünwald, István Csók and Károly Ferenczy, he schooled the first generation of the rebel painters. In 1902, Thorma and Réti developed the Nagybánya Free School of Painting from this apolitical, international, talent management colony. The workshops opened the way to debates on aesthetic matters between the new generations of the 20th, more modern century – fauvists, neo-impressionists and expressionists, the representatives of cubism, constructivism and avant-garde, i.e., the latest Western trends, the “Neos”, as they were called- and the older generations of painters.  In spite of the “artistic differences”, the open-mindedness of the school successfully saved the artists’ colony, rooted in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, from the hardships of the first decades of the 20th century, the war, and the new realities resulting from it. The school was so successful that it became a place of practical traineeship for the newly established academy of fine arts in Cluj-Napoca, as well as for the prestigious academy in Bucharest. Teachers sent their students to Baia Mare, to János Thorma in the light of the Romanian-Hungarian cultural relation. In fact, it was a few well-travelled, great painters and teachers who enabled hundreds of emerging talents to become mature artists in the Nagybánya colony. Béla Czóbel was at the forefront of fauvism, while Thorma and Réti passed the flame to András Mikola and János Krizsán in the mid-1920s. Valér Ferenczy, József Klein and Mikola’s opponent, Sándor Ziffer, also contributed from time to time. The colony started to decline after its nationalisation in 1935. It did not survive the subsequent political changes following the Vienna Award and the Second World War. The inspiring spirit of Baia Mare went extinct. Nonetheless the impact of the “Transylvanian Barbizon” is still effective to this day and invaluable for the whole of Europe.