Sibiu and Brașov

Transylvanian Saxon art has undergone a distinct development process, different from that of the Baia Mare School. Its enclosed character can be attributed to the traditionally closed social structure, that linguistic and aesthetic cohesive force that has held together the German-speaking community in Transylvania for centuries. At the turn of the 20th century, modern ideas could enter Saxon “fortresses”, guarded by strict rules, only by honouring traditions. Instead of the southern and French styles, contending against each other, the artists of the German cities of Transylvania chose German expressionism as a means of self-expression, a style which was most akin to their traditions.  They gained experience at schools in Budapest, Dresden, Munich and Berlin. Sibiu and Brasov, the two rival urban centres representing the economic power of the region, took turns as cultural standard-bearer at the turn of the century. They united German artists living in southern Transylvania, allowing modernity to infiltrate all areas of culture and social life. After the turn of the century, the Sebastian Hann Association, based in Sibiu, took over the administration of the Saxons’ cultural life.  After 1918, this was complemented by the Cultural League of Germans in Romania, the Brukenthal and the Astra Museum, the latter also serving as patrons and program organizers between the two world wars. Although it was much less common for the reserved Saxon painters to establish free painting schools, so popular in Transylvania, some significant initiatives are worth mentioning: the literature considers the educational activity of the exceptional painter from Sibiu, Carl Dörschlag, invaluable. The one-man institution of German fine arts got a number of excellent creators moving along the path of art (Walter Widmann) and due to his integrating personality he also forged closer ties with the Romanian fine arts. His daughter, Anna Dörschlag, together with the painters Lotte Goldschmidt, Mathilde Roth and Henriette Bielz, set out to teach painting to women. In the summer of 1933, Grete Csaki-Copony, the first expressionist painter in southern Transylvania, also included in our exhibition, stood out from the restrained Saxon colours with her rich colourism. In alliance with Trude Schullerus and Ernestine Konnerth-Kroner, she created an artists’ colony at the foot of the Cindrel Mountains. Yet, the Transylvanian centre of German modernism between the two world wars was Brasov, the place of activity of the greatest artists, such as Hans Eder, János Mattis-Teutsch, Fritz Kimm and Heinrich Neugeboren. Although in 1921 Eder and Mattis-Teutsch took part in the exhibition Collegium Artificum Transylvanicorum, i.e., the first Transylvanian Salon, in Cluj-Napoca, which was a tribute to the genius of multinational Transylvania, their art did not interact with other Transylvanian schools, and nor did that of the other Saxon masters. German Expressionism, combined here and there with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist, Neo Classicist and Neo Realist features, represents a specific stylistic universe in this region of Transylvania.