The famous Romanian painter Nicolae Grigorescu was born on 15th May, 1838, in a peasant family of the Pitari village, 45 kms from Bucharest. His father's death forced his mother and her seven children to leave the village for Bucharest, to her sister's place.
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 up 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 was 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 streets, carrying these sacred images, like a little salesman.
Yet, his icon paintings only became famous 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 came to an end.
With the money earned by 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. 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. 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 one in Paris. He also started a workshop in Barbizon.
After he started spending a lot of time in the magnificent Barbizon, he 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 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 him to return to his native country, to find his tranquility and inspiration. Success followed him there too. In 1872, he managed to sell his painting titled 'Ghergani Gypsy Woman' to Ion Ghica for an impressive sum of 10,000 gold Francs. Starting from this point, Grigorescu became a great attraction for the conversations and comments of all those interested in painting.
In 1870, he took part in the Living Artists' Exhibition, with 26 paintings, which were a quarter of all those on display. He won the greatest award given by the jury. In 1873, 146 of his works were 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 left for Napoli, and then he went to Athens, Constantinople, and then returned to his country.
Nicolae Grigorescu died at Campina (still in Romania), on July 21, 1907. He is considered to be one of the best Romanian painters of all times.