(re)Discovering Corneliu Baba

This month meant a first flight in Romania for me and my first time in Timișoara. Also, it is probably my first vacation in Romania in years. I really should do this more often, but this thought is just about as effective as ‘I will never drink again’. 😅

Looking at Timișoara from home, I was worried I would not have what to do there. I really shouldn’t have. The city is itself like a huge museum, just wondering the streets can have you bump into statues or street art or interesting architecture.

There are also a lot of cultural events. Just pick what is your thing. Jazz and wine festival the weekend I’m in the city, so ❤️.

What I knew from the very beginning was that I will go to the Art Museum in Timișoara. At this museum, there is a collection of Corneliu Baba’s paintings. For whatever reason I was never really impressed with his work despite seeing it in person several times. I guess I never went to an exhibition dedicate only to him. That seems to have a different impact, probably because you can see more stages of the work of the artist and focus only on him.

I can’t say that this selection was very divers. Mostly it had those ‘surprised’ characters of his. At least this was my impression when I look at them, that all characters painted by Baba were surprised, despite some being portrait as mad or in Holly awe or scared.

I guess that was just my own surprise that I actually like his paintings. Especially the self portraits.

Right when I was about to say that he can only do faceless awed people, I saw a self portrait of himself from his youth (turns out it was done two years prior to the one above).

I must admit he has an unique way to see himself. His self portrait is more a portrait of his state of mind than of his figure.

Speaking of Baba’s state of mind, my favorite portrait of himself is this one bellow, in which he seems to come towards the viewer like in a greeting, wanting to shake the visitor’s hand. Somehow, maybe because of the closeness of his right elbow to the frame, I feel like he just wants to get out of the frame and is asking for the viewer’s help. I have no idea if he ever felt like getting away from the traditional way of presenting paintings (in frames) or it’s just my cultural dislike of frames that makes me see him this way.

I spent some time in this room, which also houses three portraits of Enescu: one of the composer as an arrogant figure with defined features (you all know that portrait, I’m sure) and two of him hunched, carrying his violin, which is what he actually looked like, at least through Baba’s eyes. The painter seemed to have been fond of the composer.

Apart from Enescu’s portraits, there was also a portrait of Tonitza.

I spent some time there mesmerized by these portraits.

The last room of this exhibition is dedicated to madness and fear and I do recommend to sit there and look fear and madness in… well not in the eye, because Baba is not really into detailing the eyes, but in the mouth.

Despite what you might think, I am not sarcastic, but serious. It is really an unique perspective over fear and madness that can easily look like surprise or awe.

And that governs our every move.



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  2. Thank you! I am glad that you found the article helpful. May I ask what is your interest in Corneliu Baba?

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