ALEXANDRU TZIGARA-SAMURCAŞ

Born on April 4th 1872 in Bucharest in a family of small boyars, he goes to high school in Bucharest. In 1892 he is appointed custodian of the Museum of Antiquities headed by Grigore Tocilescu and in 1893 he leaves for Germany to study art history at the University of München, with King Carol’s support and following Al. Odobescu’s advice. He comes back to Romania and resigns from the Museum of Antiquities in order to continue his studies in France and then again in Germany, with an interest in museography. He mentor is Wilhelm von Bode, a reformer of the Berlin museums.

 

After finishing his studies, he is appointed librarian and then director of the Carol I Foundation and professor at the Art History and Aesthetics Department of the Belle Arte School in Bucharest.

 

On October 1st 1906, Al. Tzigara-Samurcaş is appointed director of the Museum of Ethnography, National Art, Decorative and Industrial Art renamed, in 1915, the National Art Museum Carol I. The new museum was temporarily hosted in the building of the former mint factory on 3, Kiseleff Avenue, on the same spot where the palace of prince Nicolae Mavrogheni used to be. From the beginning, Al. Tzigara-Samurcaş founded his museum on modern, scientific bases. His acquisitions considerably increased the collections, the main attraction being the house of Antonie Mogoş from Ceauru (Gorj) exhibited inside the museum.

 

A never-ending fight begins for acquiring the necessary funds to raise a new building (the current building of the museum). The plans were made in collaboration with the architect N. Ghica-Budeşti. For this purpose, he writes numerous newspaper articles that will be later gathered in his book “Romanian Museography” (1936). On June 30th 1912, the foundation of the new building was laid. The construction was many times interrupted, so the building was only ready in 1941.

 

As long as he was the director of the Museum, Al. Tzigara-Samurcaş had a prodigious activity in connection with the other positions he held: director of the Carol I Fundation and professor of art history and aesthetics in Cernăuţi. He writes articles on various topics and academic books, the ones on popular art being of paramount importance, holds conferences on the radio or at the Athenaeum, participates in international congresses and exhibitions. Al. Tzigara-Samurcaş becomes an important name in his field.

 

The situation gets worse after the Second World War, when the Communist authorities dismiss him from the position of director of the Museum. In old age, sick and overly humiliated, the Father of the Museum on the Road dies on April 1st, 1952.