Print
Grigorescu - The Spy
Artwork description
Nicolae Grigorescu
(Pitaru, DâmboviĊ£a County, 1838 – Câmpina,1907)
Oil on canvas
74 x 143 cm
Inv. 69.711/7651
Artwork location
Romanian Modern Art Gallery, room 2
Sign language video
Sign language video

The Spy is one of Nicolae Grigorescu’s mature works. Although a studio piece, the painting relies on the observation and notes takes by the artist when he accompanied Romanian troupes during 1877-1878 War of Independence (the Russian-Turkish War) as a correspondent. At the time Grigorescu made hundreds of drawings which were later used for oil sketches and the few definitive works he was officially commissioned.

The breath-taking confrontation between a Turkish spy and a Romanian soldier takes place in a flat, dimly lit landscape. It has neither the solemnity of academic painting nor the triumphalism of classical military painting.

The soldiers chase one another followed from a distance by a third Romanian soldier. The spy fired his pistol, leaving a smoky white trail, just as the Romanian soldier in the foreground is raising his sword, the movement revealing how close they are. The sky and the earth are depicted in a range of subtly modulated greys, the horizon line dramatically lit by a couple of long, thick brushstrokes in yellowinsh white. It is this brush strokes that lend the picture plane unsuspected depth and a spectacular luminosity.

Following the principles of the Barbizon school and of Courbet or Corot, Grigorescu managed to convincingly convey the freshness of direct observation in this studio piece full of drama.

See more works in the Romanian Modern Art Gallery