120 YEARS OF THE ART OF PAINTING AND SCULPTURE IN ALBANIA
FROM THE END OF THE 19TH CENTURY UNTIL THE END OF THE 20TH CENTURY.
THE COLLECTION OF THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ARTS.
Beginning of the painting in the Albanian cities (1883 – 1930)
The fund of the National Gallery of Arts treasures paintings that date from the end of the 19th century, a period which marks the beginning of secular painting in Albania. The earliest painting author of the National Gallery is Kol Idromeno, whose work ‘Sister Tone’ dates back to 1883. The early secular paintings in Albania manifest some sort of amateurism. This tendency lasts until the early 1930s, when it starts a serious effort to build artistic schools and institutions. All the same, these paintings show us sufficiently about the cultural atmosphere dominating in Albania at the beginning of the 20th century and are authentic ethnographic and historical documents of the period. They also manifest some romantic spirit in them. Apart from Idromeno, other important authors from this period are Pjetër Marubi, Simon Rrota, Zef Kolombi, Vangjel Zengo, Spiro Xega and others.
Realist painting and the Drawing School (1930 1950)
The economic and political developments as well as the overall conditions of the country during the years of the Albanian Monarchy (1928 1939) made possible the opening in Tirana of the Drawing School in 1931. Some of the first painters to study there were Sadik Kaceli, Abdurrahim Buza and Gani Strazimiri although very few works from this school's output are to be found in the fund of the National Gallery. Other artists who study abroad in the neighbouring countries and then return home in Albania to ply their trade are Odhise Paskali, Andrea Kushi, Vangjush Mijo, Janaq Paēo, Foto Stamo, the Zengo sisters and many others. These artists comprise the academically educated generation of painters who endeavour to develop Albanian portraiture, landscape, still life and so on. An overall characteristic of the works from this period found in the National Gallery is the effort the artists make to master the artistic techniques while showing an interest to depict the reality truthfully and faithfully.
Academic painting and the historical theme tableaux (1950 1980)
With the end of the Second World War and coming to power of the communist regime in Albania begins the undertaking of the historical and political themed tableaux. In general the main theme here was the Liberation war and Antifascist struggle as well as the historical changes and events of the Albanian nation, but simultaneously we see works who deal with different events from Albania's history such as, for example, the resistance of Skanderbeg against the Turks in the 15th century to mention but one. The main artists representative of this period are those who studied in the Western art academies and reflect an academic preparation in their works such as Nexhmedin Zajmi, Sadik Kaceli, Abdullah Cangonji and others. Important artists of this period who studied in the academies of the Soviet Union and other eastern European countries are painters such as Guri Madhi, Sali Shijaku, Vilson Kilica, Ksenofon Dilo and others.
Socialist Realism. Creation of the Models of the New Man (1960 1989)
With the return of the Albanian artists from the eastern European schools of art, we can say that the period of Socialist Realism commences in the history of Albanian art. The art of this period is entirely propaganda, serving the interest of the political regime in power. Following to the letter the blueprint cliché imported from its originating place, the former Soviet Union, this art focused on the workers and their actions, transforming them thus into 'myths' of the period. In fact Socialist Realism does not try to show openly and truthfully the daily aspects of the reality of the working class, but strives to erect and establish the socialist working activity as some sort of a cult, while placing the common worker as the main personage of a 'new epoch' that has already started. Noted artists who have developed significant works in this genre are Kristaq Rama, Muntaz Dhrami, Zef Shoshi, Pandi Mele, Myrteza Fushekati, Petro Kokushta, Clirim Ceka and many others.
Formalist painting of Socialist Realism (1969 1974)
A very important collection of the National Gallery is the collection of the formalist painting that starts in the history of Albanian painting in the early 1970s. This style of painting, essentially under the influence of the modernist western painting, tries to exist in a peculiar way: whilst relating to the official themes of Socialist Realism, mainly those of the worker at the forefront of the work, the way of painting is in fact, more of a pictorial research with a tendency to navigate through currents such as expressionism, fauvism, cubism, and others. The main artists who have works in such spirit in the National Gallery are: Bajram Mata, Edison Gjergo, Alush Shima, Isuf Sulovari, Eduart Hila, and others.
Modernist painting and sculpture (1989 2001) [elements of modernist painting in the years 1960 1970)
For the first time in its history the National Gallery dedicates an entire room to the modernist Albanian painting and sculpture. This room gathers works from artists that have their most telling output after the 1990s such as Perikli Culi, Ali Oseku, Gazmend Leka, Lumturi Blloshmi, Najada Hamza, Orion Shima and others. At the same time in this room we have a research into the first elements of the initial attempts at modernist painting coming from the 1960s and compatible with the formalist spirit of the Socialist Realism painting of the early 1970s, mainly in the works of artists such as Ksenofon Dilo, Danish Jukniu, Ismail Lulani and others. These artists, alongside the highly politicized paintings of this period, developed an investigative form of painting and artistic expression.