Alexandru Gh. Sonoc
Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania (Summer 2016)
In a peasant house a sick woman lies in bed. An old physician is writing a prescription on a table on which there are already three small bottles of medicine. He is surrounded by the patient’s relatives, concerned but full of hope, all wearing traditional peasant costumes. An old man and a boy sit on a chair at the other end of the table; a middle-aged pair stand behind the table; an old woman and a small girl sit near the bed of the sick woman. In contrast to them, the physician (whose hat, leather gloves and umbrella are put on the table) wears an urban costume as sign of his prominent status.
The Village’s Physician, 1880
Sándor Bihari is one of the most important and popular Hungarian genre painters. Born in Băița/Rézbánya, he grew up in Oradea/Nagyvárad. In 1874 he moved to Budapest, where he worked as a retoucher in a photographic laboratory and continued his artistic education with Bertalan Székely. In 1876 he moved to Vienna, where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in 1878-1879 and studied with Carl Wurzinger. After his return to Oradea, where he tried to improve his skills, he went to Budapest (1883), where his talent was noticed by Hugo Taussig, a connoisseur who helped him to travel during the same year to Paris. There he copied paintings from the Louvre for art merchants and studied with Jean Paul Laurens. He came in contact with Impressionism and with the plein air tendency, which influenced decisively his later art, mainly landscapes. He began to be appreciated for the works he sent to Budapest, both by the court and by the public. After his return to Hungary (1885), he worked in Szolnok with Lajos Deák-Ebner, and in 1890-1891 he ran a painting school. Later he became one of the founders of the local painters colony. Influenced by Munich Realism, he painted mainly genre scenes, full of character and vitality, which were inspired from rural daily life, mainly of the Hungarian peasants and of the gypsies, but also a scene of Romanian funerals. He was awarded the prize of the Fine Art Society (1886) for the work Before the judge (bought by Emperor Franz Joseph I and kept now in the Magyar Nemzeti Galéria), then the Vasari prize (1889) and the Franz Joseph prize (1896) Even the work of the Brukenthal National Museum (still unpublihed) dates from an early stage of his activity, and has obvious relations with other works inspired by the rural life of 1886-1900, which made the painter famous. It is particularly known to U. Thieme and F. Becker, who mention that it was painted after his return to his parents in Oradea, where he began to make independent studies on different types of people.
Thieme, Becker 1910 – Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, 4th volume.
(Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann, 1910).