The circumstances which led to the establishment of the Romanian Academy show the great importance literary creation and theory had in the vision of the Academy’s founders. The first attempts of certain scholars from Wallachia and Moldavia to gather together in order to raise the cultural standard of the region to that of the rest of Europe were recorded in the 16th century. Despot Voda, the Prince of Moldavia (1561-1563), formerly a student at the celebrated University of Montpellier, had planned to found a college of academic rank ("Schola Latina") at Cotnari and an Academy in his capital city of Suceava, where he intended to summon many of the most learned men from Western Europe. Among the names of the scholars invited to the Moldavian court to establish an Academy we find, along with those of astronomers, theologians, physicians, mathematicians and jurists, that of a poet, the humanist Johannes Sommer.

After a little more than a quarter of a century, the ruler of Wallachia, Petru Cercel (1583-1585), who was educated in Paris and Venice, veritable wellsprings of the European Renaissance, would also contemplate the idea of an Academy. In order to realize this idea, he was to bring scholars from Italy, France and Greece together at his Court in Tārgoviste, amongst whom were the poet Francisco Pugiella, the humanists Mellier from Constance, Berthier from Lyon, Perot and Ponthus de la Planche, and the Greek writer Nadoli. Even if the dreams of these two Renaissance princes were never fulfilled, it is significant enough that there was an obvious preoccupation with the cultivation of the "art of the written word" within the framework of a humanist program, which evidenced the appreciation of the values expressed by the French term les belles-lettres.

Much later, in the 19th century, the importance attached to literature, while equally as evident as in the projects of the earlier epoch, would nevertheless reflect a completely different cultural orientation. It clearly bespoke the consciousness of a national identity common to all those in the Carpathian-Danube provinces who shared the same language. More than a few projects of this sort were conceived in provinces which were under foreign government at the time, a fact which explains the urgent (and often passionate) argument for the cultivation of the Romanian language.

Interestingly enough, right from the first decades of the 19th century, the idea of an Academy was almost synonymous with the idea of a forum which would promote national literature and would enrich the possibilities of expression in the Romanian language. In the preface of his Gramatica of 1828, Ion Heliade Radulescu proposed the founding of "an Academy of a few men, whose job would be only Romanian literature, and who would, in time, regulate and perfect the language by compiling a dictionary."

Consequently, the mission of the Literary Society (indeed an eloquent name) of 1866 would be a continuation of Heliade’s ideas, as well as of the attempts made in the first decades of the 19th century to create an academic society.

Among its first members were important writers such as Vasile Alecsandri, Costache Negruzzi, Ion Heliade Radulescu, the very young Titu Maiorescu, V.A. Urechia, and the folklorist and literary historian Ioan G. Sbiera.

Throughout its nearly one-and-a-half-century history, the Romanian Academy has counted among its members the most important writers and literary historians of the times.

However, it is equally true that in certain moments of the Academy’s existence, mostly during the years of totalitarian government, pressure was exerted to accept within the ranks of its elite membership certain minor writers who served the purposes of the extant regime. Thus, when the Academy decided upon the utterly necessary righting of some serious wrongs and began to award posthumous Honorary Memberships to certain outstanding personalities, the names of some completely insignificant writers were imposed upon the list under the pressure of political criteria.

For example, on October 28th, 1948, Mihai Eminescu, Ion Creanga, I.L. Caragiale, and painters of the stature of Ion Andreescu and Stefan Luchian were honored after their deaths but, alongside them, the same posthumous honors went to some honest but insignificant versifiers.

The Academy began to receive plastic artists amongst its members surprisingly late. Fortunately, the first great painter to be accepted within its membership was Nicolae Grigorescu, the dominant figure in Romanian art at the turn of the century, upon whom was conferred an Honorary Membership in 1899. In the 20th century, many more painters and sculptors whose work is truly representative of the evolution of modern Romanian art have received the same well-deserved recognition.

Likewise musicians, whose creations have represented an extremely important contribution to defining 20th century Romanian culture, have been accepted into the Romanian Academy. Some were quite young at the time of their acceptance as, for example, George Enescu, who was 35 years old when he became an Honorary Member in 1916 (he was to become an Acting Member in 1932). Aside from writers, artists, musicians, literary and artistic historians and theoreticians from within Romania, creators and commentators of culture from abroad have also been elected Honorary Members. Some of them are Romanians living in other countries, such as prose writer Petru Dumitriu, painter Horia Damian, graphic artist Eugen Mihaescu and soprano Mariana Nicolesco, while others are great personalities of world literature and art, such as composer Bela Bartók, literary historians Charles Diehl and Joseph Bédier, art historian Henri Focillon, sculptor Ivan Mestrovic“, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and writer Jean D’Omersson.

Many research institutes were created under the aegis of the Romanian Academy in 1949. The former Institute of Literary History and Folklore was headed at first by the eminent scholar George Calinescu, whose name it now bears. The Institute is divided into four departments, namely Old Romanian Literary History, Modern Literary History, Literary Theory and Comparative Literature. The two most important works published by the Institute of Literary History and Theory G. Calinescu in recent years have been a two-volume bibliography of critical articles dedicated to the works of I.L. Caragiale and a bibliography of the relationships between Romanian and foreign literatures (translations, adaptations and commentaries), of which four volumes have appeared so far, while the fifth is being printed. Most recently, however, the efforts of the Institute’s researchers have been focused on the compilation of a monumental Dictionar al literaturii romāne (Dictionary of Romanian Literature) which will include articles about writers, translators, editors, literary associations and periodicals. This is, clearly, an undertaking of great complexity and professional responsibility, in which researchers from the above-mentioned Institute are collaborating with their colleagues from institutes and academic centers in Iasi, Cluj, Timisoara, Sibiu, Tārgu Mures, as well as with university faculty members involved with teaching Romanian literary history.

The G. Calinescu Institute is collaborating with Cambridge University, furnishing bibliographical data concerning translations of Byron into Romanian. These data will be included in a volume meant to trace the echoes of Byronian lyrics in the poetry of the world. Also, at this time, discussions are under way for collaboration with the Department of Slavic and Eastern European Studies at the University of London to compile a series of volumes covering the history of Anglo-Romanian cultural relations.
Some years ago, the Section of Literary History from the Al. Philippide Institute of Philology in Iasi published an excellent Dictionar al literaturii romāne de la origini pāna la 1900 (Dictionary of Romanian Literature From Its Origins Until 1900), and today scholars from this long-esteemed institution are participating, along with their colleagues from other institutes and sections of literary history, in the compilation of the new Dictionary.
The G. Calinescu Institute publishes two periodicals: Revista de Istorie si Teorie Literara (The Journal of Literary History and Theory), a twice-yearly publication in Romanian, and Synthesis, a foreign-languages periodical which appears twice a year under the auspices of the Institute as well as of the National Committee for Comparative Literature and in which are published studies, articles, and reviews of comparative literature.

Questions concerning the visual arts and musicology are researched as much at the Institute of Art History George Oprescu in Bucharest as in the specialized sections of the Institute of Archaeology and Art History in Cluj-Napoca and the Institute of Socio-Human Research in Timisoara. Especially in the latter decades, the horizons of research have broadened considerably, and the George Oprescu Institute now covers the domains of theater, music and cinema as well. The Institute of Folklore and Ethnography Constantin Brailoiu, which has one of the richest record libraries in Europe in this domain, holds an important position in this concerted effort to capitalize upon the arts. Among its principal achievements, two of the most remarkable are Atlasul etnografic romān (The Romanian Ethnographic Atlas) and Colectia nationala de folclor (The National Folklore Collection).

The George Oprescu Institute publishes two periodicals: Studii si cercetari de istoria artei (Studies and Research in Art History) which appears in two series, Arta plastica (Plastic Arts) and Muzica, teatru, cinematografie (Music, Theater and the Cinema), as well as Revue roumaine d’Histoire de l’Art, with the same two series as the Romanian-language publication. The Constantin Brailoiu Institute edits Revista de etnografie si folclor (Journal of Ethnography and Folklore) and Anuarul Institutului de Etnografie si Folclor "Constantin Brailoiu" (Yearbook of the Institute for Ethnography and Folklore Constantin Brailoiu).

The development of this branch of research has become an obvious necessity, especially after entire generations of art historians have become over-specialized. Henri Focillon once called Romania "a country of painters," and the legacy of this country must be unfailingly well known and protected. This is exactly the aim of the researchers working in the institutes of art history, for whom the words of the founder of the Romanian school of art history, George Oprescu, have not ceased to be a motto: "True art history is not simple record-keeping, but a spiritual participation".



copyright © Academia Romānă 2006

copyright © Academia Romānă 2006