Ignat Bednarik

Queen Mary of Romania

Queen Marie had a tremendous influence on the development of Romanian art in the 45 years she spent in the country. The granddaughter of Queen Victoria on one side (her father was Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh) and of Tsar Alexander II on the other, she had a lively awareness of artistic developments right across Europe and was probably the biggest patron of Art Nouveau in Romania. More importantly, she enthusiastically encouraged national art movements, such as the group 'Tinerimea Artistica' (Artistic Youth), and did much to promote the revival of interest in peasant crafts and vernacular industry. She even built parts of her palaces in the new neo-Romanian style of architecture.

The majority of Bednarik's work for the Queen involved illustrations for her books of fairy-tales. These included the cover for The Lily of Life (1913), 14 water-colours for A Tale from the Holy Mountain. (The latter were lost shortly after the First World War while being sent to London for reproduction). Furthermore the cover of the Queen Marie Calendar, 1918 (shows Marie in her Red Cross uniform), three illustrations for the tale What Vasile the Soldier Saw (1925), the cover for Crowned Queens (1933), as well as several illustrations for compilations of shorter fairy-tales. Marie also bought several of Bednarik's water-colours, including Sharpening the Pencil, The Day of the Dead, and the symbolist pen and ink work, The Path to Glory (now in the Albertina Collection, Vienna).

If you are interested in finding out more about Queen Marie, a good work is the biography by Hannah Pakula, The Last Romantic. A Biography of Queen Marie of Romania, Phoenix, London, 1996 (first published 1985).

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