The idea of setting up an assemblage of paintings dates from the year 1900 and belongs to the magistrate Ion Hagiescu-Miriste, who indeed sets up a true museum in a private home, using works of art, paintings and sculptures he had acquired over time.
As a museum could not be set up in Caracal, this idea has been adopted in the fall of 1944 by a group of students and professors from the ”Ionita Asan” high school who established the “Haralamb Lecca” Cultural Society. The chair of the society, who had gathered a considerable sum of money, has decided to set up an art gallery within the high school, which would include representative works of art of painters who were born in the city.
Due to the tenacity of the painter Hortensia Popescu, in 1946 professor Patru Craciun, the principal of “Ionita Asan” high school, starts taking the necessary steps to acquire works of art, being supported by renowned painters born in Caracal, of whom we would like to mention Marius Bunescu, Mihail Lapatty, Ion Musceleanu, Gheorghe Teodorescu-Romanati.
The act of establishment of the art gallery dates from April 17th, 1947, when the leadership of “Ionita Asan” high school sent a request to all painters born in Caracal, stating:
“The city you were born in respectfully asks you by us to help it fulfill a beautiful artistic plan, one it has been fostering for a long time: the setting up of an art gallery…”.
A similar request has also been made by the Ministry of Arts, the one expected to give its formal approval for the setup of such an art institution. The Ministry’s affirmative answer received in August read:
“We are honored to inform you that in the meeting of June 28th, 1947, the superior council of the Ministry has gladly taken note of your report No. 1211 / 1947 concerning the setup of an art gallery attached to that high school…”.
Full understanding and approval were also given by the superior forum of the institution, the Ministry of Education.
The painters who were asked for help have also responded with enthusiasm to the request addressed to them. The main benefactor, painter Marius Bunescu got involved with all conviction and professionalism in the coordination of the painting acquiring activity, trying to bring to the art gallery works of real artistic value.
Hortensia Popescu - „Ioniţă Asan“ High School
On August 30th, 1947 the Ministry of Arts also donated a lot of five paintings signed by Catul Bogdan, Dragos Morarescu, Gheorghe Sarbu, Petre Molovatu and Constantin Bacalu.
On September 1st, 1947 began the organization of the art gallery in a spacious hall (18 m by 9 m) which had been set up following all the museum rules to exhibit the 26 paintings received up until that moment.
Along with the paintings received from the Ministry of Arts, or donated by the painters, there have been acquired works of Hortensia Popescu, Popa Jean Tudor and Alexandru Tipoia.
The official inauguration of the art gallery took place on September 21st, 1947, in the presence of students, professors, heads of institutions in the locality and a large audience. The high school Guest Book registered over time a series of important benefactors:
- Academician professor doctor Stefan S. Nicolau, deputy of Romanati county: « I have two beautiful paintings for “Ionita Asan” high school, the works of art of painter Ghiata, as well as a collection of 18 Japanese engravings which I have promised to donate to the high school for the art gallery.»
- Elena Dona, together with her daughters Cella and Marusca, holders of the famous “Dona” collection of Bucharest: « I foster the best, warmest of feelings for my home town and I wish to see it always rising on the line of culture. That is why, together with my daughters, we would like to donate to the “Bunescu” art gallery in Caracal a total of 12 paintings…». The works were signed by renowned painters, such as: Arthur Verona, Iosif Iser, Stefan Dimitrescu, Constantin D. Stahi, Ipolit Strambu, Theodorescu-Sion, etc.
Marius Bunescu, one of the most appreciated Romanian landscape painters: « In the love for the places of childhood memories and for the citizens of this ancient town, as well as from the desire to contribute to its permanent development, to the 26 personal paintings that I have already donated to the “Bunescu” art gallery in Caracal, I add today another ten personal paintings.»
The art gallery holds several sculptures made by Vasile Nastasescu (M. Eminescu, I.L.Caragiale), Teodora Kitulescu (Head of a man - Bunescu, gypsum), Raffaello Romanelli (Constantin Poroineanu, Eufrosina Poroineanu, white marble busts).
Each year, the number of donated or acquired works of art has increased, amounting today to an impressive number of 331 paintings and Japanese engravings.
Beginning with 1954, within the art gallery were periodically organized exhibitions on various subjects, such as: “The evolution of Romanian painting in the 19th century”, “Painters born in Caracal” (1957), “Woman in plastic art” (1960), “Caracal city in graphic art” (1964), “The Marius Bunescu paintings and graphic art exhibition” (1968)…
Five of the former “Ionita Asan” high school students have graduated from the “Nicolae Grigorescu” plastic art institute and have honored the art gallery with some of their works of art. They are: Teodor Catana, Vintila Mihaiescu, Ion Truica, Popa Jean Tudor and Ion Popescu Udriste.
In the high school court yard, facing the window of the art gallery, the bust of Marius Bunescu, a work by sculptor Corneliu Medrea, is still keeping watch over it.