Biography

The childhood of painter Alexandru Darida sounds more like something from a fairy tale than from reality. Born to an Italian father and Romanian mother, he grew up amidst breathtaking medieval castles in Transylvania, in the city of Satu Mare – the region famous as the birthplace of the Dracula legend. The romantic imagery of his youth and the artistic talents of his older brother Ioan, a specialist in art restoration and conservation, with a PhD in the subject and an art advisor for ALIS Auction House Bucharest, provided the framework for Darida’s own artistic endeavour.

After graduating from the Ecoles des Beaux Arts in Romania, in 1978, Darida struggled as an artist with the restraints on creative freedom imposed by the communist regime. Behind the forbidding iron curtain, he was limited to painting what the government told him to paint, and was denied permission to paint anything else. Overwhelmed by the restrictions imposed upon him, he realized that he had to escape the tyranny of communism in order to fully pursue his artistic passion. In 1985, Darida made a courageous escape to Italy, where he was determined to pursue his new-found artistic freedom in the city of Rome. He enrolled for studies at the then small private Benedetti Liberal Academy of Art in Rome Savouring his artistic freedom, Darida traveled extensively through the museums of Western Europe, seeing masterpieces for himself that he could never have seen in communist Romania. He visited museums in Venice, Florence, Sienna, Bologna, Naples and elsewhere, finding particular inspiration in the work of Botticelli, Rembrandt and Modigliani. By 1987 Darida was tired of being pursued by the Romanian government. He sought the help of Clelio Darida (no relation), undersecretary of the Minister of the Interior, former Mayor of Rome and an admirer of the artist’s work. Darida immigrated to the United States that year, going to Chicago where he continued his studies at the American Academy of Art under the influential teacher and watercolor artist Irving Shapiro, who ventured out into nature for his inspiration.

 

Artistic style and influences

Darida considers art to be “the soul of the people” and feels that “if you touch people’s hearts then that art will stay forever”. His style is closely associated with the chiaroscuro technique initially pioneered by Leonardo da Vinci, further developed by Caravaggio, and finally perfected by Rembrandt to achieve a dramatic intensification of action or atmospheric mood with a dimension of psychological depth.

The post-romantic art of Alexandru Darida harks back to the radiance of medieval illuminations. Claudia Moscovici in “Romanticism and Postromanticism”, writes: “”Darida’s women are allegorical phantasms that populate our childhood fantasies and dreams. His application of paint is both delicate and rough; soft plays of light and shadow highlight the luminosity of gold. At the same time, the vitality of heavy, swirling paint applied with a palette knife endow his paintings with a modern feel”.

Darida’s style has become refined over the years, with many of his works featuring, or even being applied to, musical instruments and/or incorporating natural and manmade objects as part of what has become to be known as “Vibrant Expression.” Darida exhibits a seamless transition from one medium and subject to another, and he sees a correlation between the message he seeks to convey and the medium of the art form. Hence, he chooses the medium of acrylic for his sculptures that are influenced in their form by the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957), because it is transparent, just as you can see through the many layers of thin glazes that he applies in his paintings. The contemporary vibrant expression is described by Sarah Seamark, Editor in Chief of Art World, in the May 2008 issue: “Darida utilizes found objects that merge elements of abstract and sculptural forms that represents a reconciliation with self and our surroundings. Their use, in combination with Darida’s classic painting technique, is designed to create a distinguished, forward-looking style.”

Due to his passion for music and philosophy, as well as his restless temperament and craving to discover an ideal of purity, his subjects are in a state of constant flux. Darida tackles such controversial issues as stem cell research, renewable green energy sources, man’s place in relation to nature, and music related to the cosmic forces. The color – or absence of color – shape and meaning of his work all has its roots in a certain universal energy. This force runs through all of Darida’s work as he extends his earlier artistic exploration of man and nature to the hot issues of the environment, global warming, and green energy. He sees the subjects as interlinked with stem cell research in that the quality of the future of mankind, indeed all of life on earth, is at stake on these fronts. In the process of addressing powerful philosophies and ideals on such topics he seeks through his artwork to create a buzz and encourage dialogue – hence his moniker of artist as social activist.

 

Awards, recognition and the love of music and art

Darida’s museum placements include the Powerhouse Museum and the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, and his work had been featured at Municipal Galleries across Romania, in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, Illinois State Museum and the Museum of Art in Bucharest, Romania. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Formello-Roma International Prize for Painting, and the Award for Excellence in the Multimedia Miniatures Show in Romania. Alexandru is heavily involved with music – which he finds inspirational, soothing and even a bit magical. He paints to music and often finds inspiration in the voice of his wife, Marianna, an accomplished opera singer. He is an experienced Madrigal conductor, and plays the piano (adding with self-effacing charm that he is “not very good” but finds it relaxing, nonetheless.) “Between painting and music,” he says, “that is my life!”

 

Awards, Charities and Affiliations

  • International Prize Cristoforo Colombo Art Explorer, Genova, Italy, 2017
  • Award of Merit, ATIM’S Top 60 Masters of Contemporary Art, Florence, Italy, 2017

  • International Award Francisco Goya, Barcelona, Spain, 2017

  • ATIM’S Top 60 Masters of Contemporary Art, Montagnac, France, 2016
  • Award of Excellence in Arts, American Romanian Academy of Arts and Science, 2015

  • Member of American-Romanian Academy of Arts and Science, 2015

  • Member of The Arts Club of Chicago, 2014
  • President’s Award American Electrology Association, 2012

  • Holiday Fundraiser for Romanian Cultural Exchange, 2012

  • Award of Excellence, City of Chicago, 2010

  • The Art of Human Rights, benefiting Heartland Alliance, 2010

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra Bridges between Art & Music – benefiting CSO’s outreach programs targeting all segments of the Chicago community, 2010

  • Benefit night for Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation, 2009

  • Misericordia Heart of Mercy, Chicago, provides a continuum of care and network of services for people with developmental disabilities.  Darida worked as a teacher, helping children to prepare an art show where their artworks were auctioned as a fundraiser, 2008

  • Art against Aids – Heartland Alliance, 2008

  • Sotheby’s Legends of our Time Art Show and Auction benefiting The Rett Syndrome Research Foundation, 2001


Commissions

  • Portrait of Mircea Eliade, Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago.  Commissioned by Chicago University in collaboration with George Predescu, Romanian Consul General in Chicago, 2009

  • Benefit night for Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation, 2009

  • Portrait of Nicolae Titulescu, well-known Romanian diplomat and Minister of Foreign Affairs for Romania 1927-1928, commissioned by Dr. Eliot Sorel director of the SiMARC Foundation and professor at George Washington University, 1999


Portraits and artwork in private and corporate collections

  • Michael, the last King of Romania, reigned 1927-1930 and again 1940-1947

  • Emil Constantinescu president of Romania 1996-2000

  • The current president of Romania Traian Băsescu

  • Mircea Geoană, Ambassador of Romania in Washington DC

  • Yo-Yo Ma, American cellist and virtuoso, 2009

  • Opera singer Angela Gheorghiu, 2004

  • French tenor Roberto Alagna, 2004

  • Dr. Richard Byrne, MD, chairman of the neurosurgery department at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

  • Dr. Marilyn Kessler and her husband, Dr. John A. Kessler, MD, a Northwestern University neurologist who is researching the potential of stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries, as well as Alzheimer’s disease

  • Andre Watts, the great pianist, 1993

 

Copyrighted and published pieces listed in order of year of publication in the United States

  • “Stem cell research” 2008

  • “New Life” 2008

  • “Forever ” 2007

  • “Allegro Moderato” 2005

  • ” Interlude” 2006

  • “Double violin concerto” 2005

  • “Viaggio Musicale” 2005

  • “Wedding Dream “2005

  • “Concertino” 2004

  • “La Donna Con Fiori” 2004

  • “The Old Mask” 2004

  • “Thoughts of an Angel” 2004

  • ”A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” 2004

  • “Beethoven ” 2004

  • “Falling in Love” 2004

  • “Carnavale di Venetia” 2003

  • “Symphonic Poem” 2003

  • “The whisper of Spring” 2003

  • “Autumn in Toscana” 2002

  • ” Whisper” 2001