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The correspondence between the real and the fantastic is to be found in the paintings created in Romania, too : landscapes that recall the seasons and people’s work, with a deep love for his country (« The Fruit of the Earth », « Endless Image » etc). The contact with the Western world made the topics of his paitings more complex and the expressive force exploring the mystery of life and death more intense. « The Movement of the Matter », « Between Sky and Earth », « The Last Supper », « The Abduction of Proserpina » are works that induce reflection. In such works the artist’s serenity and quiet force are boldly exhibited, yet refusing violence. Nicolae Maniu poses questions about the meaning of our existence, he invites us to reflect, but his sobre and impressive paintings do not display an existential anxiety. His generous and intense pictorial vision, the almost magic accuracy of his technique, the purity and light of his colours make Nicolae Maniu one of the most original personalities of the contemporary art.
Nicolae Maniu is an excellent draughtsman who knows in detail the technique of the old Renaissance masters, the trompe-l’œil and all the effects of modelling which give the impression of volume on a bidimensional surface. His drawings display admirable force, boldness, talent. To these qualities he adds the glow and clarity of colours like ochre, grey and blue, sometimes- having the transparency of watercolorus. His need for perfection is matched by a humanistic vision stemming from a vast culture, which harmoniously combine the real and the imaginary. Is it surrealism or fantastic realism with profound meditative vibrations ? Let us consider the « Tribute to Dürer » one of his masterpieces which – by evoking the past, the link to the Renaissance – becomes reality in an image open to the future. « The Death Knight » the famous Dürer’s engraving is flanked by Dürer’s portrait, on one side, while on the other side it is the artist’s portrait, whose hands is depicted above the clouds. A rainbow divides the upper area from the lower one where « Melancholy » is surrounded by numerous symbolic animals, fish and geometrical shapes. The composition follows the classical rules of balance and simmetry, yet the ensemble has the surrealist feeling of a dream come true.

Ionel Jianu in „Les artistes roumains en occident” (The Romanian Artists
in the West) – ed. American Roumanian Academy
of Arts and Sciences – 1986



To introduce Nicolae Maniu, we must mention first the magic of History which makes of this Carpathian — born man a Latin with such a clearly mediterranean sensitivity that he defines himself as being both Italian — or more precisely Dacian and Roman — and above ail French, in a more and more irremediable manner, as he likes saving.
The professional progress of this artist born on April llth 1944 in Turda, Romania, is entirely dedicated to artistic creation. First a sculptor until 1971, he gave up this art he masters so well for painting which, has been his “rai¬son d’être” ever since. In 1983, he left his native country and settled in Cologne, West Germany.
Nicolae MANIU allies an exceptional talent with a humanistic vision of the world. His vast culture, combined with his draughtsman’s mastery which has perfectly assimilated the know-how of the Renaissance Great Masters as well as the “trompe l’œil’’ technique, expresses itself in a smooth oil painting with colours of transparent luminosity, and characters one would think to be alive.
The result is quite simply amazing, and the watercolour-like limpidity of his favourite colours which are grey, ochre and blue, gives his painting the changing facets of life, and invites meditation. Nicolae Maniu is indeed a magician of painting, ceaselessly creating in his pictures the successful symbiosis of the reality we are living and the fantasy towards which we ail aspire.
The welcome which, since his first Personal exhibition in 1978, the public and critics have given him could only go on growing. Today. Nicolae Maniu exhibits throughout the world and many International Museums vie with private collections for the masterpieces of this artist who is quietly revealing himself as one of the greatest of his time.

Philippe Clerc and Michel Palisse in „Cognac International Magazine”
nr.3, pg.66-67 – 1990



We can’t talk about Nicolae Maniu without knowing his itinerary, from a Carpathian born to a Latin artist with a Mediterranean sensitiveness, who considers himself to be a Romanian which is becoming more and more French.
Initially an artist mastering the sculpture techniques, he switched to painting – a decision nobody regrets. Like many others, he left his homeland and – in 1983 – he moved to Köln, Germany.
Nicolae Maniu is a magician of painting. His works ceaselessly render a successful symbiosis between the real and the fantastic we all dream of.

„Hyperréalisme et trompe-l’oeil” in „Arts actualités magazine”
nr.18/1991, pg:24-25



A painter who masters all techniques is able to convey his message in the minutest details. Despite his space movement, his message is clearly and concisely formulated within the structure of his compositions. The silky glow of his colours, the shining play of reflexes, shadows and contrasts of light as well as the body representations turn his works into an emotional mise en scene which give the impression of a life that can leave the canvas.

Rüdiger Müller in „Le trompe-l’oeil contemporain” – ed.Menges, 1993



Nicolae Maniu belongs to a small group of painters that employ the trompe-l’œil, which requires outstanding technical qualities. This oil on canvas technique, mingled with a a realistic style, his precise way of working, his own organization of colours which capture and reflect light, as well as his sense of composition that targets the essence give clarity, harmony and a calm balance to Maniu’s works, despite their often dramatic message.

Martin Monestier in „Le trompe-l’oeil contemporain” – ed.Menges, 1993



Nicolae Maniu evolves at least on two directions of a perfect realism that intermingle thus resulting a complex subject. This fusion leads to a multiplication of the reality meanings. It is more than realism, it is “metarealism”.

Ovidiu Avram in „Le trompe-l’oeil contemporain” – ed.Menges, 1993



THE SECRET :LIFE OF PAINTINGS
This fascinating Maniu’s composition, dominated by his self-portrait, displays the enigmatic expression that Santi di Tito gave to Machiavelli’s face in the 15th century. « The pleasure of contemplating the face of one’s ancestors is of outmost importance as it stirrs one’s love for glory » Vasari wrote. Judging by the touch of the Italian Renaissance in this surprising mise en scene, Maniu, too, works for his glory. However, the aluminium reminds us that he is a 20th century artist. A man who masters the trompe-l’œil whithout ignoring the classical tradition at all.

Jean Monneret in „The triumpf of tromp-l’œil”,„Histoire du trompe-l’œil
dans la peinture occidentale du VI-e siècle avant J.C. à nos jours”
(The History of tromp-l’œil in the Western Painting) –
ed. Menges, 1993



Having an obvious figurative character, playing around with Caravaggio’s painting and the precise technique of the „Little Dutch Masters”, the adventure of light turns into a new artistic energy in Maniu’s painting. Maniu surrenders himself to a technical anonimity which stems from the entire history of painting, from the classical masters to the famous artists like Sandorfi, Poirier, Di Macio, Ugarte, Claudio Bravo, who – just like himself – are to be found in the galeries of Champs Elysées and Rue Matignon.
The symbol – a vehicle and and a go-between leading to and coming from the image – grows in Maniu’s painting carefully protected by the multiple layers and ‘natural’ abundance that build the panting by means of a subtle dispute with the techniques and a polymorphic approach to art and civilization. Maniu’s painting is secular, yet there is a religious approach in telling the story, in the accuracy and the strict rules of the compositions. It is the luxury of a secular Constantinople that bears the refusal of the total spirit of Revelation. It is a materialism that remains terrestrial though sofianic, just like Kant’s metaphysics. Maniu’s characters emanate a particular loneliness, a psychology marked by the appearance; the follies hide or reveal the untold secret of this world, which is trying to preserve itself just like the Egyptian pharaos in their golden mummies. In this universe women are present only as a pretext which – among follies – leads to the issue of a « Narcissus » doomed to boredom.
We can talk about a psychology of the depth which ‘cracks’ the surface of the contemporary imaginary that Maniu fights by means of an earthly ‘Sophia’. Maniu’s attempt to turn the light into clothing oscillates between transparency and reflection, between East and West…

Ovidiu Avram in „Enciclopedia artiștilor români contemporani”, (Encyclopedia of Contemporray Romanian Artists)
ed. Arc2000, pg.108 – 1996



In a critical period for the subject and representation that fortuitously led art to abstraction, Nicolae Maniu is deeply involved in serious existential aspects. Most frequently he operates witht snap-shots from a tangible and shoking reality, which has an aura of mysterious feeling. Apparently clear and direct, when trying to decipher it, the image escapes to spaces full of dreams and revery, in a fierce search for understanding, tenderness, love, certitude. Nicolae Maniu’s force lies in his obvious and vital approach to creation.

Negoita Laptoiu, in “Encyclopedia of Contemporray Romanian Artists“,
ed. Arc2000, p.108-1996



Retrospectively, his artistic evolution spans the history of painting from the classics to the 20th century art, thus placing Maniu next to important names in Europe’s Cultural capital. Just like Brâncuși – who, in early 20th century became part of the “Western adventure”, yet remained himself – Maniu had the intelligence to apparently adjust, going ‘against the flow’ – as he entitled some of his works from the 1990s, which reveal a character determined to challenge the fashionable trends. It is the obssesion to preserve his authenticity that has brought him success. To put it into other words, due to his extraordinary devotion he has managed to hold an important place in the history of contemporray art. Undoubtedly, that is also due to his attachment to Renaissance accuracy, which offered him the perspective of orginal composition exercises. His works ponder on the supremacy of the visual and illusion, without abandoning the rules of the composition.
The frames of Maniu’s canvasses enclose a world in search for its own balance, a world which is hidden in metaphors, permanently unveiling itself, thus giving the viewer the chance to decipher its misteries : it is the real world that he wants to preserve at any cost, behind his silver layer, a constant symbol of his works.
Just like his great masters – Van Eyck, Dürer, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Dali – Maniu has the outstanding talent to render forms thus opposing the comprehensive figurative to the abstraction and absurd that culminated in non-art.
Playing around with Georges de la Tour and Caravaggio, who direct the light/shadow in the same way and who have a similar temperament – Maniu competes with the true value. And he has won. Ever since the beginning of his career, his paintings have been selected by the Parisian art galleries. The numerous topics inspired by the Greek mythology, the attempt to find relationships between the classical painting and the moderns artistic expression have placed him among the most important artists of the European contemporary painting.

Veronica Marinescu in „Aventura luminii care a cucerit Occidentul”-
(The Adventure that has conquered the West)
Curierul National of 28.06.2003



Initially – during his formative years in Romania – Nicolae Maniu was a sculptor. We can still observe his love of volume in the extraordinary quality of his touch and style, and also in the various themes he has explored over the last 30 years. This is why one should always pay close attention not only to the figures he portrays, but also how they interact and contrast with their background.
What Maniu paints on his canvases is essentially a stage – a theater the drama being performed is frozen for eternity. We can indeed s| dramatic terms, given that the way he directs his scenic in ceaselessly evokes the original backcloth against which ail human attempt to live.
This extraordinary ability to depict our original stage is un question the root of the success an artist who now, across the globe, re exhibits pictures just as perfect as those painted by the Flemish primitives in the 15th century (Van Eyck, Van der Weyden).

Damien Sausset in „Paris – capital of the art world”,
„Update Art Magazine”, pg.77-83, – 2003



At a quick glance, if your memory is still burdened by some lingering ideological remnants, you might be tempted to say he is a realist, a part of our everyday life, even a little bit of a humanist, just like any major artist ; once you have watched his faces a bit longer, the reality vanishes and slips through your fingers due to some inner excesses. Then, of course, you might think of surrealism, of the destruction of the whole by the hypertrophic detail ; however, soon the syntax of the image escapes the hyperrealist immobility, the self-sufficiency of the image, and flows unnoticeably – at least for a less playful viewer – into the voluble abyss of the surrealism. But Maniu is restless and unpredictable, so he doesn’t stay here enough to let the virtual viewer go home enjoying peace of mind ; he moves briskly to other chapters in the history of painting where one can find the classical Poussin, the Romantic Delacroix, the mannerist Veronese or Pontormo, the Baroque Rubens and the infernal Bosch or all the fantastic story tellers, with their inexhaustible language, dark soul and a mind clearly set in the uncertain delta in which the dream turns into nightmare.

Tudor Octavian in „The Science of Looking”, exhibition catalogue,
EA Gallery, 2010.



Before the Miracle.
With the ease of an experienced stage director, Maniu brings together characters, objects and perspectives in order to give shape to a live, plastic idea. You often seem to be in front of a snapshot, of a sequence that is part of a wider scene, hidden from view in the painting’s secret body – a place from where emerge and become visible only those details which serve the purpose of the moment. You become increasingly aware of having come into contact with a fundamental line of thought regarding the purpose of the image and its ability to make its voice heard loud and clear in contemporary culture. At the same time, you enjoy the subdued tone of this way of thinking, which allows you first the privilege of contemplating, again and again, like never before: your eye is competing with the line and the surface, it joins in the game, foresees the chance of experiencing extasy and allows itself to be guided through a practical course in plastic philosophy. You leave the day-to-day physical space and penetrate a multifaceted, live space of memories, visions and the magic of the contemplation moment. You come across an image that resembles a supersaturated vortex, which generates its own energy by approaching the history of painting as a homogeneous, generative field. The historic perspective is dissolved and transformed into personal vision, with its own moral identity and philosophical mark. In time, such a plastic gesture becomes massive, as it is based on its interdependence to a unique vision.
Even though referring to the elements of plastic expression would go beyond the natural scope of this text, we should mention the metal foil, which has the effect of intensifying both the light and the opacity. The foil covers, but it also unveils, in a contrastive manner, it emblematically represents the derisory character of consumption, while dramatically highlighting certain aspects of the composition. Its plastic quality is an effigy of the thirst for the visual: for centuries in a row, the proof of pictorial virtuosity was represented by the ability to reproduce the complex folds and plaits of fine fabrics. However, modern times call for new reflections, even in a figurative sense.
Nicolae Maniu’s images are moving towards the classical horizon and they are raising the interest of art lovers coming from the most diverse cultures. The painter is often confronted with situations when his work creates the effect of love at first sight and his paintings are bought with spontaneous passion by collectors who are first attracted by the fascinating image and only later discover the author and the wealth of his work. We are dealing here with a concrete, direct, universal dimension which transcends fashion trends and theoretical considerations and sustains itself through its intrinsic aesthetic value.

Mihai Tropa in Exhibition catalog “Jubilee – Nicolae MANIU“, 2014.