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Two Rumanian losses

The eminent artist Avigdor Arikha and the outstanding violinist and teacher Stefan Gheorghiu have died. They were born in the same year in Rumania. Arikha came from Czernowitz (now Ukraine), fled to Palestine, was wounded in the 1948 war and wound up in Paris, where he formed a creative friendship with the playwright Samuel Beckett.

Moving from abstract art to portraiture, Arikha had exceptional graphic insights. I met him at the British Museum in June 2006 where he was donating his lifetime hoard of etchings to the Department of Prints and Drawings. He told me how, as a penniless student in the 1950s, he had been inspired by wandering through the BM’s galleries of world civilisation, open to all without admission charge. He vowed that, should he ever become famous, he would make a bequest to the Museum. Neil MacGregor put on a fine exhibition; pictures of Arikha at the show can be seen here. Obituaries have appeared in the New York Times and Haaretz.

Ştefan Gheorghiu (b. March 22, 1926 — d. March 17, 2010), barely known outside his country, had Mihaela Martin, Silvia Marcovici and Mariana Sirbu among his many international pupils. His son Andrei, once married to the soprano Angela Gheorghiu, is planning a memorial concert. More details of his life have yet to reach me.

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