Josephina! It was 1920 when the famous painter, Kol Idromeno, painted the beloved portrait of this woman, which today is one of the paintings that shows the beginnings of Albanian painting preserved in the collection of the National Gallery of Arts.
Her smile continues to be the same, while her gaze seems to hide the same feeling that Kol Idromeno tried for a long time to find while painting. The years have not betrayed the beautiful secret of Josephina. Unlike Idromeno, who was drawn to characters who carried a mystery, Simon Rrota in his paintings seeks to bring a reflection of reality.
A highland portrait painted by Rrota in 1923 does not even hide the age of the painter, who must have been 33 years old as he sought to give life to the girl coming down from the mountain. She appears elegant, with her hands placed on her belt and some earrings hanging down her scarf. A painting where there are no missing vital elements with the woman like water or the sun.
The paintings realized by Kol Idromeno and Simon Rrota are also the paintings that mark the beginnings of the art of painting in Albania, an art which until then was sporadically realized by anonymous.
In the fund of the Art Gallery the preserved works date from the end of the XIX century, a period that marks the beginnings of the Albanian secular painting. The early author of the painting is Kol Idromeno, whose work "Our Sister" dates back to 1883. The first paintings in Albania manifest a kind of amateurism. This kind of spirit continues until the 1930s when the effort to establish schools and art institutions in the country began. However, these paintings clearly speak of the cultural atmosphere in Albania in the early years of the twentieth century, and constitute genuine ethnographic and historical documents of the period. These works also show a kind of romantic spirit.
Other authors of the era are Pjetër Marubi, Simon Rrota, Zef Kolombi, Spiro Xega etc. The opening of the drawing school in Tirana in 1931 will bring a change in the concept of painting in the country, turning it into a realistic painting. Some of the first painters who studied there are Sadik Kaceli, Abdurrahim Buza, Gani Strazimiri, etc., however few of their works from the period of this school have been preserved in the fund of the Art Gallery.
Realistic painting will be developed by painters returning from studies in neighboring countries, such as: Odhise Paskali, Andrea Kushi, Vangjush Moi, Janaq Paço, Foto Stamo, Zengo Sisters, etc. These artists constitute the generation of educated artists who try to develop portraits, still nature, landscape, etc. If we look at the works realized in this period, they are mainly portraits. Vangjush Mio, carefully realized in 1919 the portrait of a girl while studying. Andrea Kushi in 1939 carefully draws the long braids of a girl who is wearing a white blouse.
The women painted by Zef Kolombi look sad in this period. The same can be said for Nexhmedin Zajmi (1947).
In this period we also have the delivery of the art of painting by female artists like Sofia Papadhimitri. From the collection of works preserved in National Art Gallery, we can notice the academic paintings with historical theme dominating (1950-1986). After the end of the Second World War and the establishment of the communist regime, the painting with a historical-political theme began to develop in Albania.
The biggest place in these paintings is occupied by the anti-fascist war and historical changes in the country, but at the same time different aspects of the history of Albania are treated, such as that of Skanderbeg's resistance, etc. But despite this period, Sali Shijaku in 1961 paints a nude woman lying in bed and her body reflected in the mirror. The main artists are those who have graduated from Western academies and reflect an academic background in their painting such as: Nexhmedin Zajmi, Sadik Kaceli, Abdullah Cangolli, etc., while other artists formed in the Academy of the Soviet Union and other eastern countries are : Sali Shijaku, Fatmir Haxhiu, Vilson Kilica etc.
The New Man Model (1960-1986) "The Volunteer" by Hasan Nallbani, which shows the portrait of a woman with short hair, wearing a simple blouse, pants and a scarf tied around her neck, while holding an ax over her shoulder, shows the most interesting and controversial moments in the history of visual art in Albania, that of the art of Socialist Realism. A little further "Spiro Kristos" "Brigadier" (1976) has stopped somewhere in the middle of the field where he is working and holds a notebook in his hand, "The fitter" by Petro Kokushta in 1979 flying a flag at work.
With the return of artists from Eastern art schools, it can be said that the era of Socialist Realism in Albanian art begins. This art is mainly in function of the propaganda of the political regime in the country. According to ready-made clichés imported from the country of origin Soviet Union, the art focuses on workers and their activity, turning them into myths of the time. In fact, Socialist Realism does not try to show truthfully aspects of the reality of the working class, but to establish a kind of cult of socialist labor as activity and of the worker as the central character of the "new era" that has begun.
The artists who have left outstanding works in this period are Muntaz Dhrami, Zef Shoshi, Çlirim Peka etc. Another important collection in the Art Gallery is that of Formalist Painting which finds a place in the history of Albanian painting in the early ‘70s. The main artists who have works of this nature in the GKA fund are: Edison Gjergjo, Alush Shima, Isuf Sulovari, Eduard Hila, Bajram Mata etc. Isuf Sulovari's "Milkmaid" looks happy as she poses with a bucket of milk in her hand. "An emancipation" of the woman in the painting also appears in a painting by Llambi Blidos in 1971, entitled "On the control panel". The last collection preserved in the Gallery is that of modernist paintings and sculptures (1989-2001).