He was one of the most impressive and contradictory artists of the19th century. Unrecognised by contemporary critics and consigned to oblivion for a long time after his death, Romako is currently considered the precursor of Austrian modernism. Admitted to the Vienna Academy in 1847, he studied under Waldmüller. However, his studies were interrupted by the Revolution of 1848. After a year of private study with Wilhelm Kaulbach (1804–1874) in Munich, he re-entered the Vienna Academy, where, under the guidance of the history painter Carl Rahl, he collaborated on a series of designs for paintings that were to adorn the hall of fame at the Vienna Arsenal. The brilliant watercolour painter spent the best years of his life in Rome between 1857–1876, for he was highly respected there and a member of leading circles of artists. Back in Vienna, he struggled unsuccessfully to gain recognition for his very expressive style of painting, which deviated from the taste of the time. In 1881, his painting "Tegetthoff in the Naval Battle at Lissa", Österreichische Galerie Belvedere Wien, Inv. no. 5032, one of the most outstanding history paintings of the19th century, received devastating reviews.
Portrait of a young man
Romako's painting is rich in narrative elements, the significance of which often remains hidden, especially in his portraits. Many of them contain minor details, which illustrate attributes of the person depicted and are intended as covert allusions.
The work is signed A. Romako Paris, but not dated. It was probably executed in the early 80s. A young man in evening dress is lighting a cigarette. The flame of the match lights up his hands and his face with its finely painted eyebrows and groomed moustache. A red cravat with a pin and white shirt cuffs complete his elegant appearance. Roughly sketched gloves lie on the brim of a black top hat. Together with books, a candle and a letter, arranged, as it were, as a still life, these objects give an impression of the personality depicted. Romako's hand is evident in the combination of graphically accentuated realism of detail with pictorially blurred parts, such as the diffuse chiaroscuro modulation of the background. Inspired by impressions gained in Paris, he blended genre scene and portrait to capture the type of contemporary urbanite known as a "flâneur".
Gabriele Groschner, Thomas Habersatter, Erika Mayr-Oehring (Ed.): Masterworks. Residenzgalerie Salzburg. Salzburg 2002, p. 136