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Masters of the Romanian Modern Painting
An exhibition opened on the occasion of the celebration of 75 years
since the founding of the Republic of Turkey. Under the auspices of H. E. Bülent Ecevit, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey

25 November - 6 December 1998
The Atatürk Cultural Centre of Istanbul

[ Organizers | Time and colours | Arrangements | Catalogue ]
Fr. Sirato Iosif  Iser Nicolae Darascu
Time and colours

As I think that in the country where fairy tales last for 1001 nights one may imagine anything and since this exhibition is, in a certain way, a wonderful story about how several famous masters of the painting brush used to have coloured dreams half a century ago, I take the liberty to propose a better acquaintance with some of them, while listening to their confessions.

They all belonged to what has been known in the Romanian art history as the"golden pleiad"of our painting during the period between the two World Wars. Now ever, every one in part was a distinct personality, a "master" whose style - having once reached the peak of this art - has become unmistakeable.

Theodor Pallady "To me, painting is a necessity at every moment of my life", Theodor Pallady was saying in 1931. "A painful necessity to confess myself, in a sincere and unforgiving manner. My painting is the "diary" of my every day life. An intimate diary in which, without sparing myself or the others, without any panache and pomp - but in a straightforward and rapid manner - the pulse of my life, with its fatal variations, goes on beating".

This friend of Henri Matisse's - with whom he often discussed his theories on the prevalence of either drawing or colour in a painter's work - -was a life-long enemy of fugitive impressions, his canvases succeeding to convince us to watch them attentively, to let ourselves penetrated by this natural modernism, equally confined into itself and serious, giving priority to the rational intelligence and not to the spectacular features.

Unlike Pallady, whose nature was cerebral, Gheorghe Petrascu does not push the abstract element so far as to attain the very symbol, but he remains an artist of "the essence of the concrete". He succeedes in mastering reality even when he wistfully contemplates a landscape - in Balcic or in Venice - compelling his imagination to interpret reality. A real element which he adorns with sparkling colours, characteristic to gems and enamels, successfully penetrating the semi-darkness. René Huyghe, a famous French art critic, used to say about Petrascu: "Such a painter remains great everywhere". The artist, however, confessed: "I paint the way I feel, because I have seen a lot of beautiful things, but I always protected myself from influences. This is the principle I remained faithful to during my entire life". NicolaeTonitza Nicolae Tonitza - a famous painter, professor and art critic - who never forgot his friends even when they were far from him, in a remote Turkish village in Dobrudja, used to say, as if he were engaged in a talk with the other two artists: when you stand in fronf of a work of art, ask yourself in the first place: which one of all the chords inside the artist's soul vibrates here? The value of a work of art resides solely in fhe original character of the artist's way of thinking and feeling, as art is a flower grown on the soil of disinterested passion.

Turkish poet Mehmet Niyazi, who lived in Dobrudja and evoked it in his wonderful poems, once wrote about the passion induced by art:

"The lasses and the young men borrowed some health from the sun.
And were waving their handkerchiefs that looked very much like gooseberries,
Old men were wearing sheepskin coats, the youngsters raced on horseback
Went to weddings to pick out their girls.
This is how the Tartars used to live and this was their way of merry-making."

We do not know how much of Mehmet Niyazi's poetry painter Iosif Iser was acquainted with nor how many verses by Iusuf Isa Halim or Ismail Ziyaeddin he had read for that matter- all of them are known as outstanding representatives of the Turkish culture in Romania - but the fact is quite clear that all his life, the painter was preoccupied by this special world that rendered the region of Dobrudja particularly charming.

The artist's retrospective exhibition, opened in 1982 at the National Art Museum of Romania in Bucharest, included more than 60 paintings the subject of which the Turkish village in Dobrudja, with all its folklore and spiritual characteristics.

He was the first painter of his epoch who, charmed by the monuments in the Turkish towns, represented them in ample compositions. One can thus see Aja Sofia and the Bazaar in Istanbul, apart from numerous images of the Bosphorus, of the coffee-shops in the towns of province, of the Turkish graveyards, all these resulting from the monumental vision, in which the symbol is mysteriously confined into gesture. The several written confessions made by the Romanian painters half a century ago, mainly those they included into their pictorial compositions, are parts of the motive this exhibition proposes. This is the motive of the art, of the creation of several generous spirits who aspired to fulfill some of the wonderful ideals of mankind, feelings which know no frontiers.

Art is able to become a common asset - just like the sunshine is - an asset belonging to us all, no matter in which country we were born. Therefore, let us enjoy ourselves together.

Dorana Cosoveanu, Art historian


  • Dorana Cosoveanu, art historian, advisor to the Minister of Culture of Romania
  • The Museums and Collections Department of The Ministry of Culture of Romania
  • The Art Museum of Constanta: Doina Pauleanu, director; Simona Rusu, deputy director; Anca Deliorga, museum custodian.


We express our entire gratitude to H. E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Bucharest, for his kind support.

The organizers express their thanks to the sponsors: Bayindir Holding in Turkey, Banca Turco - Romana and Bayindir lnsurance Company in Bucharest.

Photos and coloured slides: Catalin Anastase; English version: Gabriela Bemat
Turkish version: Imra Caiali and Feuzi Cadri with the kind assistance of the General Consulate of the Republic of Turkey in Constanta
Supervision of the Turkish version: Laura Badiu
Catalogue of the Exhibition edited by the Ministry of Culture of Romania.

Masters of the Romanian Modern Painting
Last Update: November 27th, 1998.
Copyright: CIMEC 1998.