Visual Arts

Medieval painting was marked by a strong Byzantine influence. It expressed itself through frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible on outside walls as a means of educating illiterate peasants (they were the first in the world to be painted in this way), on the iconostasis inside churches, and in miniature form as a decorative frame for religious manuscripts.

The paintings of Nicolae Grigorescu (1838-1907) absorbed French impressionism and created canvasses alive with the colour of the Romanian peasantry. He broke the prevailing strict academic mould, heralding the emergence of modern Romanian painting. His work is popular with international collectors, and sells for up to $50,000 each.

Modernism was further embraced by Gheorghe Petra^cu (1872-1949), whose paintings also drew on the world around him. The symbolist movement was represented by Ion Tuculescu (1910-62), who incorporated elements of Romanian folk art such as the decorative motifs of Moldavian carpets in his work.

Romania's most famous sculptor is Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), whose polished bronze and wood works display a refined subtlety which belie the great passion and depth of thought which has gone into them. His work is held at the Pompidou Centre in Paris (across the street from which is a replica of his Paris studio), the Guggenheim, New York's MOMA, the Philadephia Museum of Art, the Australian National Gallery in Canberra and in Romania at the Museum of Art in Craiova and Bucharest's National Museum of Art.

Since 1989, Romanian painting has undergone an explosion of exploration, with artists experimenting with a variety of styles and themes which either beforehand were discouraged or repressed. These styles, of varying effectiveness, replaced a prior emphasis on introspection so evident in Communist-era painting.

The biggest name in Moldovan painting is Mihai Grecu (1916-98), who co-founded the National School of Painting and was also a poet and free love advocate. His works range from the formally classical to a folk-styled art naive. In sculpture, Anatol Coseac today produces some highly original woodworks.

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