Geoffrey Tyler's thoughts on Silvia Radu and Vasile Gorduz



Geoffrey Tyler's thoughts on Silvia Radu and Vasile Gorduz


Tyler, Geoffrey




From the moment I met Corneliu in Bucharest, he generously introduced me to his artist friends. Among these were a married couple, both sculptors, Silvia Radu and Vasile Gorduz. Vasile was recognised by his colleagues as the foremost portrait sculptor in the country. He had been a professor at the University and was still revered by the younger sculptors, but for reasons I never inquired about, he had lost his university position. He had been born in the eastern-most province of pre-war Romania, Moldavia, which was annexed at the end of the war by the Soviet Union, becoming the Federal Socialist Republic of Moldavia. He came from peasant farming stock but was a cultivated, extremely well-read man, and an innovator in his field. At the same time, he retained his love of the soil and used the garden around the studio complex where he and Silvia shared their studio to grow grape vines and make each year a red wine vintage, not Petrus quality but very potable. Unfortunately for both of us, we had no common language in which we could talk fluently, since his English was non-existent and his French was not as good as mine. However, for simple day to day conversations, our French was useful.

Silvia Radu was in good stead with the Artists Union and from time to time obtained commissions for public sculptures in major provincial towns. She was also active in encouraging young artists to develop modern attitudes towards their work. However, as in the west, sculpture is a difficult area because of its economics. Compared with painting, sculpture is much more time-consuming per individual sculpture, takes more materials, and must be sold at a higher price. Silvia therefore developed a sideline in producing painted porcelain vessels, mainly vases and bowls of various sizes painted in indigo designs. They proved popular not only to Romanians but also to tourists. She sold them through the Artists Union shops and they provided a sound basis for living expenses when sculpture commissions for her and Vasile were slow. The porcelain was Iranian, obtained through bilateral trade agreements and was of good quality. In general, for vases and bowls, Silvia used un-fired porcelain blanks and the firing was done not by her but by others. She would often use scrap porcelain clay for portrait busts of friends or to make porcelain jewellery, such as necklaces.

The Gorduz studio had a front door, of course, but few people used it. The back of the large studio was of windows which was made opaque to head height and which had a door going out into the garden. Unless they wished to be uninterrupted, there were always knocks on this door as friends and colleagues came to spend time with the Gorduz. As was often the case in Romania, central heating in winter was provided by a large glazed tile oven, which Silvia could turn into a cooker to grill food.

Early after meeting, I agreed to have a head portrait done by Vasile. This involved starting with the head done in clay, which could be kept moist between sittings. These sittings took place whenever I could find some free time to visit the studio. I would be in a chair next to the modelling clay, Vaslie would have his tools, including an enormous pair of calipers used to make sure that the head was exactly life size. I would sit there, let Vasile work, and talk to Silvia. These sittings continued for three years or more and would have continued longer but it seemed to me that Vasile was making slight changes that made the head no better or worse, merely slightly different. He agreed and his next step was to have it cast in bronze, which took than a year because of the earlier mentioned bronze shortage. During the sittings, Silvia and Vasile became very close friends, almost as close as the Petrescus. I was able to help them with gifts of sculpting supplies and other items that were unavailable in Romania. They introduced me to their close artist friends, in the same way as did Corneliu, and my Romanian collection owes much to their own works and ones which I was able to acquire from their friends. Also important was the fact that I met in their studio, people of intelligence and interest, whom I would never otherwise have known. Language was sometimes a problem but some spoke English and many others French. In Romania, my French conversation improved rapidly.



Tyler, Geoffrey, “Geoffrey Tyler's thoughts on Silvia Radu and Vasile Gorduz,” Tyler Collection of Romanian and Modern Art: University of Tasmania, accessed July 24, 2024,