Geoffrey Tyler's thoughts on Horia Bernea



Geoffrey Tyler's thoughts on Horia Bernea


Tyler, Geoffrey




This painter was also a friend of the Gorduz, who introduced me to him and whom I often met at their studio. He was younger than people like Pacea, Gheorghiu, and Petrescu. He was recognised as one of the gifted painters of his generation. He first made his mark with a series of paintings of a hill in the countryside to which he went every year and painted, with its varying patterns of crops, ploughings, periods of fallow etc. The hill series to me is a theme and set of variations, each of which is immediately recognisable but all of which are different. Romanian farmland has the remnants of medieval farming tenure and practices and many farms are of separated strips of land rather than large agglomerations of land, the English practice of enclosure not having occurred in Romania. This gives Romanian landscapes a special appearance since in any one year, strips adjacent to strips owned by different farmers may be treated differently and even under snow one can see the individual strips emerging. I was able to buy from Bernea a fine canvas of a study for one of his large ‘Hill’ series.

Bernea was a relatively realistic artist and many of his works are clearly religious. Two that I obtained in my last visit to Romania are representations of Orthodox Romanian Church banners used in church processions on feast days. At a superficial glance they are abstract designs but closer examination shows the cross which is central to each work. One large oil on paper that I have hung in my bedroom for decades represents an axe splitting a hill which appears to have graves on it, a work that might seem antitheal to the atheistic communist state, but which Bernea could manage to have accepted by the authorities. In addition to a number of oils, the collection contains a number of small works, on board and paper, that Bernea gave to the Gorduz and which they then gave to the collection.

Sometime after my last visit to Romania, Bernea was appointed Director of a museum specialising in religious and folk art. Unfortunately, he died relatively young at the age of 62, a great loss to Romanian painting.


Tyler, Geoffrey, “Geoffrey Tyler's thoughts on Horia Bernea,” Tyler Collection of Romanian and Modern Art: University of Tasmania, accessed July 24, 2024,