Ion Pacea was born in 1924 in Greece and died in 1999 in Bucharest. He was an honorary member of the Romanian Academy and is considered one of the greatest colourists of modern Romanian painting. Between 1945-50 he studied at the Institute of Fine Arts ‘Nicolae Grigorescu’ and at the Free Academy ‘Guguianu’ (1946-51) under professors such as Camil Ressu, Jean Al. Steriade, and Alexandru Ciucurencu (1903-77). At this time Pacea was a follower of Fauvism, with its vivid expressionism and non-naturalistic use of colour, that flourished in Paris at the end of the Belle Époque. Initially his paintings were figurative (industrial landscapes and portraits of workers) but he evolved towards abstract painting after a period of “ambiguous interplay between figuration and abstraction, especially in his marine paintings and still lives”.[i]A catalogue from a French exhibition on Romanian Modernism described his later art:
“In his paintings the brightness of colours is sustained by a paradoxical alliance between the flattened surfaces of forms and free vibrant gestural brushstrokes.”[ii]
Pacea continued his studies in Perugia, Italy in 1963. Following many solo and collective exhibitions in Romania, he was awarded various national and international awards.
Occasionally he would act in Romanian films, even in leading roles such as Săracul Ioanide (‘Poor Ioanide’). His works are painted in oil or guache and are striking for their chromatic variety and formal simplification, drawn with a confident line and strong and vibrant accents. He was also known for designing tapestries and murals in both fresco and mosaic.
To a Western eye not tuned to the ideological sensitivities of Soviet-occupied Romania, when he first exhibited at the “Official Salon” in Bucharest in 1947, Pacea’s compositions might look ordinary. But at a time when other painters were confined to painting official portraits of Communist leaders or the great achievements of the motherland, Pacea had the rare freedom to explore purely aesthetic avenues towards an abstract use of colour. He was exempted from paying tribute to ideological doctrine because he was being pushed forward as a showcase of artists’ pseudo-freedom in Stalinist Romania. The bombastic eulogies which were written about him, even a couple of decades after Socialist Realism, speak for themselves:
“A full-grown artist, in full command of all his gifts, having reached the acme of a tenacious progression, maturely perfected by time: so, here is Ion Pacea himself, ablaze now with the inner light and warmth of a fresh and superbly generous freedom. To be faithful to his achievement, the critic’s words should tune up in the free key-note of a private diary, filling the page with fulgent ravishment, with the boundless mirth of his colours. … To begin with, the firmament of our memory should bloom with the flashing whites of Pacea’s seascapes…. Irrepressible gushings of white, consolations of emerald, unmistakeably conveying – as one enters this show – the taste for immediate directness….
… Serene and untouchable, they seem quite unconcerned with the niceties of analytical distinctions: such is their essence that one can neither conceive them outside nature, nor take them for a metaphysical synthesis between reigns: they just are, without any tinge of funambulist volubleness, without that experimental enormousness typical of the space of pure probability, the one which would make a writer, say Pinget, create aberrant beings, such as tiger-birds and stork-horses….”[iii]
By contrast, more than a decade later in 1982, in a 155-page introduction entitled ‘Romanian Painting’ written in English, Vasile Florea condenses Ion Pacea’s entry to just five lines:
“Ion Pacea (born 1924) is mainly concerned with a solid construction of forms, with clear contours separating the various planes, and his penchant for simplification and stylisation often leads him into the area of Abstract Art.”[iv] [Written by Alex Popescu, December 2016]
[i] Calin Dan, ‘Ion Pacea’ in Oxford Art Online. Retrieved 19/07/2016.
[ii] Le Modernisme Roumain, Exhibition Catalogue (Tajan: Paris, 20-26 October 2009).
[iii] Dan Haulica introducing Ion Pacea, Catalogue (Uniunea Artistilor Plastici din R.S. Romania: Bucharest, 1975/6?)
[iv] Vasile Florea, Romanian Painting (Meridiane Publishing House: Bucharest, 1982), p.150. This book was given to Tyler by Corneliu Petrescu with the following inscription: “to Geoffrey – because he is a great collector of Romanian art – with love – Corneliu, January ’83.”
Table Of Contents
Chronology (p. 17)
List of Illustrations (pp. 18-19)
56 pages of Reproductions
Summary in French (pp. 21-6)
Summary in English (pp. 27-31)
“For Geoffrey Tyler
5th March 1978”