The Great Union centennial next year is a reason for celebration, but is also an opportunity to look back to the last century
The gradual involvement of women in social, cultural and political life is one of the significant aspects of those times. The project called “The Centennial of Women in Romanian Art” is dedicated to women's presence in the fine arts. Implemented by the Postmodernism Museum, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and National Identity, the project is a moment of commemoration of the historical stages that female art went through. Communism, which unfortunately dominated half of that century, cannot be overlooked, especially since it is easy to distinguish propaganda from reality. In theory, women were equal to men, but in reality it was not exactly so. Women could not sidestep propaganda, and one example of that is a publication that appeared early in the communist era.
Historian Victor Samartinean ran a case study centered on the Urzica satirical magazine, set up in 1949 by writer Aurel Baranga upon order from the Communist Party: “When the Soviet army occupied Romania and imposed the Soviet system of government, they exported special propaganda tools to our country. One of them was political satire. It is true that political satire was present already, but it was not so clearly regimented politically, conducted according to party ideology. The model came from the USSR, a model used for all satire magazines in the satellite countries, it was the Krokodil magazine, attacking class enemies, meaning the political enemies of the communist regime, such as wealthy landowners, the bourgeoisie or clerics. The Urzica satirical magazine brought together all the graphic artists of that time, the ones who wanted to side with the regime.”
Among them there were a number of women graphic artists, many of them starting their careers there. However, between 1949 and 1965, no more than 20 women artists were active there, among whom Florica Cordescu, Ligia Macovei, Eva Munteanu, Marcela Cordescu, Simona Vasiliu Chintilla and Geta Bratescu.
Victor Samartinean: “One possible explanation for the fact that there weren't that many women graphic artists at Urzica is the way in which the Romanian political satire developed before WWII. Most artists back then were men, and they continued doing their work during the communist period. Throughout this period, only one piece of cover art was done by a woman, for issue 24 of the first year of publication, drawn by Marcela Cordescu. No other woman graphic artist ever drew another cover. From my point of view, there is one explanation: there were groups of graphic artists which were taken over by Urzica. Which is why ladies working in this area had a hard time working their way in. I believe that there no more than 20 women graphic artists in the People's Republic of Romania.”
The other possible explanation for the lack of women's presence in the graphic art may be that they avoided collaboration with the regime. The most often encountered graphic artist in the pages of Urzica magazine between 1949 and 1965 was Simona Vasiliu Chintila. Later in her career, she went into painting and teaching, becoming a professor at the Monumental Art and Restoration Department of the Fine Arts Institute. Geta Bratescu became one of the prominent visual artists of Romania, representing Romania in 2017 at the 57th edition of the Venice Biennial.