Fine Artist Miliţa Petraşcu and adaptation to communism

fine artist miliţa petraşcu and adaptation to communism The most outstanding Romanian woman sculptor of the 20th century, and also a prominent painter, Miliţa Petrascu was born in 1892 in Chishinau (on the territory of today's Republic of Moldova).

The most outstanding Romanian woman sculptor of the 20th century, and also a prominent painter, Miliţa Petrascu was born in 1892 in Chishinau (on the territory of today's Republic of Moldova). Attracted to fine arts since early childhood, Milita Petrascu later studied in Tsarist Russia and shortly after WWI she left for Paris, where she furthered her studies under the guidance of Constantin Brancusi. 

Her professional route will take her close to the European avant-garde, although she truly embraced those movements only when she settled in Bucharest, in 1925. Here, she joined the group affiliated to "Contimporanul" magazine, which, just like most avant-garde movements, promoted left-leaning political ideas. In Milita Petrascu's case, these ideas became apparent as early as 1925, when Ana Pauker, the future foreign minister of the country in the first three years after the instatement of communism, was photographed in the artist's studio. 

So in 1948, when the communists seized power in Romania, Milita Petrascu should have been a privileged artist in the circles of the new political power. But reality was different. Her career after the war had many ups and downs, as she was either flooded with honours and orders, or criticised by the communist party for the slips in her aesthetic doctrine. 

Historian Cristian Vasile tells us more about the cultural and political context in which Milita Petrascu continued her career after the war: "The official rhetoric after 1948, reinforced by the newly set up Fine Artists Union, insisted on the idea that there no longer were such things as a system that exploited artists or a distorted arts market controlled by oppressive financiers. On the contrary, there was a socialist state in place, which fostered and guaranteed gender equality, which made rational investment in art, which made no discrimination in terms of orders and the purchase of art objects. There was a period of adjustment with the system, and this period started with prestigious painters and sculptors from the old generations of artists being lured into accepting the new artistic and ideological order. This involved, among other things, public honors, orders, housing and material benefits."

One of these artists was, in a first stage, Milita Petrascu, an artist already established and well promoted in the inter-war years. But paradoxically enough, as early as the 1950s her career was shadowed by her close ties with Ana Pauker, a communist leader ousted by her own party fellows, in the good Stalinist tradition. This was not the only stain in Milita Petrascu's "file," as Cristian Vasile tells us: "There have been some controversial works by Milita Petrascu, which hardly brought her professional glory. An interesting fact, for instance, is that the monographs on Milita Petrascu's works published during those times did not include the half-nude bust of actress Elvira Godeanu, which fuelled the rumours regarding the actress's affair with the communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. Another cause of Petrascu's fall from grace was also, apparently, a portrait of the collector Constantin Doncea. Doncea had become some sort of Nemesis, the arch-enemy of the then head of state Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. Why was that? Because Doncea, just like Gheorghiu Dej, was also very attached to the Grivita railway works and the 1933 riots of the Grivita workers, which was an iconic moment for Dej, for his rise as a leader of the proletariat. In 1958, the Institute of the Romanian Communist Party History invited inter-war communist party members to record testimonials related to the 1933 Grivita strike. Doncea also made a statement, but in June 1958 Gheorghiu-Dej launched a crackdown on him and other communist leaders who, he thought, had defied him. Milita Petrascu, who had painted Doncea's portrait, was caught in the middle of this political row. In April 1959 she was the target of a showdown at the Aula Magna of the Bucharest Law School, where workers and secret police agents had been brought in to expose the artists who departed from the party line. But even after the 1959 incident, in the following decades Milita Petrascu would nevertheless retain her nonconformist spirit, to the point of defining herself as "a materialist person, imbued with mysticism."

Miliţa Petraşcu died in 1976. Her best-known work remains the mosaic on the Miorita Fountain, placed at the northern exit of Bucharest, and created in the mid-1930s.
Publicat: 2017-11-25 13:56:00
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