Taru Eugen

Romania

(1913-1991)

Graphic artist, cartoonist, illustrator

Eugen Taru is a Romanian graphic artist, best known for his works in the genres of political caricature, caricature, comics and book illustration. Active throughout the communist period and recognized for the first time as one of the young socialist realists, Taru was primarily associated with satirical magazines such as Urzica.

A graduate of the Carol I High School in Craiova, Taru first became known as an artist in the years after World War II, when he joined the Communists and Socialist Realists, who received official support from the Communist Party of Romania.

In the context of the Cold War, Taru became particularly known for stereotypical political cartoons, such as those aimed at Wall Street businesses, or wealthy peasants known as “chiaburi” (the equivalent of kulaks). The latter were particularly controversial because they coincided with forced collectivization and a murderous campaign directed against the rural elite. After the split between Tito and Stalin, when Romania, allied to the Soviet Union, waged a propaganda war against the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the artist was involved in creating giant panels on which Josip Broz Tito is depicted as a butcher with a bloody axe (in a series of posters on which he was called “the butcher of the Yugoslav people”).

 

In the 1950s, Taru also created a regularly published comic strip built around and named after its main character, the dwarf Barbecote.  The decade coincided with a sharp decline in the history of Romanian comics: exercising ideological control over the comic book scene, the authorities, by all accounts, preferred to invest in animation, seen as a more effective means of spreading propaganda.  In this context, “Taru” has been preserved as one of the comics most familiar to the general public during communism (along with comics created by Ion Deac, Pompiliu Dumitrescu, Puiu Manu, Vintile Miheescu, Dumitru Negrea, Ion Popescu-Gopo and Livia Rusch).

 

Taru still worked at Urzica after 1965, when the regime changed its cultural direction under the new leader Nicolae Ceausescu. According to artist Mihai Pinzaru-Pima, who started working at the magazine in 1969, Taru, along with Chick Damadian and actor Horatio Melele, cautiously opposed the policy pursued by Ceausescu, which he defined as “a stupid attempt to impose an ideology on a wise people.” Pinzaru-Pim claims that as a result, “Urzica” was among the publications that are likely to bypass communist censorship along with “şopârle” (lit. “lizards”, or articles subtly criticizing the regime in a seemingly innocent context).  Together, Taru and Pinzaru-Pim were also the first Romanian cartoonists to receive international awards.

An area in which Tharu’s contribution was traditionally considered paramount was book illustration. According to his entry at the National Art Museum, Taru was one of the local artists “who strengthened the prestige of book illustration as an autonomous genre by enriching the concept of ‘illustration’ with more complex functions than a simple visualization of literary sequence or poetic state.” Recalling the graphic artist Arina Stoenescu, who got acquainted with this genre in childhood, lists Tara, along with Rus and Val Munteanu, as one of the three most memorable artists associated with the state publishing house of children’s books “Editura Ion Creangă”.  Among the famous drawings created by Taru in this area were his 14 works for the 1959 edition of “Childhood Memories” by the classic of Romanian literature of the 19th century Ion Crange, as well as his illustrations for the 1986 translation of “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes (the second Romanian edition of the book with original illustrations, according to Val Munteanu 1976).

Tarou and his wife Josephine have amassed a significant collection of works of art, which, along with some of Tarou’s own creations, was donated to the Museum of Art Collections.  This collection includes works by Romanian masters (Ion Andreescu, Alexandru Ciucurencu, Dumitru Giace, Lucian Grigorescu, Joseph Yser, Stefan Lucian, Theodor Palladi, Gheorghe Petrascu, Nicolae Tonica, Francis Shirato) and local artists in whom Taru invested (Stefan Constantinescu, Ion Pacea), along with old samples of Romanian and Russian icons. Other parts of the collection include Oriental art (Chinese and Japanese porcelain, bronze vessels decorated with cloisonne enamel, paintings in the style of Hanabusa Itcho), as well as European decorative items (for example, French furniture of the 18th century).

 

Eugen Taru’s drawings “for childhood memories” are kept in the Krange Memorial House in Targu-Nyamets as an integral part of the permanent exhibition. The exhibition “Exposing the Rumble” takes place at the Banffi Palace Art Museum in Cluj-Napoca.

 

Exhibitions

  • 2015 From political propaganda to Baby Boom – Museum of Postmodernism, Bucharest
  • 1983 (Bucharest – retrospective exhibition)
  • 1966 (Baia Mare, Tg. Mures)
  • 1965 (Braila, Galac)
  • 1963 (Bucharest, Eforie Nord, Leningrad, Kiev)

Since 1949, he has participated in annual state exhibitions, and since 1968 – in Humorous salons. He participated in all important international illustrated book salons (Moscow, Leipzig, Bratislava, Bologna) and cartoon salons (Bordighera, Tolentino, Gabrovo, Akshehir, Skopje, Moscow, Marostice, Knokke-Heist, Marostica, Montreal, Athena).

 

Reference: Wikipedia, 2019


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