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From Dada to Surrealism: Jewish Avant-Garde Artists
from Romania, 1910-1938

This online exhibition presents some of the art and photographs on show at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam from June to 2 October 2011. The exhibition confirms the importance of Bucharest in European avant-garde art and sheds light on the relationship between Jewish identity and radical modernity.

Tristan Tzara Caligramme Calligramme (detail) by Tristan Tzara, zincograph, 1916/1959 from The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, The Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art © Christophe Tzara © Photo: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Marcel Janco Mask für Firdusi
Mask für Firdusi by Marcel Janco, 1917-1918. Sylvio Perlstein Collection, Antwerp, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2011 © Marcel Janco

Jules Perahim God of War
The God of War (detail) by Jules Perahim, 1937 © Jules Perahim

Arthur Segal The Railway
The Railway by Arthur Segal, 1910. © The National Museum of Art of Romania, Bucharest

“In the early decades of the twentieth century, the art world was taken by storm by the fearless experimentalism of several Jewish artists from Romania: Tristan Tzara (1895-1962), Victor Brauner (1903-1966), Marcel Janco (1895-1984), and M. H. Maxy (1895-1971). They and the older Romanian artist Arthur Segal (1875-1944) were present at the birth of an influential avant-garde movement. The younger artists Jules Perahim (1914-2008) and Paul Păun (1915-1994), inspired by their predecessors, were at the forefront of Surrealism. Dadaist, Surrealist, abstract and expressionist works, personal variations on Constructivism – nothing went too far for them.”

Tzara, Janco et al
From left to right: Tristan Tzara, Georges Janco, Marcel Janco, Jules Janco, their friend Poldi Chapier, and Ion Vinea, Bucharest. © The National Museum of Art of Romania, Bucharest, 1913, Josine Ianco-Starrels Collection.

The narrative of the exhibition begins in 1916 in Zurich where Dada was born. This art movement, which challenged the established conventions, was also a revolt against the horrors of the First World War.

Tristan Tzara (Moineşti,1895 – Paris 1962)
was the author of the Dada manifesto. A poet and a writer, he also painted a number of abstract gouaches. In Calligramme, 1916/1959, Tzara experimented with visual poetry, the text became a form. This is reminiscent of micrography, a Jewish art form practiced since in the 9th century, using minute Hebrew letters.

Marcel Janco (Bucharest 1895 – Ein Hod 1984),
one of Romania’s best known avant-garde artists, was also an editor and an architect. Janco's masks were an essential element of Dada.

Victor Brauner Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve, oil on cardboard by Victor Brauner 1923, The Eco-Museum Research Institute Tulcea. © c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2011

The exhibition story moves on to Bucharest in the 1920s showing works by Victor Brauner (Piatra-Neamţ 1903 – Paris 1966), Marcel Janco, and M.H. Maxy (Brăila, 1895–Bucharest 1971). It then depicts the evolution of the artists in the 1930s and concludes by unveiling the work of the Younger Generation Jules Perahim (Bucharest, 1914 – Paris, 2008) and Paul Păun (Bucharest, 1915 – Haifa, 1994).

Editor: Lena Stanley-Clamp, European Association for Jewish Culture, London
with contributions from Ben Uri - The London Jewish Museum of Art, Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam,
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