Ion Țuculescu was born on May 19th 1910 at Craiova, in a family of school teachers. He went to primary school at Ion Heliade Rădulescu under the guidance of his parents and became acquainted with painting during high-school when, together with his brother Șerban and local painter A. D. Hagiu, he opened an exhibition at the city’s Prefecture Palace. Using the money he earned after selling a few paintings, he organized a school-trip in Italy that helped him discover with enthusiasm the masterpieces of the Renaissance and Baroque, an experience that also made him seriously doubt his calling as an artist. Despite this, in 1926 he took part in the exhibition „Oltenia’s Artistic Circle” with a series of still natures and landscapes.
During the next following years, Ion Țuculescu earnestly devoted himself to science. In 1928 he joined the courses of the Natural Sciences Faculty in Bucharest and a year later also enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine, graduating both schools simultaneously. He remained, in fact, a passionate microbiology researcher for the rest of his life.
During the ’30s he returns to painting, inspired by the Mediterranean vedutas he discovered on his journeys through Turkey, Palestine, Egypt and especially Greece where, according to his saying, „I painted almost only sunny landscapes. I loved color. My colors harmonies from back then were dominated by the gentle and soft blue of the Greek sky.”
Starting with 1938 and his first personal show, after being encouraged by the praises of great figures such as Marius Bunescu, Petru Comarnescu, Nicolae Iorga and George Oprescu, Ion Țuculescu overcame his „self-taught” complex and earnestly devoted himself to painting, thus becoming one of the innovators of his generation. Throughout the next decade, Țuculescu exhibited works in ten solo-shows – the last being in 1947 – and took part in numerous thematic and group exhibitions in the country and abroad.
This decade comprises a few stages of his creation: from post-impressionist landscape painting – in the style of the „Balcic school” still focused on the objectivity of the „motif” and which revealed „a kind, enthusiastic and optimistic spirit” – to an expressionist chromatic vision, still inhibited but measured in the thickness of matter and the unrest of the brushstrokes; from the strange colors of some of his Corfu paintings or the sombre, highly tensed colors of his „black period”, to the violence and harshness of „the African masks”; from the „agressive”, „audacious” lyrism of his strong, radical shades in some portraits, still natures and „fields of canola”, that prove extreme emotional states, an unprecedented expressionistic intensity, to the „primitive, wild, earthly” eloquence of his „peasant houses interiors”.
During these fruitful years, critics have noticed his uncommon originality more than once, highlighting the „superhuman unleash”, „purely instinctive explosiveness”, „wild energy”, or „tragic visionary” of his art. According to some, the artist had „a special vocation of the living”: he was capable of „living nature’s life as a primitive” by creating a universe that is „violent, earthly, Dionysiac, with promethean accents and pagan dance cries, with subconscience outbreaks and dreamlike obsessions.”
As effervescent the ten years preceding 1947 were in terms of exhibitions, as „still” the next ten will be in terms of his art visibility. Once socialist realism is established, Ion Țuculescu’s paintings are repudiated and, despite some theme concessions which he accepted due to circumstances, he never exhibited his works officially again until 1957. During this time he reached a superior osmosis of reality and folk motifs, perfecting his searches in what art critics have named „the folkloric period” of his art. „The folklore I created back then – a few tens of landscape paintings in which I replaced trees, clouds and flowers with tree bark motifs. The earth was painted with tree bark motifs, the sky was painted similarly and this was a special way of interpreting folklore” the painted said later on.
The last few years, when he was finally allowed to exhibit – his works were accepted in group exhibitions in 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1962 – speak more about his studio experiments, the „supreme” mutations appeared in forms of what was retrospectively called his „totemic phase” or „abstract phase”. Art historian Magda Cârneci synthetized this as follows: “His paintings emerge now like pure <<electric>> discharges (<<nuclear>> as an artist called them), bursts of gesture and color, crossings of forces and pulsations with no recognizable object, that come together in potential figures whose shapes, colors and rhythms generate possible analogies, that seem to transcend from their virtual regime to vaster and undetermined meanings.”
In 1962 Ion Țuculescu passes away and is burried at Cernica, in the Galaction family vault. In 1965 a retrospective dedicated to his entire artistic career was opened at the Dalles hall in Bucharest. Innitiated by artists Ion Vlasiu and Pavel Codiță, the exhibition benefited of the participation of art historian Radu Bogdan and writer Geo Bogza. Itinerated at art museums in Iași, Craiova, Timișoara, Sibiu, Târgu-Mureș, Cluj and Constanța, this great posthumous exhibition forever marked the oeuvre of the great post-war artist in the memory of the public. After being displayed abroad at some important exhibitions of Romanian art in the ‘70s and ‘80s – among which the famous Venice Biennial in 1966 – his work became known internationally as well.