Nicu Enea was born on May 28th 1897 in the village of Valea Arinilor, Bacău county, the son of a peasant family. After finishing primary school he enrolled at the Normal School for teachers in Piatra Neamț.

From 1921 to 1928 he intermittently attended the School of Belle Arte in Bucharest. Here he studied drawing with C. Artachino, painting with G.D. Mirea and Camil Ressu and sculpture with Fr. Storck. At the same time, he studied at the Free Academy of Painting where his tutors were Jean Al. Steriadi, A. Verona and Gheorghe Petrașcu. In 1926 he married painter Elvira Paloșanu-Gârleanu, the niece of writer Emil Gârleanu. He started exhibiting his works in 1925 at a personal show in Bacău and with the support of the Cultural Atheneum Society. A prolific painter, gifted with an incredible strength to work, he continued to exhibit his personal works for the next two decades, mostly in Bucharest, where he also exhibited regularly at the Official Salons and the events of the Artistic Youth. The universe of his art, patroned by his command of mediums of expression and image balance, was summerized as follows: ”sentimentally discreet, Enea’s works bring together a particular recognizable world, a world of truth nurtured by kindness, an ethical world therefore, subordinated to an ideal of beauty. And this ideal carries within itself a canon of measure, of weight that is dosing its constructions, light and color, a canon of the joy to paint that feeds all these…”

Preocuppied mainly by defining the national theme genre, a certain area of his art developed on rythmic orderings of volumes, on solid structuring of the motif, on a reserved cool palette, testifying for a tendency toward monumental and mural paintings. These qualities, it seems, helped him to be noticed by the Romanian Royal House – Queen Mary had bought one of his works back in 1931 – who named him among the group of artists hired to beautify the new Royal Palace. Therefore, between 1935 and 1936, Nicu Enea painted six large murals inside the Royal Palace depicting ”the arts” (Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Dance, Music and Poetry) and five other murals of smaller sizes. Furthermore, in 1933 Queen Mărioara of Yugoslavia invited him together with his wife to come to this neighbouring country and study byzantine painting – a trip ended with two exhibitions in Belgrad and Zagreb, and also with research trips to Rome and Venice. In 1937, together with Ion Diaconescu, he founded the Municipal Pinacotheque of Bacău.

Between 1938 and 1939 he painted the ceiling of the Soviet Union embassy in Bucharest and also dedicated himself more attentively to neo-byzantine painting. His contributions to the painting of the St. Voyavodes church in Bacău (1939) and of the Chișinău Cathedral (1942 – 1943) deserve to be noticed. From 1944 to 1946, Enea retired in a sort of self-imposed exile at Brăești – Buzău, during which time he worked as a clerk at the town hall, but did not stop painting until 1947, when he exhibited in the Official Salon, Artistic Youth and at a personal show in Bucharest.

This is the time when his art reached the summum of artistic expressiveness: “the objects in the artist’s ambiance have a physicality defined by the clear contour of shapes, by non-exuberant colors. The painter is pensive and his graphic compositions reflect this silent contemplation of the most common aspects of the visible world (…) a secret geometry represents the fitting of these sober architectures, in which the rhythm of the vertical unite in very articulate bundles.”

Starting with 1948 he was marginalised by the new regimme. The Royal Family’s liking for him in the past might have been one of the reasons. He takes up work as a dyer in the „Proletarul” factory in Bacău and, forced by circumstances, struggles to convince authorities of his „healthy” origins and well-intended art: he started writing political slogans, painted the portraits of marxist-leninist figures and creates paintings on proletcult themes. Although hesitantly, in 1954 his work „Rural wedding” is admitted into the State Annual exhibition. In 1960, the state offers two of his paintings, „National dance” and „Still nature”, to the Indonesian President Sukarno – proving that his art was once again being valued. Howevere, he doesn’t live to see his art fully rehabilitated as on the 16th of September the same year, Enea passes away.

The exhibition that fully re-enamoured art enthusiasts with his work was the 1965 retrospective which itinerated through the large cities of Romania, including Bucharest. On the 27th of December 1970 at Bacău, as a sign of appreciation for the city’s great representative, the Nicu Enea Memorial House was opened to the public, featuring a collection of a few hundreds of paintings and drawings.

Marian Constantin

Miraculous Healings – Nicu Enea (1897 – 1960) will have its opening on Friday, December 4th 2015, 12:00, at the Suțu Palace and will remain open until February 28th 2016.