PETRU rUSSU.  Romania
  

 

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Decameron, 1985 etching (aqua Tinta | Aqua Forte) hand colored 21x29 cm. | 8½x11½ in. image size.   1.1st day, 4th Tale,  US$ 1,990.00.   2.1st day, 5th Tale, US$ 1,990.00.   3.2nd day, 3rd Tale US$ 1,990.00.   4.2nd day, 4th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   5.3rd day, 1st Tale US$ 1,990.00.   6.3rd day, 3rd Tale US$ 1,990.00.   7.3rd day, 4th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   8.3rd day, 5th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   9. 3rd day, 6th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   10.4th day, 10th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   11.5th day, 1st Tale US$ 1,990.00.   12.5th day, 4th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   13.5th day, 6th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   14.5th day, 10th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   15.6th day, 7th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   16.1st day, 10th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   17.6th day, 8th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   18.2th day, 2nd Tale US$ 1,990.00.   19.7th day, 8th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   20.8th day, 1st Tale US$ 1,990.00.   21.9th day, 2nd Tale US$ 1,990.00.   22.8th day, 3rd Tale US$ 1,990.00.   23.8th day, 4th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   24.8th day, 10th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   25.9th day, 1st Tale US$ 1,990.00.   26.9th day, 3rd Tale US$ 1,990.00.   27.9th day, 7th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   28.9th day, 10th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   29.10th day, 5th Tale US$ 1,990.00.   30.4th day, 6th Tale US$ 1,990.00.
(click on thumbnail to enlarge)

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The Decameron and painting
Sandro Botticelli,
Italian Quattrocento painter, painted several pictures illustrating stories of the Decameron. History Nastgio degli Onesti is the most praised, illustrates the fifth story of the Fourth Day (Hell of cruel lovers) in which a young man in love with a lady but unrequited, viewed as a gentleman and two mastiffs chasing a young gentleman gives his heart to feed the dogs. Tables decorated a chest wedding are made with mixed media on board and are of 1483, of the Florentine school. They are exposed in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. Other artists like Pisanello, Pesellino, Signorelli, Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi and Carpaccio also reinterpreted the Decameron. It stands out: the famous painting by John William Waterhouse, A Tale from Decameron. In ancient castles Italian frescoes illustrating the Decamerón decorating the rooms, in the exterior walls of a house of Stein am Rhein in Canton Sciaffusa and as decoration of Renaissance furniture. They have also made numerous illustrated editions of the Decameron, as the magnificent Celedonio Perellón more than one hundred etchings and illustrations of the artist. Some contemporary artists like Dali, Manzù, Guttuso, Chagall, Masuo Ikeda or Petru Russu were inspired by the text to create some of his compositions.

 

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Boccaccio’s Decameron on 100 Etching Interpretations by Petru Russu
In Petru Rusu's engravings for Boccaccio’s Decameron, the twisted frenzy of the bodies arouses an impression of true release. It is a release that breaks limits, avoiding the difference between styles, social situations and historical-geographical sites. They are not “illustrations” confined to a particular moment of the European history: although within the images there are some allusions to the fashion of that age, a sort of set-designing care, everything wrapped around a dance of vitality that doesn’t want to accept stylistic appearances. In the end, the sensation we have is a dépaysement deriving from this attitude, not from a method. A dépaysement that is not a metaphorical book learning distance, but an aspiration for the totality that excludes pedantic philological discriminations. While he was setting up his exhibition, an Italian pointed out some similarities with Chinese art. Someone else found analogies with the vivid chromatic of the popular Mexican engravings. Nevertheless, the exoticism of Petru Rusu’s images comes from a sort of poetic latitude, from a distance that he assumes in front of the narration of the facts. It is -at the most-the same exoticism used by Boccaccio when he imagined Saladin traveling around the Christian world, around Lombardy, to test the hospitality and the magnanimity of the same people he wanted to fight. There is an entire cycle of medieval legends about Saladin. Recently, I have met an eminent art scholar, descendant of a distinguished Crusader knight that had the fortune to benefit from that magnanimity. He was captured by Saladin, who then set him free, on the condition that he paid the ransom once he had returned to his house. But when the knight returned home, he didn’t find any money to pay the ransom. So, he decided to go back to prison. Saladin was impressed by his gesture, and set him free once again only on the condition that he change his name to Saladin d’Anglure. This name still exists after 800 years. I Make this example, because the exoticism of Petru Rusu tells of a magnificent East. An East of admiration and wonder, that has nothing to do with the tendency to indulge in detailed descriptions. It is this exoticism I am writing about. An exoticism that Rusu seems to bend into science fiction, populated by characters that look like ancient Egyptians, or Chinese princes dressed with hundreds of jade stones, as the ones discovered by the archeologists. Boccaccio will not be angry for such interpretation. He himself-while he was writing about Dante-used to wonder if his illustrious master might have been angry up above. Boccaccio will not be angry, because he himself look a lot of freedom regarding the epic matter he utilized. It was the freedom of a superior distance. Boccaccio was the first author capable of dominating the most different subjects-both from a social-historical and popular-dialectal point of view-with that distance that belongs to the artistic discipline. I think that this example is very important not only for those who create illustrations for books, but also for those artists who confront themselves with this gigantic masterpieces’ provocation. Boccaccio dominates the subject. He reconsiders the epic plot and at the same time, he framed it inside the rigorous structure of the Decameron, inside sentences where the liveliness of the quip and of the dialectal allusion obeys the discipline of a rhythm. A rhythm, distinguished by participles with a Latin flavor and by everything that recalls the rules, the refined modalities of creating a phrase with nobility, as it is in the tradition of the ancient rhetoric. This mixture of promiscuous vividness that forms Boccaccio’s subject an-at the same time-of high artistic discipline, it seems to me a theme that deserves consideration from anyone who wants to approach this text. It is important to feel pushed to a certain attitude, as Rusu did exhaustively dealing with the Decameron universe. Petru Rusu comes from Transylvania. His art seems influenced by some expressionist master: Kokoschka in his best period (1914), with his unique chromaticity and his particular way of considering the space of the page; Kandinsky, with the twisty strength of this image. Consequently, we can easily say that the artistic attitude of Petru Rusu is like a sort of a dialogue around the origins of the middle European Expressionism. Nevertheless, here the artist privileges the game among historical-stylistic connotation which overcome that main quality: suddenly he wants to reach a formal mechanism verifiable in the entire cycle dedicated to Calendrino, with all those lamentable cases that Boccaccio assigns him. It is a mechanism comparable to some tendency of the modern art: the mechanic anatomy of Picabia’s drawings, Duchamp, the facetious combination of Tinguely and Luginbuhl, where the sense of humor doesn’t exclude an accent of restlessness. In Rusu’s work, these mechanisms are easily comparable to an inner organ. The funnels, the crutches and all the mechanisms of that artistic tradition become in some of his engravings similar to the movement of the watches of Callot’s engraving, a world in which this dimension has already gone through the vulnerability of human nature. In our technological  time, this dimension-both mechanical and organic-perfectly obeys a contemporary attitude. It is not casual in fact, that Petru Rusu has already been invited to participate at exhibitions regarding themes about the contemporary experimentalism: “Space-Mirror”, “Alternative”; but he has also demonstrated his interest for that subject in his solo-shows. Undoubtedly, he likes this kind of investigation. Here, in his work, about Boccaccio’s Decameron, he has transferred all his fundamental problems. In fact, when an illustrator approaches a masterpiece of the past, it is legitimate that he carries with himself all his cultural background, his problems, his sensibility. Petru Rusu is a courageous artist. During the years his work has been correlated by austere and sober solutions, as by more provocative, colorful liveliness. All these prolific variations are characterized by two main things: the stimulating resumption of a great cultural model, the importance of a certain persistency. The fact that Boccaccio was one of the first readers of Homer’s original texts and an artist capable to conjugate the “holly studies” with an apparent frivolousness, can conduces-as illustrators-to assume as a gift this prolific persistency.*

Dan Haulica, art critic, Honorary Presidents (former president) of the International Association of Art Critics - AICA (1985)