LENA CONSTANTE BIOGRAPHY, TAPESTRIES, ICONS,
 
ILLUSTRATIONS, DRAWINGS FROM PRISON
Dragoș Tudor
Institutul Cultural Român,
București, 2005


I gathered in this album all the images I managed to find which are in any way connected to Lena Constante's life and activity. The great majority of them belong to the artist's private archive. Some of them have been cut by the artist herself and I have made no attempt to undo it by the specific means of digital image processing. Her gesture suffers two explanations: one of a practical nature—larger images did not fit the 10/15 cm format of the photo albums in which they were stored; the other has to do with Lena Constante's permanent desire to reshape, improve, recombine fragments according to some intimate, personal rules which are, in fact, the source of the originality and profoundness of her creation. From the talks we had I became aware of a permanent process of removal/change of the tapestries and collages, especially at the level of the photographs, given that the artist was no longer able to work with textile materials. Very few of the works have a name, but were nonetheless included, sometimes, in ampler cycles.

By scanning and processing the images, some of which were rather old and in a delicate condition, we have done everything in our power not to damage either the original colours or those details that bear witness to the age or originality of the image. We only corrected the obvious and accidental technical errors in the images. We opted for the inclusion of the images cut by the artist in their original condition, without "sticking". Most often the cutting affects the contour of the works.

Most of the texts in this album are statements I obtained from the artist over the period March-July 2005, during the numerous meetings we had in preparation of the exhibition at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Tel-Aviv, organized by Michaela Ionescu, and of this album. We used press materials as material documentation (Adevărul Literar și Artistic, Contemporanul, Dilema, Flăcara, etc); from the artist's two books (Silent Escape and Impossible Escape) as well as information provided by the artist's younger sister, Mrs. Viorica Moisil.

The principal aim of this album is to put together, for the first time, information relevant at once to Lena Constante's life, plastic works and gift for writing.

Dragoș TUDOR





Lena Constante was born in Bucharest in 1909. The family's peregrinations during the First World War bring her to Jassy, Odessa, London and Paris. She returns to Romania after the war and studies painting in Bucharest. During college years becomes a member of the monographic teams led by Prof. Dimitrie Gusti. She is extremely interested in Romanian folk art from the historical regions. She meets ethnomusico ogist Harry Brauner, who will become her husband.

In 1954 she founds the "Tăndăncăn" Theatre together with Elena Pătrășcanu, Lucrețiu Pătrăscanu's wife. She thus becomes a defendant in the political trial against Pătrășcanu and is sentenced to 12 years' prison, just like Harry Brauner. She is released in 1962. In 1968, when the Pătrășcanu trial is reopened, both she and her husband are found not guilty. There lingers, however, for a long time, the ban on exhibiting and selling her paintings. It is for this reason that she turns to tapestries, making original collages from authentic folk materials.

Attempts are made to start a new trial and charge her with destruction of Romanian folklore, but the conflict is mitigated and in 1974 Lena Constante has her first persona exhibition after the release from prison. She also makes illustrations and writes texts for children's books. Two of these are accompanied by musical records signed Harry Brauner.

Lena Constante pubishes two books of memoirs from prison. The first one, Silent Escape, is written in French and published in 1990 by La Découverte Publishing House. It receives the ADELF Award, as well as the literature Lucian Blaga Award of the Romanian Academy. The book is translated into English by Philip Franklin and comes out in 1995 at the University of California Press. The second volume, Impossible Escape, comes out in 1993 at the Romanian Cultural Foundation Publishing.

Dragoș TUDOR