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Sterian, Margareta

(1897–1992), painter, set designer, woman of letters, and translator. Born in Buzău, Romania, to a middle-class family, Margareta Sterian attended the Ranson Academy and the École du Louvre in Paris between 1926 and 1929. On her return to Romania in 1929, she studied sociology at the University of Bucharest and participated in ethnographic research conducted by Dimitrie Gusti in the village of Drăguş. As a result of this experience, she produced a series of portraits, titled Copii din Drăguş (The Children of Drăguş), which was exhibited with other works at her first personal exhibition, organized in 1929 at the Mozart Hall in Bucharest.

In 1932, Sterian participated in the first annual painting exhibition of the Arta Nouă (New Art) group, as did Henri Daniel, Marcel Iancu, Max Hermann Maxy, and Milița Pătraşcu. Sterian remained connected to avant-garde artists’ circles, displaying her work at events organized by this group. She also was a member of the Criterion group, founded in 1933 by avant-garde artists of the Contimporanul group but also including members of the younger generation. Between 1933 and 1936, Sterian collaborated with Marcel Iancu on ceramic items and frescoes for several houses in Bucharest that Iancu had designed. Her second personal exhibition was organized in 1933 at the Hasefer studio.

Along with Max Herman Maxy, Marcel Iancu, Mac Constantinescu, Milița Pătraşcu, and Nina Arbore, Sterian participated in the Exhibition of Romanian Modern Art, organized in Rome in 1934 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. In 1935 she displayed her work at the third exhibition of the Contimporanul group, along with Giorgio de Chirico, Leon Zack, and others. Sterian also worked as a set designer, creating costumes and scenes for the Simfonia dansului (Dance Symphony) and Preludiu spaniol (Spanish Prelude) ballets, which were staged at the National Opera House.

With Romania’s implementation of anti-Jewish legislation between 1940 and 1944, Sterian exhibited her work either unsigned, or with her initials only; the last event in which she participated under her true name was the Official Autumn Salon of 1940. After World War II, she took part in most of the annual exhibitions and salons of Romanian painting and graphics, as well as in shows of Romanian art organized in Budapest, Geneva, Paris, Warsaw, Munich, and Istanbul.

Although Sterian worked with remarkable stylistic continuity, especially in terms of the chromatic range and flat plastic manner, she developed new forms of expression and innovative perspectives in her evolution from a realistic, even naive, vision to fluid, symbolic compositions. Drawn to the picturesque urban scenery of market scenes and crowds, she remained sensitive to native customs and traditions and depicted them nostalgically in such paintings as Nuntă evrească (Jewish Wedding; ca. 1937–1938). Her iconographic repertoire, with its inclination for the fantastic as influenced by Chagall and Goya, belongs to European expressionism.

Sterian published her first volume of poetry in 1945; it was followed by short prose collections such as Evocări de călătorie (Travel Memories; 1971) and the novel Castelul de apă (Water Castle; 1972). Her poems were collected in Soare difuz (Diffuse Sun; 1979). She also translated works by Eugene O’Neill, Walt Whitman, and William Faulkner, as well as anthologies of Polish, American, and Irish poetry.

Suggested Reading

Virgil Mocanu, Margareta Sterian (Bucharest, 1990); Amelia Pavel, Pictori evrei din România (Bucharest, 1996); Uniunea Arhitecților din România, Bucureşti anii 1920–1940: Între avangardă şi modernism (Bucharest, 1994).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea