Ion Irimescu (February 27, 1903, Fălticeni – October 29, 2005, Fălticeni) was one of Romania's greatest sculptors and sketchers, often referred to as the "patriarch of Romanian art and sculpture".
His mother descended from an old French family with claims to aristocracy. As a child, while he was out at play, he found a grenade from World War I which exploded in his hand and nearly killed him. Though he was eventually healed, this accident nearly destroyed his dream to become a sculptor. From 1924 to 1928 he studied at the School of Fine Arts in Bucharest, under Dimitrie Paciurea and Oscar Han. In 1928 he made his debut at the Official Salon of Painting and Sculpture in Bucharest, becoming a regular participant there. In 1929 he received a scholarship to the Romanian School at Fontenay aux Roses in France and exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français in Paris; in the following year he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière under Joseph Bernard. Until 1933 he participated at the Salon d'Automne and Salon du Printemps in Paris, receiving in 1932 the Honorary Mention of the Société des Artistes Français for his self-portrait.
Irimescu returned to Romania in 1933, and from 1937 he took part regularly at the exhibitions of Tinerimea Artistică (The Artistic Youth), a society founded in 1901 that included the most prominent Romanian artists; in 1938 he became an associate member of the society. Between 1940 and 1950 he was professor of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Iaşi, and from 1950 he was a professor at the Ion Andreescu Institute of Fine and Decorative Art in Cluj-Napoca.
His 1956 participation to the Biannual Exhibition in Venice (with 15 works in the Romanian pavilion) was followed by another in 1961 to a contemporary sculpture exhibition at the Musée Rodin in Paris. In 1964 he was named professor of sculpture at the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Plastic Arts in Bucharest, where he was a close friend of painter Corneliu Baba. He eventually became the head of the sculpture department at the Institute.
Between 1978 and 1989 he was the president of the Romanian Union of Plastic Artists. He received the title of 'Doctor honoris causa' from the Universities of Iaşi and Cluj and was also named 'Master Emeritus of the People' (1964). His works have been exhibited around the world (Paris, Moscow, Belgrade, Budapest, Istanbul, Warsaw, Rome, Prague, Oslo, Tokyo, etc). Ion Irimescu was member of the Romanian Academy. In 2001 he was awarded the Prize of Excellence for Romanian Culture. In 2003, upon becoming a centenarian, he was distinguished with a remarkable celebration by the Romanian Academy and Romanian Ministry of Culture. General School No. 2 in his native city (where Mihail Sadoveanu had studied) was renamed in his honor. The Center for Study and Creation in Fălticeni also bears his name.
Irimescu became well known not only for his large- and small-scale portrait busts, but also for the neutral stance that he took as an 'official' artist during the years of communist domination. Although he was able to adapt to the forcefully imposed requirements of Socialist Realism, he responded to its abolition by a new creative phase, in which he developed a vegetal morphology inspired by his own calligraphic drawings and the malleability of ceramics. Although Irimescu produced many sculptures in stone, conceived for and erected in public spaces, he concentrated more on modeling and on small-scale sculptures.
In 1975 a museum was established in Fălticeni with a substantial donation from the artist. The museum building is a historic monument, dating from the middle of the 19th century and had various destinations until 1974, when it was given to the art museum. In 1974 the sculptor Ion Irimescu took the initiative to establish the museum, at first as a department of the Town Museum and made some donations. Later the value of the collection grew, currently being the richest author collection, and in 1991 a museum emerged. It comprises the most representative works by the sculptor Ion Irimescu: 313 sculptures and 1000 drawings: portraits, compositions, monument project carried out in the rondebosse or altorelief technique, in gypsum, wood, terracotta, marble, bronze works of graphics especially donated to the museum by the author. The museum also includes the artist's personal library (1500 volumes).
Images from www.plural-magazine.com, www.falticeni.ro, ro.wikipedia.org.
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