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Originally published Friday, September 28, 2012 at 4:20 AM

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Exhibit shows Romanian artists resisted regime

One painting shows a peasant crucified above a hole in the shape of Romania. Another of a man holding a book is painted in the style of Pablo Picasso.

Associated Press

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BUCHAREST, Romania —

One painting shows a peasant crucified above a hole in the shape of Romania. Another of a man holding a book is painted in the style of Pablo Picasso.

Neither work would have been displayed in public during the communist era, when censorship was rife and art was used as a propaganda tool to glorify late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. A new exhibit of some 650 paintings that opened this week at the National Library seeks to show how some artists subverted the regime, creating works that criticized communism or painting in styles like cubism that were out of favor.

"It's late justice," said Ruxandra Garofeanu, the curator of the exhibition, who worked for two years to assemble the works from 27 museums and 30 collections in Romania and abroad. "It shows there was resistance to the regime, not a violent resistance it's true, but not everything was social realism."

The exhibit, which will run until Dec. 2, shows some works being seen publicly in Romania for the first time. Previous exhibits of communist-era art focused on how artists paid sycophantic tribute to Ceausescu, showing him as a demigod or a revolutionary hero. This selection reveals how some painters refused to follow the slavish aesthetic of the time.

Escapism is a recurring theme. A man floats above the earth in one painting, while another dressed in white rides a horse on a beach, far from an industrial city seen in the background.

A key work depicts a beheaded Stalin relieving himself in the top hat of Winston Churchill. The enormous canvas in hues of gray and blue was painted by Ioan Dreptu over 22 years and first went on display in the Van-der-Heyt Museum in Wupperthal, Germany, in 1986, three years before the collapse of communism.

"What should be seen here is that during communism ... painters and artists resisted the socialist pressure and painted or created works according to their tastes and how their souls dictated to them," said Vasile Dobre, who visited the exhibit.

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