Biography of Silvana Weiller Romanin Jacur

Silvana Weiller Romanin Jacur was born in Venice on 29 May 1922 to Augusto Weiller (1887-1974) and Maria Coen (1897-1999). A few years after Silvana’s birth the Weiller family moved to Milan where, in 1925, her younger brother Guido was born (1925-2008).

Educated privately in primary and middle school she later attended the Liceo Classico “Parini” until the autumn of 1938 when, as a consequence of the enactment of racial laws, she was forced to complete her studies at the Jewish School of Via Eupili. Following the armistice of the 8 September 1943, the family abandoned Milan to seek temporary refuge in Binasco and then in Val d’Ossola. The Weiller family, with the help of partisans led by Captain Filippo Beltrami, reached a Swiss transit camp where they, fortunately, only spent a short time. Silvana’s father, Augusto, obtained a position as a law professor to escaped students in Lausanne, and his wife and children were allowed to follow him on a friend’s guarantee.

After arriving in the capital of the Canton Vaud, Silvana signed up for a Course on Nudes, achieving a diploma at “L’Ecole Cantonatal D’art” and later marrying Leo Romanin Jacur in the synagogue in the Georgette quarter. Once the war ended in 1945, the Weiller family returned to Italy, Silvana moved to Padova where the Romanin Jacur family held an important economic and political role.

Giorgio was born in 1946 and, in a few short years, so were Davide (1949) and Lia (1950). Silvana dedicated her time to the education and the entertainment of her children, organising themed games and parties, and creating cartoons and colorful rolls depicting stories from the Bible, reaffirming and recovering the passion for drawing which had engrossed her since her studies in Lausanne. Her desire to paint had, after all, accompanied her since her infancy in Venice, when her aunty Lia (1899-1996) used to take her to visit the painter Alis Levi (1884-1982) in her house at the Courts of the Duke of Sforza. This had become a meeting place for many musicians, painters and literary figures of the time, including Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinskij, Guido Cadorin, Filippo de Pisis, Eleonora Duse and Gabriele D’Annunzio. Weiller spent whole seasons there, and though very young, she still remembers those moments as precious occasions transmitting “an unusual mixture of mental freedom and innocence”. So much so, that she has always considered the English painter as “the only person” to whom she owes gratitude for her teachings, as she taught her to “look”, and that looking is necessary to be able “to see”.

Silvana was encouraged to paint by a strong family tradition, her great-great-grandfather was in fact Giuseppe Beniamino Coen (1795-1856) an accomplished Ferrarese landscape painter. From her early years in Padova she could dedicate her time to painting while caring for her family and the children’s education: “I didn’t have much spare time – Weiller recalls – but I always managed to find some and learnt how to stimulate thought through the perception of different tensions”. The first event which launched her onto the Paduan artistic platform dates back to 1948, the “Mostra del Quarantotto” on 21 June at the Caffè Pedrocchi. This was the first time Weiller exhibited a series of sketches and also took part in the organising committee, headed at the time by the poet Diego Valeri, with whom she would later establish a strong friendship. Three years later, in 1951, she was present at the reopening of the Biennale D’Arte Triveneta (BAT) and, from here-on-in, Weiller’s participation in local exhibitions continued unabated on a path that saw her evolve throughout the decade. From a synthetic figurative, nonetheless loaded with chromatic and expressive charge, she was drawn on a search of the substance of matter, in a game of balance and tension which recalled the artist’s emotional sphere.

Following her solo exhibition at Sandra Leoni’s gallery La Chiocciola on the 6 April 1957, and later in 1967-1970-1973-1979 and 1983, Weiller also exhibited at the Il Sigillo gallery in 1961, while it was part of the Università Popolare. Ten years later she was part of the show “Images ’70” by Gaetano Mastrogiacomo and exhibited at the La Cupola gallery, and in 2003 a personal show was organised in Galleria Fioretto. On the 15 January 2011 the Comune di Padova dedicated the anthology “Dipinti e Parole” at the Sala della Gran Guardia to Weiller’s extensive work.

Starting from the early sixties the artist continued her pictorial work but also began her extensive critical work, she was engaged in collaborations with specialist publications, such as “Arte Triveneta” and “Eco d’Arte Moderna”, and with the main contemporary art galleries of the city. For nearly two decades, Weiller also looked after the “Cronache D’Arte” section in the Gazzettino di Padova, publishing a summary and review of the city’s various local venues, shows and artists.

Throughout those decades numerous were her contributions to the literary sphere, she regularly wrote for “Il Sestante Letterario” magazine, reviewing books by young Italian and foreign authors. Her strong poetic and translation activity dates back to the eighties, when Weiller also established a friendship with Angelo Bellettato (1941-2004) a poet and editor from Rovigo. Bellettato was the founder of “Edizioni dei Dioscuri”, for which Weiller published translations of foreign poets and a rich collection of personal poems.

A member of FIDAPA e Soroptimist, international organisations promoting and encouraging the female role in the work and family sphere, Silvana Weiller participated in numerous debates and conferences, delving into the studies of the female image in the biblical context. For the cultural association ISRAEL she held conferences focusing on the image of Moses, the history of Judaism and the meaning of the Genesis. In 1994 she was awarded the Seal of the city of Padova for her tireless commitment to the arts, and in 2006 she was named honorary member of the cultural organization Moderata Fonte.

Silvana Weiller lives in Padova where she continues her work as a painter and writer.

Art on the edge of dreams.

A prominent figure in the artistic and cultural platform of the fifties and sixties, Silvana Weiller moved to Padua immediately after the war and entered the Paduan scene with competence and elegance. An important artist and intellectual, she was able, throughout the years, to become increasingly appreciated for her lively and versatile sensibility and intelligence. A cultured and refined woman, she still loves recalling the early years of her career: “I was occupied in being a mother and a wife. And then I painted”. However, her reserved and shy attitude should not be misleading. Few women were present in the Paduan artistic scene and Silvana Weiller was probably the only woman of her time who, with her discreet yet constant and careful participation, embodied all the characteristics of a well-rounded intellectual. Weiller’s brilliant and eclectic mind revealed a conscientious interpreter who could translate her time and show the authenticity and innovation of the era.

In two independent paths of research and experimentation, she developed her own personal artistic and literary styles and kept up-to-date with other artist’s work by writing extensively for local galleries and publications.

Weiller’s cultural interests and her artistic development were influenced by her family of origin, their culture and strong traditions. As a child she spent time with the painter Alis Levi, wife of Giorgio Levi: a period of great importance for her artistic growth. “She was the only one who gave me some advice in the arts. Thanks to her I learned to see, analyze and reproduce. She taught me to pick up objects and to really “look” at them. A teaching which has helped me greatly and I have always kept in mind”.

While a young girl in Milan, Weiller used to walk in the parks and at the zoo with her charcoal pencils and sketch book, intent on portraying the reality around her. She learnt the importance of exploring the world with attentive and curious eyes. Her sketches from the early forties reveal simple outlines drawn with a confident pencil stroke, which define and construct while also becoming expressive. The stroke, essential and dynamic, captures our attention with its rapid and fretful movement. It transmits all the enchantment and stupor of those who can look, with enjoyed and interested eyes, and sometimes subtle irony, at everything that surrounds them. Her teachers were her home, her road, her city.

“I lived... I lived in the whole city – the artist later wrote in one of her stories – How can one stare at a single isolated point when everything belongs, not to the heart or the soul but to the body, and it breathes and it throbs in the turbid blood of a city?”

Weiller’s inquisitive attention and clarity and, the brevity and impact of her stroke, are fundamental elements of her work as a painter and critic. Having settled in Padua, she began dedicating her time with enthusiasm and continuity to her artistic projects, her development saw her mature from initial figurative attempts into an increasingly dematerialized style: the drawing becomes a pulsating vibrant energy of light and colour. A deep-rooted internationalism and a desire to keep up-to-date with everything that surrounds her has always defined Weiller: an insatiable desire to learn, to educate, to look around and beyond, translating and re-elaborating everything into a vocabulary of surprising originality.

The curiosity which characterized her youth will never be appeased, nor will it ever wane. On the contrary, it is in fact a desire to learn which supports Weiller in her artistic endeavours and in all other numerous activities she is physically and emotionally involved in.

Her many commitments and duties do not limit but rather stimulate her conscientious study of the past and present, and subsequently, her artistic and critical work. Her paintings began as unravellings of venetian and baroque styles and later blossomed into dense brushstrokes of soft light and mixtures of smooth and dreamy tones. However, under this magical fable of colour hides an age-old anxiety, a secret and unacknowledged nostalgia which transforms her work into frames of the unconscious, a web of desires and symbols, slivers of the inner-self, and reflections of the soul.

Through Weiller’s pain-staking work towards a deeper understanding and refinement of technical and psychological aspects, the essence of her message can later be found within geometrical forms. These shapes will further exalt the lyricism of the painting and the elegance of crystalline iridescences.

From the early !970s Silvana Weiller has chosen to focus on studies of black and white colours, and the square, in doing so she has “purified” her themes in a search for original colours found in subtle expressive nuances. Through her monochromatic use, white or black, she frees herself from what she considers limitations to her creativity: colours. Weiller slowly achieves a new expression of powerful and intrinsic light, with all its important psychological elements, while the brushstroke exalts a new sophisticated linearity. This search for synthesis is accomplished through an exhausting simplification, lacking in formal or chromatic constraints, yet conscious of their importance.

Her work reveals intense and emotional rhythms which distribute strength and subtle vibrations on the canvas recalling neither dulled nor forgotten feelings and sensations.

The dynamic, essential and tremulous gestuality of her early works transforms, with Weiller’s evolving use of art materials, into energy distributed with vigour onto the canvass. The paint at times moulded, congealed, removed or added, but always shaped and kept under her control, like primordial magma, is then guided with a firm hand to its primitive essence. This technique, recalling a sculptor’s skills, allows Weiller to search for an inner light she can awaken and reveal.

After her studies in the eighties, she delved into the analysis of transparency initially by using vibrant reds and blacks, and later with ranges of purple and carmine. This new game of colours is a conscious and experienced pictorial manoeuvre to probe new and undiscovered spaces.

In more recent years, her return to the calm brightness of total white highlights her desire for pure and linear expressiveness where the thickness of the paint, though still present, dissolves in a return to the dreamy watermarks of the past.