Petru’s testimony – much like his art – is a reminder of the intervening grace of God. Born after Romania was subsumed by Communist Russia, Petru opposed the dictatorial regime of the Soviet Empire and became a victim of terror, torture, and imprisonment. At the age of 19, he was convicted of leading a counter-revolutionary movement against the state security – a crime that carried a twelve-year sentence. Miraculously, Petru escaped from prison and was invited to join the Faculty of Fine Arts at Bucharest University. This opportunity launched him into a vocation of painting Christian art in the Byzantine style throughout Orthodox Romanian churches. Petru would later return to post-Communist Romania in 2001 to paint over 60,000 square feet of Christian frescoes.
In 1986, Petru fled to Austria as a refugee. He immigrated to Canada and opened art exhibits in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal. In 1994, he was commissioned by Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, to create a series of paintings in its chapel, along with “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) in its dome. Some of these witnesses include Perpetua and Felicity, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, William Carey, Lottie Moon, and Charles Spurgeon.
In a recent conversation, Petru reminded me that Christian art – though it has often been abused in the past – can also be a conduit for evangelism. In the medieval era, when the language of the Church failed to match the language of the people, it was not through words but windows – the “poor man’s Bible” – that the salvation story was often transmitted. In this way, Petru believes that painters can become preachers whose easels can exegete the deep truths of Scripture.
Griffith Art Gallery is Thrilled to Represent Petru in The United States of America.