Miroslav Šutej (1936-2005)
Ultra A, 1965
wall paint on wood
220×121.5×20 cm
MG-2592

Miroslav Šutej (1936-2005) was one of the most visionary Croatian painters, graphic and ambience artists of High Modernism and Postmodernism. His Ultra A painting-object from 1965 is an example of Optical Art, a modernist movement featuring optical and hypnotic traits that trick the human eye. Šutej built Ultra A’s black and white elegance by multiplying and bulging positives and negatives of his distinctive signature sign. The painting is a combination of science and art typical of the positivist and modernist New Tendencies international art movement (Zagreb, 1961-1973). Šutej graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1961 under Prof. Marijan Detoni and worked as an associate at painter Krsto Hegedušić’s master workshop from 1961 to 1963. In 1966, Šutej started creating more pronounced three-dimensional painting-objects. He made his artworks of complex yet pure conception movable and tactile, to suggest growth, expansion and immersion in the object. He also introduced colour which enhanced the dynamics of his visualisations. He transformed his works into playful objects, and also transferred the mobility of his painting-objects to the field of graphic arts and drawing. After the mid-1970s, Šutej turned to the motifs of folklore and eroticism, and in the 1980s he started creating painting-drawings, collages and mixed-media works of a distinct colourism. He also did ambience and video installations (e.g., Covered Eyes, 2004). Miroslav Šutej was a homo ludens who played by creating and who enthroned play as a fundamental element of his art. In line with Šutej’s credo – which was recorded by art historian Damir Grubić to be the following: Everything is play, play is everything! – the concept of the importance of play and the extent to which it defines the artistic dimension of an individual is mirrored in Šutej’s oeuvre as a whole.

Text Željko Marciuš, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Frano Šimunović (1908-1995)
Abandoning Darkness, 1977
oil on canvas, 110×164 cm
MG-3976

Frano Šimunović (1908-1995) is a classic of pre-WWII Modernism and Gestural Painting of High Modernism. He was the son of writer Dinko Šimunović (1873-1933). In the earlier stages of his career (i.e., 1932-1946), he was extremely socially and critically engaged (e.g., his paintings The Inn of Freedoms from 1936 and A Circus from 1941). He studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in Zagreb until 1934 under Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Jozo Kljaković. In the mid-1930s, he studied in Madrid, where he made copies of both Francisco Goya and Diego Velasquez’s work. Šimunović used to wander around the suburbs of Madrid, thanks to which he ended up deepening his social and expressive affinities in his drawings. He drew scenes from Madrid’s outskirts, cripples and beggars – those at the bottom of the social ladder – underscoring the cruel irony, drama and grotesqueness of life. Šimunović exhibited his works from Spain at his first solo exhibition in Zagreb in 1935. He also painted vedutas of the outskirts of Zagreb and landscapes of the region of Dalmatinska Zagora (Dalmatian Hinterland in translation) in intense colours under the influence of Vincent van Gogh. During WWII, he drew and painted not only refugees and concentration camps, but also circus scenes inspired by Francisco Goya. After WWII, he painted mythical and rugged landscapes of the region of Dalmatian Hinterland: stone fences, boundary walls, piles of stone, polarised between a dark and earthy palette of colours on the one hand, and flickers and glimmers of white on the other. He became permanently preoccupied with this motif. The terrestrial landscape of Šimunović’s Abandoning Darkness painting from 1977 becomes an otherworldly and cosmic, extra-terrestrial landscape. By lighting up the motif, he neared Gestural and Organic Abstraction. Šimunović also did illustration (e.g., for a collection of fairy tales by the Grimm brothers, and D. Šimunović’s short stories). In 1992, he donated a part of his and his wife and sculptor Ksenija Kantoci’s oeuvre to the National Museum of Modern Art. He became a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1963, and received the 1972 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture and Media.

Text Željko Marciuš,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Joseph Feid (1860-1870)
A Mountain Landscape / Heiligenblut, 1848
oil on canvas, 47.4×42 cm
MG-3064

Joseph Feid (1806-1870) was a typical Austrian landscape painter from the Biedermeier period. He often painted his studies out of doors (in plein air) already during his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. His motives were the surroundings of Vienna and alpine landscapes. He then used his plein-air studies to produce studio-made paintings of lacquered surfaces, in which there were no visible brushstroke traces, which was a much sought-after quality in paintings at the time. Besides landscape painting, he is known for his precise, almost botanical mastery of painting leaves. His landscapes feature carefully painted details of nature, in which human and animal figures serve as ornaments and a size scale. He was friends with the famous animalist painter Friedrich Gauermann (1807-1862), with whom he also collaborated professionally (i.e., the two worked together on a number of paintings).

Joseph Feid’s A Mountain Landscape / Heiligenblut painting from 1848 depicts one of the favourite motifs of Austrian landscape painting of the time – the surroundings of Heiligenblut featuring a chapel of the same name at the foot of an alpine massif and Grossglockner, Austria’s highest alpine peak. This motif was often reproduced in different ways (oleography, tapestry), thanks to which it became not only widely known, particularly within the federal states of Austria, but also a much sought-after painting motif for furnishing civic houses.

Text Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Menci Clement Crnčić
(1865-1930)
Calm Seas, 1906
oil on canvas
94.6×140.7 cm
MG-441

Painter and graphic artist Menci Clement Crnčić studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (1882-1884) and in Munich (1889-1892). After having worked briefly as a painting teacher at the School of Crafts in Zagreb, on the recommendation of painter, art historian, curator and politician Izidor Kršnjavi, in 1894 he was awarded a scholarship to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where he studied graphic arts under Prof. William Unger. He moved back to Zagreb in 1900, where in 1903 – together with painter Bela Čikoš Sesija – he opened a private art school, which first grew into the College of Arts and Crafts, and then into the Academy of Fine Arts, where he taught between 1907 and 1930. He became a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1919. Between 1920 and 1928, he also headed the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters (at today’s Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts) in Zagreb.

Menci Clement Crnčić was one of the pioneers of modern graphic arts in Croatia. Marinas were his favourite motif in painting, which he painted in daylight and which feature a convincing Realism in different weather conditions. Crnčić’s Calm Seas painting from 1906 captivates with its powerful depiction of two sailing boats on calm seas. The masterfully painted whiteness of the sails featuring blue shadowing emerges from the fluffy white clouds of azure, clear skies.

Text Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Kažimir Hraste, 1954
L, 1989
wood
MG-6390
Kažimir Hraste (1954) graduated in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1978 under Prof. Valerije Michieli, and completed his postgraduate studies in Ljubljana in 1984 under Prof. Drago Tršar. He specialised in Rome in 1990. He is a full professor of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, and a professor of drawing and design at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy of the University of Split.
Hraste has created a great sculpture oeuvre. His public monuments and sculptures are dominated by religious and historical themes and figures. He is the author of many concept design solutions for commemorative gold and silver coins minted by the Croatian National Bank. His portrait sculptures feature masterfully captured psychological characterisation. As far as his abstract compositions are concerned, he executes them mostly in wood, then in metal and acrylic glass sheets, by using the method of addition which heightens his sculptures’ expressive significance and creates associative ties.
Executed in a neo-cubist manner and fragile in structure, Kažimir Hraste’s freeform L sculpture from 1954 explores the constructive and structural potentials of wood from different angles. It is composed of several counterposed wooden segments which seem to defy gravity.
TextTatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922)
A Self-Portrait with a Flat Cap, 1914
oil on cardboard, 45.9×38.3 cm
MG-2381

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922) was one of the key figures of Modernism in art and culture in Croatia. He was educated in Paris and is known for his international career (France, England, the USA, Vienna, the Czech Republic). In terms of style, Bukovac’s painting ranges from Academicist Realism of the period of the so-called Colourful School of Zagreb to a peculiar Symbolism in the portraits and nudes he created during the last twenty years of his life when he taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.

Bukovac’s A Self-Portrait with a Flat Cap painting from 1914 is from the latter period and was painted in a darker palette of colours most of which are browns and yellows. He painted his self-portrait by using a distinctive version of Divisionism that featured in European Symbolism at the turn of the century, beginning with the Lombard School of Painting and painters such as Giovanni Segantini, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Angelo Morbelli and others in the late 19th century, from where its many distinctive variants spread throughout Europe in general and in Central Europe in particular. In such painting, the brushstrokes are short lines, which lends the canvas surface a specific vibrancy which creates a symbolist atmosphere. Bukovac was considered to be a key figure in spreading this technique of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Bukovac’s gaze from the shadow of his cap is confidently directed towards the observer, while his posture, flat cap and the lit cigarette in his mouth serve to accentuate the figure’s fashionably casual stance.

Text Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf (circa 1807-1869)
The Old Town on the Drava River, 1856
oil on canvas, 84.5×109.5 cm
MG-2617

Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf (circa 1807-1869) was the most successful teacher at Osijek’s City Drawing School and – along with painters Adolf Waldinger (1843-1904) and Ivan Zasche (1825-1863) – one of the leading landscape painters in Croatia at the time. At a time when portraits and sacral compositions were considered to be the only motifs there are, the fact in itself that he painted landscapes meant that he cultivated a free-thinking mind-set.
After having received humble painting instruction from his father and teacher at Osijek’s City Drawing School, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf (1770-1841), and after he had already painted independently out of doors (in plein air), in 1836 he moved to Vienna, one of Europe’s leading cultural and arts hotspots at the time. However, whilst in Vienna he did not enrol in the Academy of Fine Arts there, given that the academy’s syllabus centring on the concepts of Classicism treated landscape painting as an insufficiently important motif in painting reducing it to precise contour drawing. Instead, Hötzendorf Jr. decided to study painting at painter Johann Nepomuk Schödlberger’s (1779-1853) studio, where and when what helped him was the insights he gained from visits to collections that were open to the general public, such as the gallery of Count Liechtenstein. At first influenced by Vienna’s ‘native landscape’ and ‘landscape of effects’, he later developed into a painter of composed idyllic landscapes and romantic ruins.
Upon his return to Slavonia in 1838, he replaced his father at Osijek’s City Drawing School. He continued to draw and paint, but to a lesser extent. One of the six oils by Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf in the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art is his The Old Town on the Drava River painting from 1856, which depicts the ruins of the Korođvar castle in splendid isolation near Osijek. This is a typical romantic motif, with the help of which Hötzendorf Jr. expressed his inner world, contemplativeness and escapism using restrained and smudged colours. The range of colours that Hötzendorf used in his paintings followed Goethe’s symbolic-romantic interpretation of colours expressed in his 1810 work entitled Theory of Colours.
Text Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković© National Museum of Modern Art,Zagreb

Ferdinand Kulmer (1925-1998)
A Blue Painting, 1959-1960
oil on canvas, 195×130 cm

Ferdinand Kulmer (1925-1998) was a modernist and postmodernist painter who changed styles at Mercury’s speed of travel. He is a descendant of the noble Kulmer family – Styrian barons who moved to Croatia in the 18th century. From amongst his relatives, lawyer and politician Franjo Kulmer (19th century) was the most influential. Art historian and critic Tonko Maroević drew a comparison that pinpoints the very essence of Kulmer’s life – more specifically, Picasso first painted and then bought castles, while with Ferdinand Kulmer it was the other way around. He studied painting during WWII and in the post-war period: in Budapest from 1942 and in Zagreb until 1948 (under Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Omer Mujadžić), and worked as an associate at Krsto Hegedušić’s Master Workshop until 1957. During the course of his three-decade long career as an artist, the range of styles that he painted in is impressive, with the styles always up-to-date and fused into a hybrid of sorts – from (post)fauvist Figurative Art and Picasso, Abstract Art (from 1957), Art Informel, Tachisme, monochrome painting with elements of Action Painting and calligraphy, to postmodern New Figuration in the 1980s. In the 1960s, he was close to gestural Art Informel in the vein of Heinrich Hartung and Pierre Soulages, and in the 1970s to Japanese calligraphy.

Ferdinand Kulmer’s A Blue Painting from 1959-1960 presents him as a painter who, according to art historian and critic Igor Zidić, “ascended from this earthly realm with winged shoes, ignoring reality, causality”. By having combined Art Informel and the controlled automatism of Tachisme, Kulmer created a painting of polarised properties. The painting is a material fact, but the blues create an atmosphere of refined aesthetics of its visual composition.
Text Željko Marciuš,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Josip Diminić (1937-2019)
Mutual Acceptance, 1974
fiberglass, paint
MG-3359
Josip Diminić (1937-2019) graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1963 under Prof. Marino Tartaglia. Between 1984 and 2008 when he retired, he taught sculpture at the Department of Fine Arts at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka, which became the Academy of Applied Arts, which Diminić was a co-founder of. He was also a co-founding member of many arts events and exhibitions in Croatia, such as the Mediterranean Sculpture Symposium in Labin and the Montraker International Summer School of Sculpture in Vrsar.
Diminić was most recognised for his coloured organic and anthropomorphic sculptures, which he often translated into the mediums of drawing and graphic art equally successfully. He modelled stylised associative and often erotic sculptures in wood, stone, bronze and coloured plastic. In 1980 he turned to figuration and started modelling ceramic sculptures thematically related to birds of anthropomorphic forms as symbols of freedom. He sculpted monuments and park sculptures mounted in Labin, Rijeka and Karlovac, and published several graphic art folios.
Diminić’s very own abstract expression of typically concise sculptural forms which he reduced to primordial organic symbols is metaphorical in meaning. He modelled sculptures often with erotic associations which he frequently accentuated with colour. Diminić’s abstract Mutual Acceptance sculpture from 1974 is made of fiberglass, a pliable sculptural material that Diminić often worked with.
Text Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Juraj Dobrović (1928)
Spatial Construction, 1964-1966
mixed media
MG-4241

Croatian painter and graphic artist Juraj Dobrović (1928) graduated from the Faculty of Economics and Business in 1956, and in art history from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in 1961 in Zagreb. He started painting in 1962, and has remained devoted to the visual arts ever since.
Dobrović belongs to a group of artists who, in the early 1960s, continued the tradition of Geometric Abstraction impacted by the earlier EXAT 51 group of painters and architects that was active between 1950 and 1956. He was also a notable member of the New Tendencies international art movement which was founded in Zagreb in 1961. Dobrović has developed his own analytical system, in which he opens up and folds complementary forms, and in which he brings into question the concepts of universal duality and complementarity from a much wider perspective. He has been modelling rational geometric sculptures and rotating objects featuring accentuated light effects. At a later stage, he started reducing the geometric elements in his sculptures, while highlighting the plasticity of their forms and introducing mirror symmetry. He also does industrial and graphic design.
Juraj Dobrović’s Spatial Construction sculpture from 1964-1966 is shaped like a monochromatic relief-object. The transformation of the rotating cube creates an optical illusion.

Text Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Slavko Šohaj (1908-2003)
The Painter and Objects, 1957
oil on canvas, 85.3×99.5 cm
MG-2296

Slavko Šohaj (1908-2003) was one of Croatia’s most prominent lyrical intimist painters. He took over Paul Cézanne’s structure of composition and construction of painted objects. At the same time, he not only toned-down Henri Matisse’s intense Colourism, but also balanced it rhythmically against the peculiarities of his intimate world. Although he had an inexhaustible source of both impressionist and fauvist role models he could have followed, he developed his own measured style. He painted landscapes and vedutas. The poetics of his later oeuvre grew out of the intimate motifs and spaces of his studio (self-portraits, portraits, sensual nudes, interiors, still lifes). Under the influence of Matisse, in the 1960s his paintings started being flatter. Šohaj’s palette of colours is a harmony mostly of blues, greens and purples. With the help of its slanted composition and reverse perspective, Šohaj’s The Painter and Objects painting from 1957 is a display of toned down colours, Šohaj’s awareness of what it means to be a painter by vocation and the quiet life of objects.
Šohaj graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Vladimir Becić in 1931. In the 1930s, he also studied in Paris. In 1934, he exhibited his work as a guest artist with The Group of Three, where he was recognised as a poetic realist. He exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1942, and in the early 1950s at solo exhibitions in Paris. Together with painters Oton Postružnik and Frano Šimunović, he co-founded another Group of Three in 1958. His first solo exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art was set up as late as 1968, where in 2017 the donation of his wife Heda Šohaj was also presented. He worked as an art associate at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb (1935-1965), and became a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1977. He won the 1978 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture. Šohaj was musically gifted, and played both the piano (class of Svetislav Stančić) and the violin. Music was always present in Šohaj’s meditative space, and he was particularly fond of Frédéric Chopin.

Text Željko Marciuš,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Oskar Herman (1886-1974)
A Landscape with Three Trees, 1963
oil on canvas, 85×135 cm
MG-2531

Oskar Herman (1886-1974) was the least prominent, yet the longest-standing member of the Munich Circle – one of the legendary beginnings of Modernism in Croatia. In Munich he first attended painter Anton Ažbe’s school of painting (1904) and then the Academy of Fine Arts under Prof. Hugo von Habermann (until 1910). Hans von Marées’s colour Symbolism exerted a decisive influence on Herman’s painting – Herman copied Hans von Marées, but also adapted the staticity of his compositions, the separateness of his figures, the monumentality of his forms and the horizontal partition of his paintings. In other words, Herman transformed early on his initial Realism into archaic Symbolism. After World War I, he synthesised expressionist Colourism, which – in correlation with historical Expressionism – heralded future (Neo-)Expressionism.
After the end of WWI, Herman returned to Munich, where he exhibited at both solo and group exhibitions of Munich’s new Art Nouveau. When Nazism escalated in 1933, he returned to Zagreb, where he organised a solo exhibition in the Art Pavilion. In the period between 1942 and 1944, he was interned in the Ferramonti di Tarsia internment camp in the south of Italy, after which he returned to Croatia to join the Partisan Movement. After World War II, he was a curator at the National Museum of Modern Art (1945-1949). In painting, he gradually developed an independent variant of colour Expressionism featuring motifs of landscapes, figures, and figural and dramatic scenes, which he worked on for the rest of his life. Herman’s A Landscape with Three Trees painting from 1963 is a symbolist and expressionist landscape painted by using colourist perspective, which is complemented by a palette of glowing and cold colours.
Oskar Herman was the recipient of the 1965 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art

Ante Kaštelančić
(1911-1989)
A Diptych, 1972
oil on hardboard, 89×119 cm
MG-2993

Ante Kaštelančić (1911-1989) was, according to art historian Igor Zidić, “a latent expressionist” of an intense, fiery colour palette arising from his immediate surroundings, which is brought to life by a dazzling reduction of motifs native to Dalmatia (sails, coastal trading vessels, landscapes, still lifes, different types of figures, mornings, dusks). In the second half of the 20th century, he often painted on the very fringe of Figurative Art, particularly in the period of his personal high style during the 1970s. Because he never completely crossed the boundaries of figuration, he was also a latent abstract painter. Kaštelančić is an important link in Croatia’s painterly expression interconnecting painter Ignjat Job’s second Expressionism and painter Edo Murtić’s Abstract Expressionism and calligraphy. He studied under painter Emanuel Vidović and attended the School of Applied Arts in Munich between 1926 and 1930. Kaštelančić embraced Vincent van Gogh’s expressive flame and then Chaïm Soutine’s expressive deformations thanks to painter Ljubo Babić (under whom he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1936) and during his training in Paris at André Lhôte’s Academy (1937-1938). In his mature reductionist stage, he replaced his formative influences with influences similar to the gestural and grapheme-like forms of Pierre Soulages, Franz Kline, and Nicolas de Staël, however structurally different they may be from one other. In his work up until 1958 we observe quickly executed paintings of curly dynamic systems, which was followed by static models of much slower constructive graphs within the diagonal or coordinate organisation of his paintings (Igor Zidić). His last paintings are dynamic compositions, featuring mostly the motif of sailboat. Kaštelančić’s A Diptych painting from 1972 is a glowing abstraction of motifs executed intensively using wide brushstrokes. He also taught painting in Split.

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Mladen Galić (1934)

Spatial Fact XX, 1979

oil on canvas, 135×135 cm

MG-4165

Mladen Galić (1934) is a classic and one of the first representatives of Minimalism and Installation Art in Croatia. He has been creating his own variants of Reductive and Geometric Abstraction. He has also been creating objects, collages, softer Abstraction organic forms, sculpture and graphic art – that is, all aspects of graphic design – which influenced the Zagreb School of Graphic Arts. Although the mediums he has used since the Post-Art-Informel period are diverse and heterogeneous, Galić’s oeuvre as a whole has not been visually dispersed. On the contrary, his oeuvre is coherent and features an elegant harmony of forms and structures imbued with his highly form-specific expression which he has been developing continuously since the High Modernism of the 1960s. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1956 and 1959, and then moved to Paris in the late 1960s. In 1965 he started reducing painterly gestures to plastic facts. The fiercely criticised Hit Parade exhibition (Student Centre Gallery, 1967), where Galić exhibited together with Miroslav Šutej, Ante Kuduz and Ljerka Šibenik, marked the transition from paintings-objects to Installation Art, and heralded symbolically the subsequent urban ambience action and exhibition called Possibilities for 1971. After the objects he modelled in wood and plastic, since the 1970s he has been working on neon light ambiences. In the late 1970s he returned with his Spatial Facts series to the geometric dual principle of achromatic black on achromatic white. Featuring nothing but a polygonal black ‘geometric circle’ on a white background, Galić’s Spatial Fact XX painting from 1979 is from this optical-visual series of paintings.

Mladen Galić has been exhibiting since 1961 at both solo and group exhibitions both in Croatia and abroad. He has been awarded many times for his work and in 2018 the National Museum of Modern Art set up a retrospective exhibition of his work curated by art historian and critic Ješa Denegri.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Zvonimir Lončarić (1927-2004)

Philip Junior, 1970

polyester, paint

MG-2984

Sculptor, graphic artist, stage and set designer Zvonimir Lončarić graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb in 1956 under Prof. Kosta Angeli Radovani and Prof. Ernest Tomašević. In 1958 he started working for Zagreb Film production studio as a cartoonist and set designer, and authored four animated films. He created a respectable graphic art oeuvre, also did ceramics and stage design, and produced series of imaginative children’s toys. He modelled figurative sculptures, most often in wood and polyester painted in vivid colours. By having synthesised his sculptural experiences of tradition and the language of contemporary art, he created an oeuvre of original works of art, in which elements of the fantastic and the surreal are imbued with a specific sense of humour. This is also reflected in his witty mobile statues set in public spaces.

Lončarić’s production of animated films is also reflected in his sculptural expression, which features unconventional, simple and elementary forms of accentuated volumes and colours. The inflated and suspended figure of Philip Junior from 1970 belongs to the series of his colourful simplified and oversized puppet sculptures.

Text:Tatijana Gareljić, Museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Oton Postružnik (1900-1978)

A Rotten Stump, 1960

oil on canvas, 98×146 cm

MG-2652

Oton Postružnik (1900-1978) was a socially and critically engaged painter, graphic artist and sculptor in the pre-WWII period and one of the most prominent representatives of Lyrical Abstraction. In 1915 he enrolled in painter Ljubo Babić’s private art school. In 1917 he took part in anti-Hungary protests, when he gave a fiery speech, because of which he was warned by the authorities. In 1920 he left the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and moved to Prague to continue his studies under painter Vlaho Bukovac. After he returned from Prague, he continued his studies at the newly founded Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he graduated under Prof. Ljubo Babić in 1927. Postružnik was one of the first students to work in ceramics under Prof. Hinko Juhn. In the same year, he opened a private painting school together with painter Ivan Tabaković, with whom he exhibited The Grotesques series of drawings akin to the German New Objectivity art movement at the Ullrich Salon. This series of drawings heralded the critical and social agenda of the Earth Association of Artists (1929-1935), which he was a founding member of. He studied in Paris in 1925 and 1926 under painters André Lhote and Moïse Kisling, which may have influenced his monumental painting Klek Mountain from 1929. He often stayed in Dalmatia, where he developed a distinctive Colourism based on bright and open colours, and a powerful and free style. In the 1950s he started reducing his figural templates to flat signs, pure colours and compositional glows of light. Postružnik’s A Rotten Stump painting from 1960 is an example of the way in which Postružnik would reduce his objective motif to its sign at the crossroads of Organic and Lyrical Abstraction on the one hand and softened Art Informel on the other. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970, and won the 1964 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Vjenceslav Richter (1917-2002)

Spatial Structure II, 1972

aluminium, glass

MG-3324

Vjenceslav Richter graduated in architecture in 1949 from the Institute of Technology in Zagreb. He is also known for his work in the fields of urbanism, sculpture, graphic art, painting, set and stage design, and art theory.

Richter was a key figure on Croatia’s art scene of the second half of the 20th century, whose work in architecture and art occupies an important place in European art history. He is known for his great synthesis of the arts and for promoting Constructivism consistently. He was one of the founding members of the EXAT 51 group of painters and architects, and was actively involved in the New Tendencies international art movement. He is the author of a number of internationally acclaimed architecture projects, such as exhibition pavilions in Brussels, Turin and Milan. He experimented with researching new potentialities in the field of the fine arts with a view to synthesising the various fields of the visual arts.

In 1962 Richter began researching the medium of sculpture based on the principles of Systemic Sculpture built from a series of identical serial parts whose numerous variants form new sculptural objects. His Spatial Structure II geometric sculpture from 1972 consists of a glass cube within which identical aluminium wires are placed with geometric precision, with the transparent space of the sculpture rhythmised by the differently shaped and twisted aluminium wires.

Text:Tatijana Gareljić, Museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Ivo Dulčić (1916-1975)

Dance, 1956

oil on canvas, 69.2×87.5 cm

MG-2266

Ivo Dulčić (1916-1975) was an exceptional colourist and one of the best Croatian painters of modern sacral motifs. Up until the 1950s, he painted subdued intimist compositions, where he was interested in the epidermis of paintings. After the 1950s, he intensified and opened his palette of colours, with whose help he disperses the reality surrounding us into the smudged fabric of his paintings. From 1955 he lived in both Zagreb and Dubrovnik. Dulčić’s Colouristic Structuralism is a derivative of Abstraction – Tachisme, to be exact – but also his own personal measure by which he never exceeded the limits of figuration. In the third stage of his career (i.e., from 1959 onwards), he synthesised his knowledge which he then applied to sacral art (frescos, mosaics, stained glass) in the Church of Our Lady of Health in Split (Christ the King fresco, 1959). He created sacral art in churches in Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Essen in Germany. He studied law in Belgrade and Zagreb, and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Ljubo Babić between 1941 and 1946, when he was expelled from the academy for denying the aesthetics of Socialist Realism and its practices. Pierre Bonnard and Jean Édouard Vuilliard are also woven into Dulčić’s Colourism, although it is mostly his very own. Ljubo Babić instilled in him a bird’s-eye view, which Dulčić transformed into a divine perspective, as it were, common of his work, which helped him to present cities and their residents as if they were in the palm of his hand. In the 1950s, he started painting cities, streets, squares and sporting events in which people are represented as silhouettes. He gradually brightened his palette with a distinct Colourism of thick coats of pure colour and started dispersing objects into stains creating a vibrant atmosphere in his paintings. He neared Abstraction with some of his compositions that he rhythmised using stains characteristic of Tachisme, but always remained connected to the real world. Dulčić’s Dance composition from 1956 is a great example of such marginal figuration, which is – thanks to patchy comparisons and colours – suggestive of the very essence of dance, i.e. movement.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Šimrak (1967)

A Cyber-Machine – Corps Sans Organe, 2008

mixed media, 150×300 cm

Robert Šimrak (1967) is a representative of postmodernist high-tech painting and graphic art. His high-level execution questions hypnotic consumerism and futuristic visions at the crossroads between high and popular culture. Using shrewd correlations, he critically observes the world which is structured according to and around globalised hegemonic liberal capitalism. His Pop Art and dystopian visualisations make references to reality, literature, film and comics. Šimrak graduated in 1992 in graphic art under Prof. Ante Kuduz from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he has been teaching since 1995, and where in 2014 he became a full professor. He was the president of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists between 2001 and 2003, when he coordinated the demanding renovation of the Meštrović Pavilion, the seat of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists. He received his PhD from the University of Zagreb in 2018. He has been exhibiting his work since 1989 at some forty solo exhibitions in Croatia and abroad, and at more than three hundred group exhibitions. In 2009, he received the Josip Račić Award for best solo exhibition given yearly by the daily Vjesnik. Šimrak’s art of high, eclectic Postmodernism tackles questions of today’s world collapsing under multimedia cacophony. He raises the question of the way in which the concept of painting can be re-established after the experience of our networked world, technological innovations and the world of spectacle. Šimrak’s A Cyber-Machine – Corps Sans Organe light box from 2008 creates the impression of a universal retro-futuristic cyberspace, in which the cyber-machine is constructed as a new-world hologram of a toxic light-and-metal virtuality of sorts which resembles a vision of a scene from a dystopian science fiction movie.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

 

Edo Murtić (1921-1995)

On Guard, 1946

oil on canvas, 138×108.4 cm

MG-1674

Although it dates from the period of Socialist Realism, Edo Murtić’s On Guard painting from 1946 departs from its poetics in a self-confident way. It fits in with Socialist Realism only formally (i.e., with its theme), but it departs from it stylistically and figuratively (i.e., with its Post-Expressionism). The painting manifests the socially and critically unrefined heritage of the Earth Association of Artists and ‘pure painting’ of the Group of Three. The painting seems to embody Picasso’s statement from 1945: “Painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Reminiscences of Francisco Goya’s distinctive Naturalism – which arose from the tradition of 17th-century Spanish painting (Diego Velázquez) – are also woven into the engaged expressive figuration of the partisans in the painting. In the early 1960s Murtić developed a recognisable abstract style of painting characterised by dynamic gestures and intense colours. This made Murtić the most influential and most widely known artist of High Modernism in socialist Yugoslavia, with a respectable career on the international arts scene. In the early 1950s whilst in the USA, Murtić met Jackson Pollock, which gave him fresh creative impetus. Unlike Pollock’s gestural Action Painting automatism, Murtić’s expression is more colour-centred. Murtić learned from the greatest artists of his time at the academies in Zagreb and Belgrade (Petar Dobrović, Ljubo Babić). As a staunch socialist, he joined the partisan movement during World War II. Being a prominent cultural worker, he later advocated democratic values. He had a highly intense and influential career that lasted for sixty years. After his figuration period in the 1980s, for the rest of his life and career he remained an abstractionist who created a diverse oeuvre.

Text:Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

 

 

Slavko Kopač (1913-1995)

Paris – Pont Alexandre III, 1939

oil on canvas, 55.5×38 cm

MG-1557

Slavko Kopač painted his Paris – Pont Alexandre III painting in 1939, i.e. immediately after he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. After he moved to Paris, Kopač’s artistic sensibilities got liberated from traditional Academicism and he set out on a journey marked by imagination and a lucid creation of his avant-garde artistic expression. He replaced his “learned” brushstrokes with resonant stains of colour which he fit onto a white, neutral background, the result of which are mystical and poetic atmospheres in his compositions. There are only traces here of his later surrealist repertoire, i.e. in certain elements and in the manner developing into Kopač’s very own style.

Slavko Kopač was born in Vinkovci in 1913. He graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1937 under Prof. Vladimir Becić. He moved to Paris in 1939 as a French government scholarship holder. At the outbreak of World War II, Kopač returned to Zagreb and then moved to Mostar as a drawing teacher at a local grammar school. Despite the war and to continue studying, in 1943 he moved to Florence where he remained until 1948, when he moved to Paris again. In the same year, he met Jean Dubuffet, and this is where and when a friendship and professional collaboration between the two artists began, spanning nearly 30 years. Together with Dubuffet, Kopač explored, produced and collected Art Brut works of art. In 1950 he was appointed as secretary and later as curator of the Collection of Art Brut. During his career, he met and worked with André Breton, B. Perret, M. Tapies and many other leading figures of the cultural scene in Paris. He also did sculpture, illustration (for a poem by André Breton) and ceramics. He exhibited in galleries in Paris, Milan, Rijeka, Venice, Lyon, Chicago and Louisville.

Text: Zlatko Tot, Intern Curator at the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Josip Vaništa (1924-2018)

Composition III, 1964

oil on canvas, 100×130 cm

MG-2575

Josip Vaništa (1924-2018) was, according to art historian and critic Igor Zidić, a universal artistic figure and paradigm of Croatian culture. In his Book of Entries (2001), Vaništa wrote the following: “I searched for the right to mistakes, to contradictions, to metamorphoses”. In terms of the poetics of the absurd, his drawings are also non-drawings of sorts, his paintings non-paintings and his activity in the Gorgona Group non-activity. Having been a founding member of the Gorgona Group of Croatian Neo-Avant-Garde artists and art historians (1959-1965) – a socially isolated phenomenon which brought together individuals who shared a spiritual affinity – Vaništa advocated a neo-avant-garde spirit, freedom of art and mind, which heralded the contents of the later New Art Practice movement. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1950 under Prof. Marino Tartaglia, and taught at the Faculty of Architecture between 1951 and 1994. What mattered to him in his drawings was not only the outline of his figures, but also the whiteness from which his motifs were birthed. Following in the footsteps of the tradition of Modernism (Josip Račić, Milan Steiner), he created an oeuvre of single-motif meditative paintings in which whiteness is a metaphor for coloured light. In 1961 he started reducing his motifs and themes to a series of monochrome paintings. Featuring a tonal duality, his Composition III painting from 1964 is a great example of his minimalism. The surface of the painting is cut across by a horizontal flat line, of which Vaništa said that it was “the only residue of content, of theme in painting without illusionism”. Vaništa’s minimalist method heralded future tendencies in art, while his awareness of the conceptuality of painting replaced factuality with verbality, ultimately replacing the process of painting with a precise description of the same process. After the 1970s, he returned to the poetics of Realism with his watercolours, which are his most important works from this period. He also did illustration, book layout, produced theatre stage sets and authored several books. He became a full member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1994 and won the 2006 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.

Text:Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

 

Raul Goldoni (1919-1983)

An Animal Skull with a Horn, 1975

bronze

MG-4087

Croatian painter, graphic artist and sculptor Raul Goldoni graduated in painting in 1942 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Marino Tartaglia, and continued his studies in 1942-1943 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. He was also active in product and interior design.

In the 1960s Goldoni committed himself permanently to plastic mediums. He created series of glass objects for everyday use. As far as sculpture is concerned, he modelled free forms, rounded organic forms and figurative compositions which allude to crystallised animal and human figures. In his glass sculptures, he excelled in the purity and stability of form, and deliberately intervened in the interior of the mass of glass, the result of which are works that attract attention and interest not only by the rhythm and balance of their masses, but also by their intrinsic properties, such as transparency and reflection. By having carefully treated the surface of the volume of his glass sculptures, Goldoni filtered and regulated the flow of light through the depths of glass, the result of which is a powerful connection between his sculptures and space.

Goldoni was also successful in applying his personal sculptural poetics to sculptures he modelled in bronze. In other words, he achieved the same dynamism of light between the core and the edges of his sculptures in bronze as he did in his glass sculptures. A good example of this is his An Animal Skull with a Horn bronze sculpture from 1975.

Text:Tatijana Gareljić, Museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

 

Ante Rašić (1953)

Brushstrokes, 1977-1978

wall paint on hardboard, 37.5×29 cm

MG-8445

A Brush Repetition Structure, 1977-1978

wall paint on hardboard, 34×24 cm

MG-8446

 

Torn Papers Painted White, 1979

wall paint and paper on hardboard, 34×25.5 cm

MG-8447

Cut Papers Painted White, 1979

wall paint and paper on hardboard, 33.7×24.5 cm

MG-8448

 

Ante Rašić (1953) is a multifaceted sculptor, painter and designer of High Modernism and Postmodernism. He graduated in painting in 1977 under Prof. Nikola Reiser from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he has been teaching since 1995. He worked as an associate at painters Ljubo Ivančić and Nikola Reiser’s master workshop in Zagreb (1977-1978), and at Prof. Michel Charpentier’s sculpture studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris (1978-1979). Featuring closed forms, plastic conciseness, processuality, purity of design and the use of achromatic white, his expression was formed in the 1970s within the framework of Conceptual, Primary and Analytical Art.

Created by gradually applying coatings of white wall paint on hardboard resembling a tabula rasa and evoking nothing but their name, process and elementary fact of being, his Brushstrokes (1977-1978), A Brush Repetition Structure (1977-1978), Torn Papers Painted White (1979) and Cut Papers Painted White (1979) paintings are great examples of Rašić’s primary-analytical strategy of expression. According to art historian Zvonko Maković, Rašić’s painting is not a space for recording the artist’s emotions, but first and foremost a surface on which the author critically explores the possibilities of painting. After the 1980s, Rašić started creating collages, reliefs, and paper and metal sculptures of suspended rhythms which were recordings of the process of creation and free-form sculpting (e.g., Noon series, 1984-1985). In 1998 he started creating a series of ambient installations with ready-made mirrors, which he uses in different contexts and environments, all of which was crowned with the giant Croatian Apoxyomenos at the Art is Beautiful exhibition (2011), which was also presented at the Church of St. Donatus in Zadar (2018). His In Anticipation of Rain land art piece executed for the White Road Project during the 36th Mediterranean Sculpture Symposium in the Dubrova Sculpture Park near Labin in Istria has received multiple awards in both Croatia and abroad. His works are in the holdings of numerous museums, private collections and public institutions. In 1997 he received the Order of the Croatian Morning Star with the Image of Marko Marulić, Croatia’s national order bestowed for one’s achievements in culture.

Text:Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: From the Artist’s Archives

 

 

 

 

Marko Ercegović (1975)

A Boy on the Danče Beach, 2005

MG-6961

 

After having switched to digital photography, this Dubrovnik-born photographer born in 1975, felt, as he once said – reborn. “When digital cameras appeared, I started working with colour photography. For me, that was a change bigger than anything else. I could take more shots and feel more relaxed about taking them. (…) When I worked with rolls of film, I didn’t work in colour film because I couldn’t develop the photos myself. That was very expensive, so I only worked in black and white. Not because it was beautiful and romantic, but because it was the only technology I could afford. (…) I think that all photographers who mean something to me, who are important to me, would be overjoyed if they had a digital camera in their time.”

The photograph presented here is part of a series called The People of Dubrovnik, which Ercegović first exhibited in 2005 in Zagreb and which was his first series of photographs of people. Art critics observed that Ercegović took shots of people “from the sidelines”, from a certain distance, so it seems that the captures are somehow stolen. The A Boy on the Danče Beach photograph from 2005 is a great example of this observation. It should, however, be added that in this photograph there is a mutual distance between the portrayed and the portraitist, that it seems as if this distance between the photographer and the boy suits them both. On the left-hand side of the photograph, a part of an adult’s leg is observable next to a pile of clothes, so the boy seems to have caught a moment when he can rest from both swimming and adult supervision. On the other hand, the photographer seems to be only passing by – by boat, on foot? – and that he will not potentially disturb the peace that the beach is offering the boy. Ercegović’s motility as a photographer or the aesthetics of working “in passing” has been highlighted by not only critics, but also the author himself: “For example, when you walk your dog, then just follow it! Because dogs always ask you, dogs always stop on the corner and look at you wondering – left or right? Yet sometimes, they want to go where they want to go. And then all you have to do is follow them! (…) You just have to let things go. All you have to do is harmonise. Well, what I mean is that the photographer has to harmonise with the world around him.”

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Marko Ercegović©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

 

 

 

Julije Knifer (1924-2004)

K-11-67, circa 1970

oil on canvas, 67×98 cm

MG-2755

The meander is an anthological motif of the oeuvre of Julije Knifer, one of Croatia’s most important 20th century painters. Firmly fixed by the frame of his paintings, and painted in black and white surfaces equal in size and importance, the meander had been Knifer’s only theme since 1959. Knifer’s entire oeuvre is defined by a reduction to one single motif, his systematic treatment of the motif of meander, and the consistency of repetition of the rhythm of the meander as the continuity of space-time. Knifer adopted the term meander ideated by art historian and critic Igor Zidić. Pronounced absurdity, paradox and irony brought Knifer closer to the ideas of what became in 1959 the Gorgona Group of Croatian Neo-Avant-Garde artists and art historians (1959-1965), which he was a founding member of. In 1961 he participated in the first exhibition of the New Tendencies art movement. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1956 under Prof. Đuro Tiljak and earned a master’s degree under Prof. Antun Mejzdić. His strict and repetitive non-psychological Self-portraits (1949-1952) and drawings of Stenjevec (1952) – behind the motif of which the structure of the meander is observable – are the prototypes of his anti-painting, which is what he calls the meander in the 1960s in his diary-like Records. Julije Knifer’s K-11-67 painting from around 1970 is a meander – the ultimate surface-line absolute of black and the ultimate line-surface absolute of grey. According to art historian and critic Zvonko Maković, a range of influences is recognisable in Knifer’s system of uniform, monotonous rhythm – from Existentialism and Absurdism, to Kazimir Malevich and Paul Cézanne. One of Knifer’s favourite artists – which is no coincidence – was Piero della Francesca. By having increased the dimensions of the meander, he also designed ambient installations, such as the one executed in Tübingen in 1975. In the 1970s, he moved to and exhibited in Germany and France, and in 2002 he won the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture. He was also a passionate football fan.

Text:Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Valerije Michieli (1922-1981)

Unrest in a Karren, 1972

bronze

MG-3008

Valerije Michieli graduated in 1949 under Prof. Frano Kršinić from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he taught between 1962 and 1981. He worked as an associate at sculptor Vanja Radauš’s master workshop (1949-1951) and at that of sculptor Frano Kršinić (1951-1955).

In his portraits Michieli worked on and with the concept of full volume, after which he explored the possibilities of eroded form. As an avant-garde sculptor, he worked on elongated expressionist figures close to the Gothic style and related currents in modern sculpture (Alberto Giacometti). His series of contorted bodies express human drama, particularly those sculptures whose theme relates to World War II. Executed in a sculptural and painterly manner, the animals in his series of dogs and horses range from extremely expressionist to non-figurative. Michieli authored memorial monuments in Pučišća on the Island of Brač and Split, and the figure of A Woman from Brač in the town of Bol.

Inspired by the relief characteristics of furrowed, cracked, corroded, jagged and time-worn limestone karst of the Island of Brač, Michieli sculpted a series of bronze sculptures of people and animals, dogs in particular, featuring pronounced naturalistic deformations under the

Text:Tatijana Gareljić, Museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art


Ivo Kerdić (1881-1953)
Petar Dobrović, 1921
bronze
MG-2892-109
MG-2892-110

Ivo Kerdić (1881-1953) was a great Croatian medallist of the first half of the 20th century. In his medals and plaques from the end of the 1920s, the poetics of Art Nouveau started to slowly fade and sculptural qualities started to become increasingly prominent. Kerdić’s three medals dedicated to painters – namely, to Petar Dobrović from 1921, to Vilko Gecan from 1923 and to Vladimir Becić from 1930 – are powerful and holistic portraits of their artistic and psychological values. The reverses of these medals feature synthesised symbolism. Although Kerdić created a large number of artworks of high quality, these medals are the best examples of the creative power of his artistic accomplishment.

Kerdić brought his novel artistic conception to life on a double-sided medal of painter and lawyer Petar Dobrović (1890-1942), which he wrote the following about: “My first medal, which I executed in freeform, is an engraved medal of painter Dobrović, and is one of my most significant works. This medal is purely sculptural in nature without any painterly influence. Yet it works well and looks good as a medal, even as an engraving. The obverse features the figure of the painter with an inscription in a circle: ‘Petar Dobrović’, a figure full of Dobrovićesque self-awareness. Dobrović, a man of great energy and self-confidence bordering on arrogance, is within the frame of the medal and completely dominates it. The reverse of the medal does not lag behind the obverse in quality. Dobrović’s personality is again reflected in the ‘rooster’. Thanks to Dobrović’s medal, I made my way to America, where almost each of the 25 pieces were sold.”

Ivo Kerdić used a similar solution for the designs of his medals dedicated to Croatian painters Vilko Gecan (1894-1973) and Vladimir Becić (1886-1954) as he did with painter Dobrović – the obverse features an extraordinary psychological portrait, and the reverse a characteristic personification and a slogan.

Text:Tatijana Gareljić, Museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Antun Motika (1902-1992)
My Studio, 1931
oil on canvas, 54×65 cm
MG-1649

Antun Motika painted his My Studio painting in 1931 during his study stay in Paris. Having absorbed the works of impressionists and post-impressionists, Motika came to the realisation that painting is, like any other art, an expression of the artist’s personal experience. The interior of his studio does not emanate dark and depressing connotations the way interiors do in the work of his contemporaries. On the contrary, Motika was, according to art historian Nina Šepić (1957), amongst the first to have introduced white as a dominant colour to Croatian painting. His compositions exude lightness and lyricism, which is evident in the relationship between his colours, lines and forms. He built his interiors with the help of brushstrokes “thrown” onto the canvas, preferably in watercolour or gouache.
Antun Motika was born in 1902 in Pula. He enrolled in sculpture studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Rudolf Valdec in 1922, but in 1923 he decided to switch to painting. After having graduated in 1927, he continued his studies at Prof. Ljubo Babić’s master classes. In 1929 he started teaching drawing at the Mostar Gymnasium, where he remained until 1940. In parallel with the beginning of his teaching career, in 1930 Motika travelled to Paris for a ten-month study stay. In 1940 he was transferred to Zagreb to teach arts (ceramics, textiles, photography) at the School of Applied Arts and Design, where he remained until his retirement in 1961. In 1954 he started frequenting glass workshops on the Island of Murano near Venice, where he created glass sculptures. He held his first solo exhibition in Zagreb in 1933, after which he was invited to exhibit with The Group of Three. Because of its daring rejection of the dogmatic framework of Socialist Realism, his 1952 Archaic Surrealism exhibition provoked violent reactions with Croatian critics and is today considered to be of special cultural significance. He received the 1970 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture, and in 1974 a retrospective exhibition of his work was set up at the National Museum of Modern Art.

Text:Zlatko Tot, Intern Curator at the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Ante Rašić (1953)
Traces of Lipstick, 1976-1977 (detail)
plaster on canvas, 200×150 cm
MG-4113

Ante Rašić (1953) is a sculptor, painter and designer of High Modernism and Postmodernism. He graduated in painting in 1977 under Prof. Nikola Reiser from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he has been teaching since 1995. He worked as an associate at painters Ljubo Ivančić and Nikola Reiser’s master workshop in Zagreb (1977-1978), and at Prof. Michel Charpentier’s sculpture studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris (1978-1979). Featuring closed forms, plastic conciseness, processuality, purity of design and the use of achromatic white, his expression was formed in the 1970s within the framework of Conceptual, Primary and Analytical Art. Created by using plaster in a repeating pattern which evokes nothing but the process and elementary fact of being, his Traces of Lipstick painting from 1976-1977 is once again one of Rašić’s primary-analytical strategies of expression. According to art historian Zvonko Maković, Rašić’s painting is not a space for recording the artist’s emotions, but first and foremost a surface on which the author critically explores the possibilities of painting. After the 1980s, Rašić started creating collages, reliefs, and paper and metal sculptures of suspended rhythms which were recordings of the process of creation and free-form sculpting (e.g., Noon series, 1984-1985). In 1998 he started creating a series of ambient installations with ready-made mirrors, which he uses in different contexts and environments, all of which was crowned with the giant Croatian Apoxyomenos at the Art is Beautiful exhibition (2011), which was also presented at the Church of St. Donatus in Zadar (2018). His In Anticipation of Rain land art piece executed for the White Road Project during the 36th Mediterranean Sculpture Symposium in the Dubrova Sculpture Park near Labin in Istria has received multiple awards in both Croatia and abroad. His works are in the holdings of numerous museums, private collections and public institutions. In 1997 he received the Order of the Croatian Morning Star with the Image of Marko Marulić, Croatia’s national order bestowed for one’s achievements in culture.

Text:Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Boris Demur (1951-2014)
Painted with the Left Hand – Painted with the Right Hand, 1978 (detail)
acrylic on 2 cardboards, 72×102 cm each

Boris Demur (1951-2014) was a Neo-Avant-Garde painter and Post-Conceptual artist. He was a co-founding member of the Group of Six Artists (Zagreb, 1975-1981). He graduated in painting in 1975 under Prof. Raul Goldoni and in graphic arts in 1977 under prof. Albert Kinert. He worked as an associate at painter and sculptor Ljubo Ivančić’s master workshop between 1975 and 1977. Having equated art with life, Demur developed a personal image of an existentialist artist. During the 1970s, he started painting in the vein of Expressionist Abstraction, and later in the vein of expressive Art Informel by combining (non)painterly materials and by using the techniques of collage, decollage, assemblage and frottage.
In the mid-1970s, Demur’s painting was primary, analytical, elementary and procedural in nature, with painting being nothing but a work of art, nothing but a fact. His mirror-image diptych Painted with the Left Hand – Painted with the Right Hand from 1978 is one such elementary, factual painting which evokes nothing but the process of painting itself – left- and right-hand painting using achromatic white. In 1983, he reintroduced motif and bodily gesture into his painting, including the archetype of a spiral, which continued to be his main theme until the end of his life and career, and which was a reflection of chaos theory, according to which all unpredictable processes have their own pattern and regularity. Later, he introduced the double spiral of yin-yang as a holistic symbol of life. During the 40+ years of his career as an artist, he exhibited at many solo exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad, and in 1996 he represented Croatia at the São Paulo Art Biennial. In the same year, he received the Order of the Croatian Morning Star with the Image of Marko Marulić, Croatia’s national order bestowed for one’s achievements in culture. In 2004, the National Museum of Modern Art set up a retrospective of his work (Retrospective I, curated by Zdenko Rus).

Text:Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Vilko Šeferov (1895-1974)
Dubrovnik Landscape, 1936
oil on hardboard, 93.5×69 cm
MG-5880

The Dubrovnik Landscape painting from 1936 depicts the ambience of a summer’s day, which Vilko Šeferov painted as his immediate experience of the world around him whilst spontaneously inspired. This inspiration, which later turned into a flow of thoughts and a “flow of the brush”, represents the very beginning of his work on the painting. The painting’s impressionistic effect is highlighted by Šeferov’s use of a wide range of colours, which take precedence over the other elements of the composition. This is why and how Šeferov created a pronounced colouristic charge in his landscapes of a meditative mood.
Vilko Šeferov was born in Mostar in 1895. He enrolled in the Art School in Belgrade in 1912 under Prof. Vladimir Becić, but the outbreak of World War I interrupted his studies. After having graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in Budapest, he moved to Sarajevo, where he participated in the founding of the Association of Artists of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1924 he moved to Zagreb, where he exhibited at The Spring Salon. During his stay in Zagreb, he surrounded himself with artists and writers of contemporary worldviews, which started manifesting itself in his depictions of socially engaged themes. At that time he also produced many portraits of his friends and members of his “intellectual circle”. His study stays in the USA in 1951/1952 and in Egypt in 1962 proved to be of great importance for his style because this was where and when he enriched his repertoire of themes and adopted novel colouristic tendencies. Together with painter Vladimir Becić, Šeferov set up an art colony in Blažuj in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was one of the founding members of the Rovinj Art Colony and Gallery in Croatia. He exhibited at many solo exhibitions in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Prague, Vienna, Venice, New York, Los Angeles, San Pedro, etc., and received the 1974 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.
Translated by: Ana Janković
Text: Zlatko Tot, Curatorial intern at the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Eugen Feller (1942)
Malampia, 1961
mixed media on canvas, 52×48.5 cm
MG-6783

Eugen Feller (1942) is, besides Ivo Gattin, the most consistent and refined representative of Radical Art Informel in Croatia. Feller is a self-taught artist who has been creating paintings in the category of their physical factuality by experimenting with non-painting materials, by using indisputable processes of creation and by rejecting organised formations of matter and form. Feller’s Art Informel is an anti-intellectual process defined by the material and factual essence of painting. It is just as topical in today’s time of constant crisis as it was in the time of its first appearance on Croatia’s art scene, with its topicality arising from its function as a semantic substitution of corporeality, suffering and universal alienation.

Feller has been active as an artist since 1957 and has been exhibiting since 1959. He created his most famous series of eight paintings called Malampias at the beginning of his career. Monochromatically composed and created by applying thick layers of plaster, these are painterly facts of relief tactility, first exhibited at a solo exhibition of Feller’s work in 1962 at Studio G curated by the Gorgona Group of Artists. Feller borrowed the name for his series from a novel written by a pioneer of the French New Novel Movement, namely Nathalie Sarraute and her Portrait of a Man Unknown. Sarraute’s use of the term implies an objective naturalism of sorts. The features of Feller’s Malampias are, according to art historian and critic Ješa Denegri, more akin to the spiritual moods and ambiances conceived by the French New Novel Movement than to the philosophy of existentialism. In fine arts, Malampias signify anti-painting of sorts whose foundations are different from those of painter Julije Knifer’s.

In the next stage of his career, Feller created minimalist objects in painted wood and colour screen prints, and in the 1980s he neared primary Abstract Art. Since the 2000s he has been creating geometric structures, which often intervene directly in space. He has lived in Italy since

1969, and is the recipient of the 2016 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given annually by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Jerolim Miše (1890-1970)
An Orphan (A Portrait of a Girl), 1929
oil on canvas, 64.8×49.8 cm
MG-1163

Jerolim Miše’s portrait of An Orphan from 1929 features all the fundamental formal, style- and theme-related strivings of his. He expressed the sadness of the portrayed child with the help of a realistically modelled volume, and the scene is lent a certain dramatic quality with the help of his choice of colour and contrast lighting of supernatural intensity. Without having made avant-garde breakthroughs, Miše strove after forming a ‘direct relationship with the object’ and created a notable portrait oeuvre featuring realistic settings, Cézannesque construction and Renoiresque colours. In the later 1930s, Miše replaced his tonal three-dimensional shaping with obvious colour flatness, akin to the then contemporary expression of painter Petar Dobrović.

In 1911 Jerolim Miše published such a severe piece of criticism of the work of his Professor Menci Clement Crnčić that he got expelled from the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb. He then studied painting in Rome and Florence, and later taught at the academies of fine art in Belgrade and Zagreb. Having been an active participant in all significant arts events in Croatia in the first half of the 20th century, he wrote art criticism and theoretical discussions, poems and short stories, and also did graphic design. Thanks to sculptor Ivan Meštrović, Miše’s early painting was influenced by the linear Art Nouveau style. Under the influence of French painting and contemporary German Expressionism, in the late 1920s Miše geometrised forms pronouncedly in the spirit of New Modernism and Magical Expressionism. Having been a member of The Group of Three, he participated in the formulation of “our expression”. After having used intense colours and after having liberated his gesture in the 1930s, he painted mostly intimist still lifes and landscapes in deep colours. He did not find his way round the artistic currents of Socialist Realism, and in the last decades of his life he painted realistically.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić,senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Zlatko Keser (1942)
Polyphemus’s Dream, 1982
tempera and oil on canvas, 141×282 cm
MG-4159

Zlatko Keser (1942) is an exceptional painter and draughtsman of Abstract Surrealism. He has been painting using his very own technique, which he applies via intense controlled automatism. His themes are subconscious and are brought to the point of flaming and in some paintings even destruction. In that regard, for Keser his paintings and drawings are existence itself. In other words, Keser becomes, according to art historian Igor Zidić, what he does. For him, paper and canvas are energy screens of elusive psychological forces. At the crossroads of sign-like and figurative-abstract relations, Keser’s esoteric oeuvre develops from ecstasy to melancholy, from a flicker to gloominess, from burning to absorption. According to art historian Tonko Maroević, Keser’s paintings are his investment of energy and matter transformed into facts of art.
Keser completed both his undergraduate (in 1967) and graduate studies (in 1969) under Prof. Oton Postružnik at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. He worked as an associate at painter Krsto Hegedušić’s master workshop between 1971 and 1975. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1984 and 2008, and in 2014 he was bestowed the title of professor emeritus. His work has been included in many important representative exhibitions since the mid-1980s, and has become unavoidable in context-specific exhibitions that tackle the question of the current state of affairs and the end of painting since the late 1990s. According to art critic and theorist Josip Depolo, all historical and artistic reviews of contemporary Croatian art should devote a special chapter to Keser given that he is a distinct builder of Croatia’s Postmodernism. Keser’s so-called infantile style, lush colouristic magma and contrasting compositions are highly specific. Keser’s art, according to art historian Ivana Mance, relates to spiritual experience. Zlatko Keser’s Polyphemus’s Dream painting from 1982 is one such surreal-mythical visualisation of a hallucinatory impact. He has been a full member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts since 2004. He has exhibited at numerous solo and group exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad, and is the recipient of the 2015 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given annually by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Duje Jurić (1956)
Untitled, 1999
oil on canvas
150×150 cm
MG-6732

Duje Jurić (1956) is recognised as an innovator of Geometric Abstraction who appeared on Croatia’s New Geometric Art scene of the 1980s. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1981 under Prof. Vasilije Josip Jordan, and worked as an associate at painters Ljubo Ivančić and Nikola Reiser’s master workshop between 1982 and 1985. In the late 1980s he also collaborated with painter Julije Knifer on some of his murals. Initially he focused on transforming the avant-garde legacy of the Russian Avant-Garde, Constructivism, the Bauhaus Movement, De Stijl’s Neoplasticism, the New Tendencies Movement and the Fluxus Movement into his very own neoplastic style, claiming that: “Continuation of something onto something else always has a reason.” At the beginning he used neutral achromatic colours (black, white, grey), after which he expanded his palette (e.g., Untitled, 1995). The basic structure of Jurić’s painting is always a pattern that extends from vertical axes to more passive horizontals. He then created matrixes of meanders and rhombuses (in honour of painters Julije Knifer and Kazimir Malevich), with his other geometric variations generating even more densely networked geometric webs. Duje Jurić’s Untitled painting from 1999 represents one such achromatic labyrinth composed of metal tube-like vertical forms and rectangular geometric interweaving. Ultimately, he ended up elaborating the concept of painting with conceptual verbal-visual variations executed on appropriated objects (Paintings – Books, 2000), and painting-ambiance and light installations (Memo Chip, 2010; A Spatialised Paintings’ Network, 2020-2021), with which he has expanded his concept of painting striving after total geometry that would correspond to the universal digital-information age. He has exhibited in many solo exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad, and has received numerous awards for his work.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Dalibor Jelavić (1949-2019)
A Studio, 1995
oil and encaustic on canvas, 198×164.5 cm
MG-6560

Dalibor Jelavić (1949-2019) was a modernist and postmodernist painter and graphic artist of a distinct charge and expression. Given that his borderline abstract painting almost never lost touch with the poetics of Figurative Art, he was a postmodernist in the age of Modernism and a modernist in the age of Postmodernism. The principle of Postmodernism is also reflected in Jelavić’s familiarity with kindred painters through the influences and quotations that he incorporated into his own expression (Edo Murtić, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Antonio Saura, Antoni Tàpies, Pierre Alechinsky). Initially, he created monochrome paintings and assemblages akin to Minimalism and material painting. He then created expressive figuration with abstract fragments of aggressive colours and style. He ultimately moved on to creating striking series of paintings in oil and encaustic presenting expressive abstraction of figurative motifs in lush colours, and featuring imaginative signs and colouristic compositions, such as his Cosmic Theatre (1996-2012), Big Bang (2001-2006) and Horn of Plenty (2014-2016) series. Painted using thick layers of beeswax, Dalibor Jelavić’s A Studio painting from 1995 is an example of a painting of his at the crossroads of abstract and figurative expression.
He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1977 under Prof. Nikola Reiser, and was the academy’s dean between 2010 and 2012. He worked as an associate at painters Ljubo Ivančić and Nikola Reiser’s master workshop (1977-1979). He not only used a wide array of techniques (drawing, graphic art, digital graphics, oil, tapestry, enamel, ceramics, poster), but also produced videos (documentaries, TV advertisements, 3D animation). He exhibited at many exhibitions both in Croatia and abroad, with his works found in many museums and collections. He is the winner of the 2015 Croatian Association of Artists’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Milan Pavić
Fishermen with Nets, Kornati, 1955-59
photograph
MG-7055

An encounter with Franjo Fuis in 1935, a journalist, photojournalist and adventurer from Zagreb, changed Milan Pavić’s life: he acquired his first camera, became a correspondent for “Novosti” from Zagreb, founded a photo club in Daruvar and moved to Zagreb in 1942, where he continued to take photos secretly, documenting dramatic war events. After the war ended, Pavić’s photographic activity continued within state institutions entrusted with photo-documentation and promotion, so he had the opportunity to document social changes brought about by the industrialization of Yugoslavia. For example, in 1950 alone, he took 5,000 photographs of the reconstruction of Macedonia and Montenegro. However, in 1958 he left civil service and became a freelance photographer. He nevertheless continued to shoot scenes of mostly urban everyday life, of workers and new factories, the construction of which, in black-and-white photographs, reveal all the qualities of a well-composed and beautiful image. It is precisely the beauty of Pavić’s images, regardless of the type of content shown, that situates him in the world of classical modernist photography. In every photographic genre he achieved clarity and lucidity; there is order in every scene, regardless of whether he takes close-ups or wide-angle photos. The photograph “Kornati” was taken during Pavić’s trip on the Croatian coast, as part of a project in which he wanted to portray the region and its people. All photographs from that series were taken on the islands of Cres, Kornati, Krapanj, Zlarin or in Ston, and show the fishermen, coral divers, salt miners at work, and in their spare time. Pavić takes photos of their work equipment (boats, nets, salt wagonettes, etc.), processes and procedures (diving, mending fishing nets, drying coral, spreading salt, etc.) and fruits of their labour (fish catch, dried coral, etc.). Group portraits of island women or an image of the bocce ball game would complete Pavić’s epic depiction of the lives of people on the eastern Adriatic coast in mid-20th century.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Albertina Tomić
Photo: from the National Museum of Modern Art’s archives

Ratko Petrić (1941-2010)
A Thorn, 1987
bronze, aluminium
MG-5894
Ratko Petrić (1941-2010) graduated in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1966 under sculptor and Prof. Vanja Radauš and worked as an associate at his master workshop between 1966 and 1969. In 1998 he started teaching as an associate professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. He was a co-founding member of the Biafra Art Group, the initiator of the Alley of Sculptures on the Sava Embankment in Zagreb, and of the International Art Colony and Sculpture Park in Jakovlje. He also did graphics and caricature, and authored notable public monuments.
Petrić’s sculptures feature an interest in social issues and communicate socially engaged messages. He is most famous for his provocative sculptures of a critical discourse, which question social contradictions. His sculptures are not only beautiful objects, but also have, as Petrić himself claimed, the eyes of many popping out of their heads. To suit the shockingness of the scene he presents, his sculptural expression explores peculiarities and features the use of new materials and modelling techniques.
Regardless of whether his work is figurative or abstract, Petrić’s creative credo is critical social engagement. Even when he used classical sculpture materials and techniques, he modelled unexpected associative metaphorical objects of sharp contrasts, such as his A Thorn sculpture from 1987.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Đuro Tiljak (1895-1965)
Spring Canopies, s. a.
gouache, tempera on paper, 19×25.8 cm
MG-2988

Đuro Tiljak (1895-1965) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, in Moscow under Wassily Kandinsky whose classes he attended in 1919, and in Paris. Besides his work as a critic, editor, school teacher and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, his exhibition-related activities are also important, particularly those related to the Spring Salon during the 1920s and the Earth Association of Artists. He was a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts. Tiljak’s rounded painting oeuvre covers a whole array of styles, ranging from his early refined watercolours through the Magical Realism he embraced in the 1930s to the Poetic Realism featured in his landscapes and dramatic figurations of scenes of war, after all of which he returned to watercolours verging on Abstraction.

Đuro Tiljak’s Spring Canopies testify to his mastery of tonal shading, which is particularly evident in his watercolours. Featuring shades of greens, blues and browns, Tiljak’s unusual choice of motif of a close-up view through a dense canopy, which almost obscures the view of the surroundings, places the scene somewhere between Abstract and Figurative Art.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Šime Perić (1920-2019)
Composition IV, 1961
oil on hardboard, 170×122 cm
MG-4500

Šime Perić (1920-2019) was a figurative-abstract fantasist and a classic of Croatian painting. During the 1950s, his works developed from impressionistic colouristic figuration into gesture- and Tachisme-based abstraction. After his darkish Art Informel period during the 1960s, in the 1970s he produced paintings of refined yet colouristically intense expression. He started abandoning quadrangular canvases and sometimes painted tondos, whose circular form evokes the archetypal image of an island. In the 1980s he began sculpting as well, and successfully so. In 1949 he spent a semester studying fresco painting in Paris at the National School of Fine Arts, which turned out to be of crucial importance for Perić’s painting
and expanded his horizons intellectually. He graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade in 1952 and worked as an associate at painter Krsto Hegedušić’s master workshop until 1957. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1969 and 1984.

The motif of stain and its transformation into colouristic centrifugal and centripetal motion is one of the bedrocks of Perić’s oeuvre. His Composition IV painting from 1961 defines Art Informel in Croatia both chronologically and morphologically. The painting is executed by grading clusters of formless, magma-like matter. It lies at the crossroads of factuality, the physical materiality of painting and the feelings of restlessness and existential angst it expresses.

Šime Perić is the recipient of the 1989 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture. In 2003 Perić’s monograph was authored by art historians Tonko Maroević and Mladenka Šolman. In 2007, the 12th leg of the White Road in the Dubrova Sculpture Park near the town of Labin in Istria was built based on Perić’s designs.

Text: Željko Marciuš,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Vladimir Kristl (1921 or 1923-2004)
A Variation, 1958
oil on canvas, 59.4×72.8 cm
MG-2579

Vladimir Kristl (1921 or 1923-2004) was a painter, animator, film director and screenwriter, draughtsman, cartoonist, poet, professor and lecturer. In short, a polyhistor and a polymath who was active in the period from Post-Socialist and High Modernity to Postmodernism. In the field of the visual arts, his work includes paintings and drawings, caricatures and graphic designs, animated, experimental and feature films. According to art historian Igor Zidić, Kristl was an intriguing and great artist of provocation who gained cult status. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1949, and was one of the co-founding members and painters of the EXAT 51 group of painters and architects (1951-1956) and exhibited at the group’s first public exhibition of abstract painting (together with artists Ivan Picelj, Božidar Rašica and Aleksandar Srnec) held at the Croatian Architects Association in 1953. During the early 1950s he was one of the pioneers of Abstract Art in Croatia and the most orthodox in the pursuit of geometric abstraction. In the late 1950s, he neared the concept of the materiality of painting as it was advocated by Art Informel. In 1959 he started painting a black and white series of positives and negatives, in which paintings became monochrome screens and which were painted in only achromatic white, for example. Kristl’s A Variation painting from 1958 is divided into three ascetic achromatic sections and features, according to art historian Ješa Denegri, a deliberate uncertainty of execution. The painting’s irregular grid pattern heralds his Variants and Variables series from the early 1960s, in which he uses cheap (non)painting materials (e.g., wire, thread, paper, wood). He authored two anthological films of the Zagreb School of Animation: The Piece of Shagreen Leather (1960) and Don Quixote (1961), whose characters are reduced to ideograms and in which he experimented with animation. Because of social pressure and because he felt misunderstood by the other members of the Zagreb School of Animation, he moved to what was then West Germany, where he became a leading figure of key events in German cinematography.

Text: Željko Marciuš,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo:Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Belizar Bahorić (1920-2002)
Opposites, 1965
bronze
MG-2573

Belizar Bahorić studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the period between 1940 and 1950 (sculptors Antun Augustinčić and Frano Kršinić’s master classes). In 1950 he started teaching art, and in the period between 1962 and 1976 he was the principal of the School of Applied Arts and Design in Zagreb.
Several stages of development are evident in Bahorić’s sculptural oeuvre. He interpreted his own fate, prisons, camps and World War II as a challenge to human strength and trauma both through the mediums of painting and sculpture, the end result of which are realistic reliefs and sculptures featuring themes of war, suffering and resistance. He gradually abandoned the tradition of Figurative Art and in the 1960s started focusing on the expressiveness of materials in symbolic forms bearing the features of abstraction. In the 1970s, he was preoccupied with symbolic and metaphorical associations, which he modelled in extremely rounded and simple sign-like forms in different metals and in small formats. In his small-size sculptures, he aimed to enrich their materials by using different methods of treatment and to discover the materials’ distinct expressive value. He sculpted a number of public monuments and drawings whose theme is war and suffering.
Belizar Bahorić’s abstract Opposites sculpture from 1965 is dominated by a rectangular construction and a rhythm of mass, which are accentuated by a view of the sculpture’s interior space which is cut wide open.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Zlatko Kopljar (1962)
Sacrifice, 1992
mixed media on canvas, 190×250 cm
MG-6343

Zlatko Kopljar (1962) is an intriguing multimedia artist who creates complex references to the social function of the practice of art. His oeuvre includes paintings, installations, performances, actions, videos and films, and is intertwined with primordial, ritual, ethical, existentialist, and self-identification and identity themes. He has been preoccupied with the motifs of sacrifice and redemption, the position of the individual in relation to the constructs of power, injustice within contemporary social systems and the meaninglessness of violence. Different series of his are expressions of rebellion against the power of art institutions and point to the social position of artists. According to art historian Sanja Cvetnić, the strategies of performative rituals (sacrifice, memory, adoration, offering) are the core artistic strategies of his oeuvre. He graduated in 1991 in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice under Prof. Carmelo Zotti. At his beginnings, he questioned the meaning of human existence, sacrifice and redemption. By reinterpreting biblical motifs and ritual acts, he drew inspiration from the art of Caravaggio, Joseph Beuys and Andrei Tarkovsky. Kopljar’s Sacrifice from 1992 is, in actual fact, a mixed media composition in the vein of Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice film from 1986. Kopljar’s achromatic and burned altar includes several hundred young people’s statements on their wishes in life and is his ritualistic expression of the meaning(lessness) of sacrifice and redemption. Since 1997 he has been naming all of his performances, first acted out in a black and then in a white glittering suit, with the letter K for construction. In his K9 Compassion from 2003, he is kneeling as if praying before the icons of New York. His K19 from 2014, an installation made of bricks from the Jasenovac concentration camp, expresses the healing power of art over absolute evil. His more recent works (e.g., K20 Empty, 2015) are hermetic expressions of hopelessness with the emptiness of the world. He represented Croatia at the São Paulo Art Biennial in 2004, and has exhibited his work at many exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: From National Museum of Modern Art’s archives ©National Museum of Modern Art

Ivo Šebalj (1912-2002)
My Experience of War, 1956-1960
oil on canvas, 110×130 cm
MG-4093

Ivo Šebalj (1912-2002) was a modest individual, yet a classic of hermetic, meditative Lyrical Abstraction which is always correlated with a figural motif. He was a painter of existentialist intimism. According to art historian Zdenko Rus, Šebalj’s painting occupies the interspace between the concrete and the abstract, between the chromatic and the achromatic, between drawing and painting, where even in his most abstract of paintings he was a painter of figurative motifs however difficult they may be to recognise. Šebalj’s oeuvre developed through a relatively few themes (smokers, the painter and his model, (self)portraits, female nudes, rooms, his experience of war, sacral motifs), but always sustains a feeling of his personal insignificance in respect of the art of painting. Having taken a few gap years, between 1934 and 1942 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Omer Mujadžić, and graduated under Prof. Marino Tartaglia. He worked as a clerk, and it was only in 1954 that he started working in his profession, i.e. that he started to teach art at the School of Applied Arts and Design, and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (1961-1978). Šebalj’s oeuvre can be divided into several stages. After having spent decades of his life and career unknown and nameless as an artist, he started exhibiting as late as 1970 at the age of 58. The 1970s were the decade when he was discovered as an artist, the 1980s when he became famous, and the 1990s when he became universally acclaimed. The posthumous evaluation of his oeuvre is the final stage. Šebalj’s oeuvre as a whole transcends both local and national boundaries, and is his personal and impenetrable valorisation and revaluation of modernist painting (Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet). According to art historian Igor Zidić, he stated that, while Picasso narrowed the world to a motif, what he tried to do was to expand motifs. Šebalj is an artist of distinguished drawing and an impasto, with his palette of colours ranging from dark and dense to completely pure. Ivo Šebalj’s My Experience of War painting (1956-1960) is an existentialist-expressive evocation of World War II. He had many exhibitions set up, and received many awards and acknowledgments, the most important of which is the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Frane Cota (1898-1951)

Melancholy

1935

bronze

MG-7181

Sculptor and architect Frane Cota graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1924 and in architecture in Zagreb in 1929. He spent some time in Prague, Paris and Italy. Between 1934 and 1950 he taught architectural drawing at the Institute of Technology in Zagreb and in 1941 he started teaching drawing at the Teachers College in Zagreb.

Cota was an outstanding figure in Croatian modern art. Although he considered himself primarily a sculptor, he was just as successful as an architect whose understanding of space was functionalist and whose feeling for volume was sculptural. As a sculptor, he was initially influenced by Vienna’s Art Nouveau and sculptor Ivan Meštrović, but soon transformed into a modernist favouring Realism. From amongst his sculptural works, his portraits, nudes, figures and reliefs stand out. He also modelled medals and plaques, such as the King Tomislav plaque from 1925.

Frane Cota’s seated female nude Melancholy from 1935 was modelled in the spirit of Mediterranean Neoclassicism, and is a synthesis of late Art Nouveau and New Realism which – after having adapted it to his very own poetics – Cota accepted as did the sculptors who exhibited at The Spring Salon in Zagreb.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Đuro Tiljak

(1895-1965)

A Blue Landscape, 1918

watercolour, pencil on paper, 27×22 cm

MG-3496

 

Đuro Tiljak (1895-1965) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, in Moscow under Wassily Kandinsky whose classes he attended in 1919, and in Paris. Besides his work as a critic, editor, school teacher and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, his exhibition-related activities are also important, particularly those related to the Spring Salon during the 1920s and the Earth Association of Artists. He was a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts. Tiljak’s rounded painting oeuvre covers a whole array of styles, ranging from his early refined watercolours through the Magical Realism he embraced in the 1930s to the Poetic Realism featured in his landscapes and dramatic figurations of scenes of war, after all of which he returned to watercolours verging on Abstraction.

Đuro Tiljak’s A Blue Landscape watercolour from 1918 is an early work of his, when his watercolours featured a pronounced propensity for the expressiveness of tonal shading. The landscape exists somewhere between Abstract and Figurative Art, which the very title of the work bears witness to.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

 

LJUBO BABIĆ

(1890-1974)

A Black Flag, 1916

oil on wood, 181×100 cm

MGP

 

Painter and art historian Ljubo Babić (1890-1974) was a key figure in Croatian culture and art. After having graduated from the Transitional Advanced School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, where he was taught by painter and Professor Menci Clement Crnčić, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He also graduated in art history from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. He taught at the Transitional Advanced School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, which was later transformed into the Academy of Fine Arts, and was the director of the National Museum of Modern Art in Zagreb and a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Ljubo Babić’s A Black Flag painting from 1916 is one of his most significant paintings. He painted it following the death of Emperor Francis Joseph I of Austria whilst watching Zagreb draped in black from the first floor of a building on Ilica Street. The discomfort of looking down at a column of people on the street under a dramatically hung black flag is intensified by the use of dark tones. The entire scene is painted as if it has been caught in a whirlpool creating an impression of instability and anxiety. The miniature figures at the bottom of the painting get lost in the menacing, frightening vastness of an unstable, swirling space.

 

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

Slava Raškaj

(1877-1906)

Water Lilies I, 1899

watercolour on paper, 63.1×75.4 cm

MG-539

 

Croatian art history remembers Slava Raškaj (1877-1906) as a superb watercolour painter. She was born both deaf and mute in the town of Ozalj, which continued to be a constant motif for her. She left Ozalj in 1885 to be schooled at the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Mute in Vienna (1885-1893). After she returned to Zagreb in 1895, she studied painting under painter Bela Čikoš Sesija (1864-1931), who introduced her to the Society of Croatian Artists. In consequence, Slava Raškaj exhibited at the 1898-99 Croatian Salon, at the Austro-Hungarian exhibition in St. Petersburg in 1899, and at the 1900 Paris Exposition, where she exhibited two vedutas of Zagreb and her Water Lilies from Zagreb’s Botanical Garden.

Slava Raškaj painted her Water Lilies I watercolour from 1899 at Zagreb’s Botanical Garden, where painter Vlaho Bukovac held painting classes in plein-air. It is interesting to note that there exists a very similar composition of Water Lilies from Zagreb’s Botanical Garden by Bukovac himself, which he painted in 1898 in the oil on canvas medium. Both paintings are plein-air paintings, and are direct and spontaneous studies of motifs in the open air in direct sunlight. Their choice of the motif of water lily is, of course, a direct reference to Claude Monet and his water lilies.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Ante Kaštelančić

(1911-1989)

A Diptych, 1972

oil on hardboard, 89×119 cm

MG-2993

 

Ante Kaštelančić (1911-1989) was, according to art historian Igor Zidić, “a latent expressionist” of an intense, fiery colour palette arising from his immediate surroundings, which is brought to life by a dazzling reduction of motifs native to Dalmatia (sails, coastal trading vessels, landscapes, still lifes, different types of figures, mornings, dusks). In the second half of the 20th century, he often painted on the very fringe of Figurative Art, particularly in the period of his personal high style during the 1970s. Because he never completely crossed the boundaries of figuration, he was also a latent abstract painter. Kaštelančić is an important link in Croatia’s painterly expression interconnecting painter Ignjat Job’s second Expressionism and painter Edo Murtić’s Abstract Expressionism and calligraphy. He studied under painter Emanuel Vidović and attended the School of Applied Arts in Munich between 1926 and 1930. Kaštelančić embraced Vincent van Gogh’s expressive flame and then Chaïm Soutine’s expressive deformations thanks to painter Ljubo Babić (under whom he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1936) and during his training in Paris at André Lhôte’s Academy (1937-1938). In his mature reductionist stage, he replaced his formative influences with influences similar to the gestural and grapheme-like forms of Pierre Soulages, Franz Kline, and Nicolas de Staël, however structurally different they may be from one other. In his work up until 1958 we observe quickly executed paintings of curly dynamic systems, which was followed by static models of much slower constructive graphs within the diagonal or coordinate organisation of his paintings (Igor Zidić). His last paintings are dynamic compositions, featuring mostly the motif of sailboat. Kaštelančić’s A Diptych painting from 1972 is a glowing abstraction of motifs executed intensively using wide brushstrokes. He also taught painting in Split.

 

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art

 

ZLATKO KAUZLARIĆ ATAČ

(1945)

Nameless, 1969

oil on canvas, 130×130 cm

MG-6852

Zlatko Kauzlarić Atač (1945) is a socially engaged Croatian figurative painter who has been, according to art historian Zdenko Rus, confirming the thesis on the “permanence of the figurative” even during High Modernism which is averse to Figurative Art. He was a prominent member of the Biafra Art Group which was active in Zagreb between 1970 and 1978, and which stood against Abstract Art because it “deprives man of his central role in art”. In 1974 the group started organising exhibitions and actions on the streets. Since social engagement was characteristic of Atač’s painting, the themes he chose revolved around the hardships of reality. He dealt with the issues of humanism in modern society, bureaucracy, politics and culture. His expressive and powerful figuration and naturalist methods are typical of his work.

Depicting the motif of a homeless person, Zlatko Kauzlarić Atač’s Nameless painting from 1969 is an example of his fierce criticism of the social system. His transfer of photography to canvas is an original painterly technique, which creates the impression of greyness and photographic naturalism with the help of photo emulsion. His fabric inserts have their origins in Art Informel.

Since the 1970s, he has been designing stage sets and costumes at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb and other theatres both in Croatia and abroad. As far as his painting is concerned, he later softened his style, started using refined, thickly applied coats of paint in his striking portraits, and in the 1980s he began drawing and painting eroticised female nudes, after which he turned to his own body and intimate world. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1968 under Prof. Miljenko Stančić, after which he worked as an associate at Krsto Hegedušić’s master workshop (1968-1974). He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he became a full professor in 1996 and was its dean between 2002 and 2006. Since 1989, he has also been teaching design at the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb. He has exhibited at many solo and group exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad, and has received numerous awards for his artistic and theatrical work.

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Ante Kaštelančić

(1911-1989)

A Diptych, 1972

oil on hardboard, 89×119 cm

MG-2993

 

Ante Kaštelančić (1911-1989) was, according to art historian Igor Zidić, “a latent expressionist” of an intense, fiery colour palette arising from his immediate surroundings, which is brought to life by a dazzling reduction of motifs native to Dalmatia (sails, coastal trading vessels, landscapes, still lifes, different types of figures, mornings, dusks). In the second half of the 20th century, he often painted on the very fringe of Figurative Art, particularly in the period of his personal high style during the 1970s. Because he never completely crossed the boundaries of figuration, he was also a latent abstract painter. Kaštelančić is an important link in Croatia’s painterly expression interconnecting painter Ignjat Job’s second Expressionism and painter Edo Murtić’s Abstract Expressionism and calligraphy. He studied under painter Emanuel Vidović and attended the School of Applied Arts in Munich between 1926 and 1930. Kaštelančić embraced Vincent van Gogh’s expressive flame and then Chaïm Soutine’s expressive deformations thanks to painter Ljubo Babić (under whom he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1936) and during his training in Paris at André Lhôte’s Academy (1937-1938). In his mature reductionist stage, he replaced his formative influences with influences similar to the gestural and grapheme-like forms of Pierre Soulages, Franz Kline, and Nicolas de Staël, however structurally different they may be from one other. In his work up until 1958 we observe quickly executed paintings of curly dynamic systems, which was followed by static models of much slower constructive graphs within the diagonal or coordinate organisation of his paintings (Igor Zidić). His last paintings are dynamic compositions, featuring mostly the motif of sailboat. Kaštelančić’s A Diptych painting from 1972 is a glowing abstraction of motifs executed intensively using wide brushstrokes. He also taught painting in Split.

 

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Ante Kaštelančić

(1911-1989)

A Diptych, 1972

oil on hardboard, 89×119 cm

MG-2993

 

Ante Kaštelančić (1911-1989) was, according to art historian Igor Zidić, “a latent expressionist” of an intense, fiery colour palette arising from his immediate surroundings, which is brought to life by a dazzling reduction of motifs native to Dalmatia (sails, coastal trading vessels, landscapes, still lifes, different types of figures, mornings, dusks). In the second half of the 20th century, he often painted on the very fringe of Figurative Art, particularly in the period of his personal high style during the 1970s. Because he never completely crossed the boundaries of figuration, he was also a latent abstract painter. Kaštelančić is an important link in Croatia’s painterly expression interconnecting painter Ignjat Job’s second Expressionism and painter Edo Murtić’s Abstract Expressionism and calligraphy. He studied under painter Emanuel Vidović and attended the School of Applied Arts in Munich between 1926 and 1930. Kaštelančić embraced Vincent van Gogh’s expressive flame and then Chaïm Soutine’s expressive deformations thanks to painter Ljubo Babić (under whom he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1936) and during his training in Paris at André Lhôte’s Academy (1937-1938). In his mature reductionist stage, he replaced his formative influences with influences similar to the gestural and grapheme-like forms of Pierre Soulages, Franz Kline, and Nicolas de Staël, however structurally different they may be from one other. In his work up until 1958 we observe quickly executed paintings of curly dynamic systems, which was followed by static models of much slower constructive graphs within the diagonal or coordinate organisation of his paintings (Igor Zidić). His last paintings are dynamic compositions, featuring mostly the motif of sailboat. Kaštelančić’s A Diptych painting from 1972 is a glowing abstraction of motifs executed intensively using wide brushstrokes. He also taught painting in Split.

 

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Ante Kaštelančić

(1911-1989)

A Diptych, 1972

oil on hardboard, 89×119 cm

MG-2993

 

Ante Kaštelančić (1911-1989) was, according to art historian Igor Zidić, “a latent expressionist” of an intense, fiery colour palette arising from his immediate surroundings, which is brought to life by a dazzling reduction of motifs native to Dalmatia (sails, coastal trading vessels, landscapes, still lifes, different types of figures, mornings, dusks). In the second half of the 20th century, he often painted on the very fringe of Figurative Art, particularly in the period of his personal high style during the 1970s. Because he never completely crossed the boundaries of figuration, he was also a latent abstract painter. Kaštelančić is an important link in Croatia’s painterly expression interconnecting painter Ignjat Job’s second Expressionism and painter Edo Murtić’s Abstract Expressionism and calligraphy. He studied under painter Emanuel Vidović and attended the School of Applied Arts in Munich between 1926 and 1930. Kaštelančić embraced Vincent van Gogh’s expressive flame and then Chaïm Soutine’s expressive deformations thanks to painter Ljubo Babić (under whom he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1936) and during his training in Paris at André Lhôte’s Academy (1937-1938). In his mature reductionist stage, he replaced his formative influences with influences similar to the gestural and grapheme-like forms of Pierre Soulages, Franz Kline, and Nicolas de Staël, however structurally different they may be from one other. In his work up until 1958 we observe quickly executed paintings of curly dynamic systems, which was followed by static models of much slower constructive graphs within the diagonal or coordinate organisation of his paintings (Igor Zidić). His last paintings are dynamic compositions, featuring mostly the motif of sailboat. Kaštelančić’s A Diptych painting from 1972 is a glowing abstraction of motifs executed intensively using wide brushstrokes. He also taught painting in Split.

 

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art

Oton Postružnik

(1900-1978)

Klek Mountain

1929

oil on canvas, 83.8×66.3 cm

MG-7089

Exhibited at the first exhibitions of the Earth Association of Artists, Oton Postružnik’s Klek Mountain painting from 1929 introduced a sense of calm in terms of theme and style into the association’s otherwise socially charged and activist agenda. He departed from depictions of the hardships of everyday life and turned to a classically calm composition of a landscape featuring a bridge, a landscape that develops harmoniously with the help of a rhythmical sequencing of motifs which he unified using a cold register of colours. With this painting Postružnik departed from the aesthetics of the Earth Association of Artists and neared the aesthetics of Magical Realism, which is indicated by his idealised approach to the composition (details are minimised and shapes reduced to geometric forms), coupled with an absence of locally inspired colours, and socially engaged and folklore elements.

Oton Postružnik studied painting in Zagreb and Prague. He also studied in Paris under painters André Lhote and Moïse Kisling. After he returned to Zagreb, he participated in the Graphic Exhibition and started preparing The Grotesques exhibition together with painter Ivan Tabaković. Both exhibitions were held in 1926 and highlighted Postružnik’s not only personal, but also generational departure from well-established aesthetic (particularly expressionist) norms, presenting him as an already mature Avant-Garde artist. In 1927, Postružnik graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the class of Professor Ljubo Babić. Having been socially aware and committed to the truth, in 1929 he partook in the founding of the Earth Association of Artists, whom he regularly exhibited with until he left the association in 1933. During his second scholarship to Paris in 1935, he enriched his style with colour, which had until then been based on simple drawing and form. Having started out as a poetic intimist, his Dalmatian motifs from the 1950s synthesise form and colour uniquely. Having been inspired by nature, he later painted in the vein of Lyrical Abstraction. He also produced prints and ceramics, and taught painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970.

Text: Zlatko Tot, trainee curator of the National Museum of Modern Art ©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

ISO KRŠNJAVI

(1845-1927)

A Study of a Female Head, 1873-1874

oil on canvas, 47×37 cm

MG-120

 

Art historian, politician, painter and writer Izidor (Iso) Kršnjavi (1845-1927) was a key figure in Croatian culture in the second half of the 19th century. He was first taught painting by Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf in Osijek. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts first in Vienna and later in Munich, where he was mentored by Professors Wilhelm von Lindenschmit the Younger and Wilhelm von Diez, artists who used informal teaching methods to steer their students towards observational studies and plein-air painting. Between 1872 and 1877 he stayed in Italy on several occasions – he had a studio in Rome and in southern Italy he painted together with painters Karl Hubert Frosch, Henryk Hektor Siemiradzki and Ferdinand (Ferdo) von Quiquerez-Beaujeu. Having become dissatisfied with his work, he stopped painting in 1877. He favoured small-scale oils on canvas, drawings and copper etchings in the vein of the Realism of Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts and, for the purpose of teaching, produced several sketches of the old masters reduced to basic strokes and colours. Kršnjavi founded the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University in Zagreb with a lecture he gave in 1877 under the title The Significance of the History and Archaeology of Art, and in 1879 he prompted to action the Art Society founded in 1868. From 1891 to 1895 he was the Minister of Education and Religion in Károly Khuen-Héderváry’s administration. In his capacity as president of the Art Society, in 1905 he founded the National Museum of Modern Art. Kršnjavi’s project of reconstructing and equipping the seat of the Department of Worship and Teaching is programmatically important. Based on Hermann Bollé’s project, and in line with the culture of Classicism, Humanism and Christianity, the reconstruction was executed in the spirit of Idealism and Realism by artists who later became representatives of Croatia’s Modernism.

Iso Kršnjavi’s A Study of a Female Head from 1873-1874 is an anthological painting of Croatian Realism, indirectly modelled in the vein of Wilhelm Leibl’s Realism, which is characterised by painting directly onto the canvas without any prior sketches being produced. The painting’s dark tone is livened up by freely applied coats of paint, with the girl’s face painted in the manner of Academicism. Kršnjavi’s distinct feeling for rhythm is particularly evident in the girl’s white collar which he painted almost abstractly.

 

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Milena Lah

(1920-2003)

A Composition

1962

stone

MG-2401

Milena Lah graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1949 and worked as an associate at sculptor Vanja Radauš’s master workshop until 1950. Between 1951 and 1955 she specialised in sculpture during her stays in Rome, Florence, Milan and Paris. She participated in many prestigious international sculpture symposia as an established artist.

Lah’s early works are realist sculptures, after which she aspired to synthesise form and the symbolic expressiveness of material. Inspired by Croatian art and literature, in her oeuvre she looked to combine traditional forms with contemporary sculptural ideas. She paid special attention to female and children’s figures. In her later series, centring mostly on mythological themes, she combined geometric and figural elements. Her sculptures installed in public space are a “titanic segment of her oeuvre”, particularly the many sculptures executed in heavy stone blocks in which she modelled intangible universal states and phenomena with ease and extraordinary power. Having used almost all sculpture techniques and materials, she created a huge oeuvre which is – thanks to the purity of elementary forms, metaphors, associations and interactivity – rightly considered to be one of the most genuine oeuvres in the history of Croatian sculpture.

Milena Lah’s A Composition sculpture from 1962 is an associative female torso reduced to a refined archetypal monolithic form. Within its polished stone surface, it features an accentuated opening and circular incisions representing breasts as basic female attributes.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Marijan Detoni
(1905-1981)
A Soup Kitchen, 1935
oil on canvas, 100×83 cm
MG-1490

 

Marijan Detoni’s A Soup Kitchen painting from 1935 sublimates the iconographic premises advocated by the Earth Association of Artists. The painting depicts the reality of poverty and hunger, insecurity and misfortune. Although social themes were the modus operandi of the members of the Earth Association of Artists, Detoni went a step further by having depicted young people abandoned by society as the protagonists of the painting. The motif of a brick wall, a trademark of sorts typical of the Earth Association of Artists, helps to underscore the impression of alienation in the depiction of human figures crowding as they await solace in the form of a charitable hot meal.

Marijan Detoni graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1928 in the class of Professor Ljubo Babić. His earlier works highlight volumes of a Cézannesque conception, and in 1926 he began to often depict scenes from provincial life into which he introduced elements of humour and the grotesque. While on a scholarship in Paris in 1934, he drew turbulent scenes from the streets of Paris and scenes from the lives of unemployed workers. He was a member of the Earth Association of Artists from 1932 to 1934, so he expressed himself through simple drawings, locally inspired colours and basic modelling in line with the aesthetic agenda of the association. His pre-war paintings feature a powerful colour palette. Having been a forerunner of abstract tendencies in Croatian painting, in 1938 he painted two nearly abstract compositions under the tautological name A Dilapidated Wall Fantasy. While in Paris in 1939, he was inspired by the Modernism of the School of Paris, after which he returned to social themes, but this time round imbued with euphoric experiences of light and colour. He joined the anti-fascist movement in World War II, and in the post-war years featuring the dictated aesthetics of Socialist Realism he centred on partisan war themes. Later he turned to inspiring, fantastic and phantasmagorical compositions, and fully abstract painting.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Krsto Hegedušić

(1901-1975)

Parish Feast Day Celebration in My Village, 1927

oil on canvas, 50×60.8 cm

MG-2124

 

Krsto Hegedušić’s Parish Feast Day Celebration in My Village painting from 1927 represents the beginning of the stylistic formalisation of the Earth Association of Artists, which Krsto Hegedušić was the initiator and secretary of. The association’s agenda centred on creating a national artistic expression that would – by using a socially engaged approach and looking to democratise culture – bring the life of Croatia’s peasantry closer to the general public. He painted the scene of a village celebration flatly using a lively and pure palette of colours typical of Hlebine, a region that Hegedušić’s father is from. The iconography of the scene is dominated by elements of folklore. The figures are typified, with their proportions solved symbolically, which in some borders on the grotesque. Hegedušić later abandoned the theme of idealisation of village and rural life, and turned to landscapes of harsh reality whilst in search of a specific tonality of his ‘native’ region, i.e. Podravina’s countryside. Having drawn not only on the legacy of Croatia’s native folk art, but also on Pieter Brueghel the Elder and George Grosz, Hegedušić painted the scene as simply as possible bringing only the most essential details.

Although his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb – where he was mentored by painters Tomislav Krizman, Vladimir Becić, Jozo Kljaković, Edo Kovačević and Ljubo Babić – and the ongoing course of Croatia’s Modernism in art had little effect on Krsto Hegedušić, his originality and determination in the 1930s birthed a new paradigm of form and motif, facilitating the emergence of Croatian Naive Art. In 1937, he started teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Besides painting, he also did drawings, graphics, frescoes, book illustrations, and theatre stage and costume design. He died in 1975.

 

Text: Zlatko Tot, trainee curator of the National Museum of Modern Art ©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Sava Šumanović
(1896-1942)
A Self-Portrait, 1925
oil on canvas, 100×80.6 cm
MG-1964

Thanks to the figure having been placed in the foreground of the composition, Sava Šumanović’s A Self-Portrait painting from 1925 is an example of his approach to Figurative Art. Šumanović balanced the disproportionate relationship between the figure in the foreground and the interior in the background by having graded the view of the sequence of rooms in the depth of the painting. His A Self-Portrait belongs to the “green phase” of his work, which is evident in the grey-blue and green colour palette, which represents a departure from his earlier post-cubist phase.
Sava Šumanović began exhibiting at Croatia’s Spring Salon (1917) already as a student of the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, and had solo exhibitions set up as early as 1918 and 1920. He produced illustrations for the avant-garde magazine Juriš and stage designs for the Croatian National Theatre. Following his first successes in Zagreb, he moved to Paris where he worked at André Lhote’s studio. Upon his return to Zagreb, Šumanović was disappointed with the wider public’s lack of understanding of his art, so in protest he signed his paintings in French. Although Šumanović’s key exhibition of works painted in the style of classicised academic Cubism held in Zagreb in 1921 received good reviews, Šumanović moved back to Paris in 1925. Having gotten mentally ill, in 1930 he moved back to his parents’ home in Šid. He painted a series of cityscape vedutas, children’s portraits, landscapes, and compositions of women bathers and pickers in the spirit of Poetic Realism. He worked diligently until he was executed in World War II in 1942.

 

Text: Zlatko Tot, trainee curator of the National Museum of Modern Art ©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Marino Tartaglia (1894-1984)
A Self-Portrait/A Self-Portrait with a Pipe, 1920/1921
oil on canvas, 44.6×32.5 cm
MG-3880

Marino Tartaglia’s A Self-Portrait from 1920 summarises the expressionist stage of his oeuvre, which was significantly influenced by the work of painter Miroslav Kraljević and the Munich Circle. The palette of his earlier stage had featured bright, vibrant colours, which here became dimmer and darker suggestive of a more intimate context. The introspective quality of Tartaglia’s A Self-Portrait is also underscored by his eyes gazing into the distance and away from the observer, which highlights the figure’s exclusive commitment to his own fixation.
The oeuvre of Marino Tartaglia (1894-1984) was shaped over the decades as a unique synthesis of different influences and styles, ranging from El Greco and Tintoretto, Primitivism, Cezannism, Cubism, Futurism to Neoclassicism, Colourism, and Lyrical and Reductive Abstraction. Once he finished primary school, he moved to Italy, where in 1912 he began his studies in Florence (under Alberto Giacometti) and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. During his studies he came into contact with representatives of Futurism. He was the only foreigner to have exhibited his work in Rome in 1918 at the Exhibition of Independent Artists together with Italian Avant-Gardists (Carlo Carrà, Giorgio De Chirico, Enrico Prampolini). After the end of World War I, he lived in Split, Vienna, Belgrade and France. In 1931 he became a full professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, and in 1947 a full member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

 

Text: Zlatko Tot, trainee curator of the National Museum of Modern Art ©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Dragan Melkus (1860-1917)
A Blacksmith, 1887
oil on canvas, 101.5×84 cm
MG-2128

Dragan Melkus was a versatile cultural worker of Osijek’s cultural circle. He was not only a painter, but was also a writer (My Blue Friend and Other Stories), was involved in publishing, was a teacher and restorer. He was an instigator and promoter of artistic and literary life in Osijek, where he was one of the co-founding members of the Croatian Writers and Artists’ Club. He began studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and in 1880 continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He travelled for study purposes across France and Germany on several occasions. Melkus’s oeuvre comprises approximately 150 works, most of which are part of private collections. In terms of style, his works follow the legacy of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, without having ever come into contact with later, more contemporary phenomena, including those in Zagreb related to the appearance of Vlaho Bukovac. In this sense, Melkus’s A Blacksmith painting from his Munich-based period (i.e., from 1887) is one of his best personal and Croatian achievements in Realism in general, both in terms of theme and execution. With his head bowed and a serious, drained expression on his face due to hard work, the rough figure of a blacksmith was done in the manner of tonal painting. The composition is devoid of unnecessary descriptions of details and is reduced to large areas of earthy green tones, which are contrasted with the white surface of the rough fabric of the blacksmith’s shirt. Painting details, such as the blacksmith’s leather belt, was extremely popular amongst realist painters.

Although once he returned to Osijek Melkus remained artistically true to the style of painting fostered by the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich during his studies, this early painting of his can be considered to be a paradigm of the entire period of Realism in painting in Croatia.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Dujam Penić (1889-1946)
A Female Torso
1928
bronze
MG-6340

Dujam Penić studied sculpture under Ferroni in Venice and sculptor Ivan Meštrović in Zagreb, as well as in Vienna, Munich, Athens, Paris and New York.
In the period between 1914 and 1920 he lived and worked in New York and then between 1924 and 1932 in Paris, where he was influenced by Auguste Rodin’s works. In 1932 he moved to Split and then in 1936 to Zagreb. At first he modelled realistic portraits, after which he adopted the style of Art Nouveau. He was fascinated by antiquity and the Renaissance on his return to Europe, so he sculpted classical statues in stone and bronze. Modelled in the spirit of Impressionism, his later works include sketches for compositions with a larger number of figures and portraits. During the course of his career, he managed to free himself from the initial influence of Art Nouveau and Meštrović’s stylisations, after which he focused on the ancient ideal of beauty and harmony.
Having shown a special feeling for classical form, Penić sculpted a series of female nudes whose renditions offered inventive solutions. Featuring accents of light on its smooth surfaces of full volume, his finely modelled A Female Torso sculpture from 1928 underscores rather uniquely the beauty of line and the richness of form.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Gabriel Jurkić (1886-1974)
The Passage to Eternity, 1918
oil on canvas, 103.5×200 cm
MG-7358

Painter Gabrijel Jurkić (1886-1974) studied painting in Zagreb (at painters Bela Čikoš Sesija and Menci Clement Crnčić’s private art school, and the College of Arts and Crafts) and in Vienna at the Academy of Fine Arts, and attended Polish painter Kazimierz Pochwalski’s master classes. His early painting oeuvre features the aesthetics of Symbolism and is evidently influenced by the work of the Italian painter Giovanni Segantini, while his later paintings are closer to Realism and plein-air painting bathed in sunshine. He lived and worked in Sarajevo, after which he moved to the Gorica Franciscan Monastery in Livno.

Under a vast starry sky, the night landscape of a flower meadow features a winged angel in white at the foot of a lit stone staircase. All the elements of Gabriel Jurkić’s The Passage to Eternity painting from 1918 validate the programme of European Symbolism: his choice of theme, his divisional technique of elongated brushstrokes, his use of unclear, mixed hues of colour, and his use of a suggestive, dramatic contrast between light and dark.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Grga Antunac (1906-1970)

Engineer Dragutin Mandl
1942
ivory
36 mm in diameter
MG-2892-540

A Mother with a Child
1942
ivory
37 mm in diameter
MG-2892-541

Academically trained sculptor Grga Antunac was a respected medallist who created an original oeuvre in both metals and non-metals, such as ivory and wood. His socially engaged medals and plaques feature realistic figurative compositions, as do his visual designs for Yugoslav dinar coins.

What comes to the fore in Antunac’s portrait memorials is his sharp perception thanks to which he was able to portray the most distinctive features of his models. He engraved in ivory a portrait medal of engineer and collector Dragutin Mandl (1892-1959), whose medal and plaque collection forms the backbone of the medal collection of the National Museum of Modern Art. The facial features of Dragutin Mandl’s left-side profile are ascetically clean, with the focus being on the most prominent details of his face. Antunac’s Engineer Dragutin Mandl medal from 1942 is a brilliant example of his mastery of achieving close physical resemblance between his portraits and the portrayed, and at characterising them psychologically.

Antunac modelled his small medals of intimist motifs gently and poetically. He most often engraved treasured motifs on equally treasured material, such as ivory, matching motif with material. On his A Mother with a Child medal also from 1942, the broken folds of clothing are contrasted with the figures’ smoothly modelled featureless faces, thanks to which Antunac created a universal and intimist atmosphere suffused with the strength and tenderness of motherly love. He modelled the motif of a mother holding a child in her arms using clean and gentle lines, and he balanced the relationship between light and shadow, all of which is in harmony with the delicateness of ivory, a most prized material.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Đuro Tiljak (1895-1965)
The Banks of Korana River, 1916
watercolour, pencil on paper, 24.5×23.5 cm
MG-3495

Đuro Tiljak (1895-1965) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, in Moscow under Wassily Kandinsky whose classes he attended in 1919, and in Paris. Besides his work as a critic, editor, school teacher and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, his exhibition-related activities are also important, particularly those related to the Spring Salon during the 1920s and the Earth Association of Artists. He was a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts. Tiljak’s rounded painting oeuvre covers a whole array of styles, ranging from his early refined watercolours through the Magical Realism he embraced in the 1930s to the Poetic Realism featured in his landscapes and dramatic figurations of scenes of war, after all of which he returned to watercolours verging on Abstraction.

Featuring subtle shade nuances of greens, blues and browns, Tiljak’s early The Banks of Korana River watercolour from 1916 is a work of art whose atmosphere is almost lyrical bordering between Abstract and Figurative Art. The richness and the amount of thought Tiljak invested in grading the scene tonally manifest themselves in the inversely proportional ratio of blues and greens in the depiction of canopies along the river bank, i.e. their reflection in the water.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Frano Kršinić
(1897-1982)
Awakening
1928
bronze
MG-1350

Frano Kršinić studied sculpture at the Crafts School in Korčula and at the Sculpture and Stonemasonry School in Hořice in the Czech Republic (1913-1917), and attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (1917-1921). He was one of the founding members of the Earth Association of Artists and a member of the Independent Collective of Croatian Artists. He contributed significantly to the development of contemporary Croatian sculpture with his refined sculpture and unconstrained approach to teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb.
His appearance on Croatia’s sculpture scene marked a break with the tradition of academicist Realism and the ornamentalism of Art Nouveau imbued with feelings of patriotism and national pride typical of the Medulić Association of Croatian Artists, whose main protagonist was sculptor Ivan Meštrović. Thanks to his condensed visual elements, calm line, balanced building of mass, and idealisation and spiritualisation of forms, Kršinić succeeded in assimilating creatively the elements of Czech sculptor Jan Štursa’s art in the way in which Kršinić conceptualised and composed his motifs and French sculptor Aristide Maillol’s synthesis of form, akin to the classics and spirit of the Mediterranean tradition. These characteristics are best seen in a series of Kršinić’s female nudes and figurative compositions. He also sculpted a number of representative monuments and portraits in stone and bronze, terracotta pieces and modelled commemorative medals.
Having elaborated in numerous versions the motif of graceful maiden figures in a standing pose and sensual larger female figures in a sitting or reclining pose, Frano Kršinić created anthological works of art, one of which is his Awakening sculpture from 1928 here presented.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Pavao Perić

(1907-1978)

Girls

1941

terracotta

MG-1440

Pavao Perić graduated in 1927 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he was taught by leading Croatian sculptors of the time, and was most influenced by sculptors Robert Frangeš-Mihanović and Frano Kršinić.

Perić sculpted in terracotta, bronze, stone and wood. He modelled a series of small female sculptures of local features mostly in terracotta, while in bronze and stone he sculpted many realistic and lyrical female portraits and memorial monuments. Inspired by archaic forms, he also tried his hand at wooden reliefs and sculptures. His original and rounded sculptural oeuvre is indisputably part of the tradition of modern Croatian sculpture.

Having modelled them either more expressively or more gracefully in typical poses, Pavao Perić developed his original sculptural concept best in his series of terracotta sculptures of women from the region of Dalmatian Zagora featuring accentuated volumes and gestures. In his Girls sculpture from 1941, Perić modelled two rural girls transforming them into refined small figurines of folklore idealisation, featuring long and richly pleated dresses, and beautified faces. In a contrapposto pose, the two girls exude an aura of calm inner concentration and youthful rapture.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Ljubo Babić (1890-1974)
Christ, 1918
oil on canvas, 76×76 cm
MG-4279

Painter and art historian Ljubo Babić (1890-1974) was a key figure in Croatian culture and art. After having graduated from the Transitional Advanced School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, where he was taught by painter and Professor Menci Clement Crnčić, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He also graduated in art history from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. He taught at the Transitional Advanced School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, which was later transformed into the Academy of Fine Arts, and was the director of the National Museum of Modern Art in Zagreb and a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

The square format of Ljubo Babić’s Christ painting from 1918 shows the stylised and geometrised figure of the dead body of Christ laid out diagonally and wrapped in a cloth up to his neck. With his eyes closed, Christ’s head is depicted with a halo, a symbol of holiness. Only one other thing stands out in the plain and empty background – an elongated jug to the right of Christ’s head. Being a symbol of martyrdom, a crown of thorns is placed in the lower part of the painting to the right of Christ’s feet. The painting blends expressionist tendencies with the remnants of Art Nouveau, the latter of which was typical of the monumentalism of the Medulić Association of Croatian Artists. The said parallelism between Expressionism and Art Nouveau marked the first stage of Croatia’s Spring Salon in the period between 1916 and 1919.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Mihael Stroy (1803-1871)
A Portrait of Senator Kavić, 1839
oil on canvas, 34×24 cm
MG-65

Slovenian painter Mihael Stroy was one of those foreign painters whose stay in Croatia had a significant impact on Croatia’s cultural and creative milieu. He ended up in Croatia together with a generation of young enthusiasts at a time when feelings of patriotism and national pride were booming. He enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1822, at a time of Vienna’s decline in artistic creativity and of the emergence of Biedermeier, an original art movement and style of the bourgeoisie closely linked to the Austrians’ mentality and milieu. Biedermeier was a heterogeneous style that made use of elements of Classicism, Romanticism and Realism. Stroy moved from Vienna to Zagreb as early as 1830 and stayed in Zagreb until 1842. He painted portraits across Croatia, at the castles and manors of Croatia’s northern region of Zagorje, and the towns of Varaždin and Samobor. Whilst in Croatia, he produced some eighty paintings of unequal quality, portraits, allegories of four continents for Trakošćan Castle and several sacral compositions.
From amongst his often typified portraits featuring fashionable details and elegant figure placements, Mihael Stroy’s A Portrait of Senator Kavić from 1839 kept at the National Museum of Modern Art is to be singled out as one of the pinnacles of Stroy’s achievements in portraiture during his stay in Zagreb. The way light radiates from the incarnadine skin tones and from the dark brown hair of the senator lends a certain liveliness to the official portrait. The richness of his blacks which are shaded to depict different materials and which contrast with the whiteness of the senator’s shirt indicates that Stroy possessed perfect mastery of painterly techniques. What is more, the red velvet armchair is complementary to the green background. Stroy brought to life the portrait of this classically placed senator with the help of his colour-specific virtuosity and creativity.
Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Miroslav Kraljević (1885-1913)
A Bon Vivant (a portrait of Arsen Masovčić), 1912
oil on canvas, 91.5×65.5 cm
MG-771

After having lived and studied in Gospić, Zagreb and Vienna, in 1906 Miroslav Kraljević moved to Munich, where in May 1907 he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under Prof. Hugo von Habermann. At the academy in Munich he socialised with Croatian painters Josip Račić and Vladimir Becić (the three became known as the Munich Circle). After he completed his studies in Munich, Kraljević returned to Požega in 1910 and painted intensively until September 1911, when he moved to Paris, where he enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, which he soon left. He first worked at Meštrović’s studio and then at his own in Montparnasse. He published caricatures in the satirical magazine Panurge. In 1912 he had his first and only solo exhibition set up at the Ullrich Salon in Zagreb. He died of tuberculosis in 1913.

Miroslav Kraljević’s A Bon Vivant painting from 1912 is a waist-up portrait of a seated figure of a young man dressed in a black dandy suit, a white shirt, a bow tie, a top hat and a cane. The motif reflects the urban milieu and lifestyle of the person portrayed. The painting is dominated by grey hues featuring a red accent on the armchair, with the brushstrokes visible and smeary. The way Kraljević treated the figure’s facial features creates the impression of an expressionist mask.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Petar Smajić (1910-1985)
Lovers / Adam and Eve
1936
wood
MG-4453

Petar Smajić was a self-taught Croatian Naive sculptor. He carved in wood themes from everyday life, biblical scenes and symbolic compositions in pure and clear forms. He exhibited his work with the Earth Association of Artists as a guest exhibitor and was a founding member of the Naive Sculptors’ Colony in Ernestinovo, which has been active since 1973. Solo exhibitions of his work were set up in Osijek, Split and Zagreb.

Smajić modelled in wood static and flat human figures, heads, animals and symbolic figurative compositions featuring his unique and unusual feeling for the existential and the anecdotal. During his stay in Dalmatia, he sculpted small statues featuring stylised details, a good example of which is his Lovers / Adam and Eve sculpture from 1936. After he returned to Slavonia in 1941, his focus shifted towards static figures of reduced volume (e.g., Eva, post-1954).

During what is referred to as Smajić’s Dalmatian period when his artistic creation of refined simplicity and pure form reached its peak, this self-taught artist neared the postulates of Modernism. Smajić’s sublime figurative composition of Lovers / Adam and Eve of a rudimentary form from his early Dalmatian period of woodcarvings presents two tightly modelled figures of a peasant couple nestling their heads, shoulders and chests against one another. Adam’s left arm is wrapped around Eve’s neck and they both radiate archaic beauty.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Miroslav Kraljević (1885-1913)

A Garter

1910

terracotta

MG-786

Miroslav Kraljević was a Croatian painter, graphic artist and sculptor, who studied in Vienna, Munich and Paris. Having been a member – together with painters Josip Račić and Vladimir Becić – of what was dubbed the Munich Circle, he is considered to be one of the pioneers of modern painting in Croatia.

 

After having graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, he moved to Požega in June 1910 to stay with his family, after which he left for Paris in September 1911. During his stay in Požega, he created realistic sculptures, such as a portrait of his niece Ivana, relief portraits of Požega-born writers Janko Jurković, Josip Eugen Tomić and Vjekoslav Babukić, and a portrait plaque of his father.

 

Kraljević’s creative power in sculpture is primarily reflected in his figurative compositions of rural women and men prone to debauchery, good examples of which are his A Fight and Drunkards sculptures. He modelled these dynamic small sculptures in terracotta, given that terracotta is the most pliable medium to present detailed observations of sequences of debauched human nature.

 

Kraljević’s A Garter sculpture from 1910 precedes these two sculptures. It is a sculpture of a woman of a pronouncedly raw sensuality with a flirtatious attitude featuring minimal portrait traits, a diabolical smile on her face, high cheekbones and a square chin. Kraljević continued to elaborate the form of this mature coquette from Požega in a twisted body posture wearing a domed crinoline in his many Parisian drawings of women.

 

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Robert Frangeš-Mihanović (1872-1940)
A Philosopher
1897
bronze
MG-588

Robert Frangeš-Mihanović was a prominent modern Croatian sculptor and medallist, who studied in Vienna (1889-1895) and Paris (1900-1901), where he became friends and socialised with Auguste Rodin and Medardo Rosso. He was one of the founders of the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (1907), and was amongst the first instigators and promoters of artistic life in Zagreb.
Frangeš-Mihanović was a master at, first and foremost, bronze sculpture, although he was just as skilful at working with marble, a fine example of which is his portrait bust of Saint Dominic from 1893.
The different stages of development of his career featured different styles, ranging from Academicism through Symbolism to Modernism, i.e. the earliest instances of Impressionism in Croatian sculpture. His mature work reveals his own expression featuring Realism in his unrestrained modelling of figures.
In the initial stage of his career (1893-1914), he succeeded in harmonising the stylistic features and elements of Art Nouveau, Symbolism and Impressionism, which is why the works he modelled then are considered to be of the highest quality in his entire oeuvre.
Frangeš-Mihanović’s A Philosopher sculpture is from this period. It is a study of his that he did for his Philosophy relief, the most original of the four allegories he modelled for four buildings of the University of Zagreb. Philosophy adorns the Golden Hall of what was then the palace of the government’s Department of Worship and Teaching (10 Opatička Street in Zagreb’s Upper Town), headed by his patron (and art historian, politician, painter and writer) Izidor Kršnjavi.
The form of Frangeš-Mihanović’s A Philosopher is compact and is modelled in the spirit of Rodin’s concise representation of a powerful inner substance.
Translated by: Ana Janković

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922)
A Portrait of Hugo Vasilij Hoyos, 1895
oil on canvas, 145×98 cm
MG-299

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922) is considered to be the father of Modernism in Croatia. In his childhood, his inquisitive and adventurous spirit took him to the USA. Thanks to pan-Slavicist writer Medo Pucić and Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, he attended École des beaux-arts in Prague. His style of painting was influenced by Alexandre Cabanel, an eclectic painter of history paintings and religious compositions in the spirit of Academicism, which was considered to be official at the time. With time, he became acquainted with Impressionism and Orientalism, and developed his artistic expression drawing from Realism, Impressionism and occasionally Symbolism. After having completed his studies in 1880 and thanks to the successes he achieved at the Salons in Paris, he set up a studio in Paris. He painted in Dalmatia and the UK concurrently, and in 1893 he settled in Zagreb, where in 1895 he initiated the construction of the Art Pavilion. In opposition to Croatian painter, art historian, curator and politician Izidor Kršnjavi’s Croatian Art Society founded in 1879, in 1897 Bukovac founded the Society of Croatian Artists inviting artists to paint plein-air, which gave impetus to the development of Modernism in Croatia. Under his influence, painters started using a lighter palette and rejecting the brown hues that dominated galleries at the time. As a result, a variant of Croatian realist painting of bright colours was birthed and soon became known as The Colourful School of Zagreb. Because of his disagreement with Kršnjavi, Bukovac first moved to Cavtat in 1898 and then to Prague in 1903 to teach at the Academy of Fine Arts there.
Vlaho Bukovac’s most prolific period was what is referred to as his Zagreb-based period (1893-1898), which was, in terms of style, a continuation of his Paris-based period of plein-air painting. One of the many portraits he painted in that period is the portrait of the young and elegant Hugo Vasilij Hoyos. Bukovac’s subtle feeling for light hues is evident in the skin tones of Hoyos’s face and the slightly vibrant surface of his suit. The figure of the young man emerges from the dark background featuring a decorative rug painted using tiny brushstrokes, which lends a certain symbolic quality to the painting. Hoyos’s elegant hands and fingers with inconspicuous rings on two are the very pinnacle of Bukovac’s painterly skills.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević,museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Ante Kuduz (1935-2011)
A Frame, 1965
ink on paper
MG-2627

At first glance, Ante Kuduz’s drawing may come across as an avant-garde comic panel or movie synopsis: it’s a series of square frames equal in size organised in a way which is suggestive of linear progression which can remind viewers of a visual story. Each frame is filled with different graphic shapes and no two frames are identical. Kuduz drew in black ink a specific scene in each of the frames. Although each scene is completely self-contained, it nevertheless does have some sort of a relationship with not only those which it directly borders with, but all the other frames too. The title itself of the drawing is yet another element which is reminiscent of the world of movies, but we have to take it metaphorically because, in cinematography, a frame is not only the rectangular outline of a scene, but also indicates the length of shooting, camera operating time between two editing cuts. Accordingly, Kuduz wanted to underscore the dynamic aspect of the drawing, to create the illusion of (the passage of) time in a medium that does not have three dimensions.

Ante Kuduz’s A Frame from 1965 that we are presenting here is part of a series of drawings and graphic sheets of the same name which he created in the period between 1965 and 1972. Over the course of seven years, Kuduz changed the formats of paper, the technology of execution (freehand or mechanical drawing), the shapes created by the interaction between the frames – besides rectangular, he introduced compositions of round shapes too – and even introduced colour into his drawings at some point. However, the one feature that remained essentially unchanged was the square or frame as the basic unit of his scenes.

Ante Kuduz was born in 1935. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1961, where he later worked as a professor. Together with painters Miroslav Šutej, Ivan Picelj, Mladen Galić, Ljerka Šibenik and others, he was a member of the so-called Zagreb School of Serigraphy. He received many awards for his work in the field of graphic arts. He passed away in Zagreb in 2011.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić,curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Dalibor Stošić (1958)
A Cricket (2005-2008)
oak wood, steel
MG-7139

Dalibor Stošić graduated in sculpture in 1985 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Stipe Sikirica. He worked at sculptor Dušan Džamonja’s studio until 1988. He stayed and studied in Italy and France, where he has established himself as an acclaimed contemporary sculptor. He teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb.
Stošić’s striking sculpture oeuvre features a reductionist expression and hard materials, such as wood and metal, which he assembles into different organic forms. His sculptures are compact, of closed geometric forms and refined execution, their assemblage is sturdy and clear, their proportions harmonious and their compositions symmetrical.
Varying his techniques and remodelling his designs, Dalibor Stošić often develops a motif over a longer period of time, examples of which are his An Owl (2007) and A Cricket (2005-2008). He combines the warmth of wood and the coldness of metal in an original way. In his A Cricket, Stošić nailed heavy steel forms to a massive body of oak wood of simple rounded forms, adding to the sculpture its distinctive features with the help of associatively modelled zoomorphic forms bearing the cricket’s recognisable physical traits.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Ivan Kožarić (1921-2020)
Shape of Space XVIII
1965
bronze
MG-2626

Ivan Kožarić, an avant-garde Croatian sculptor, graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1949, and completed Prof. Antun Augustinčić’s master course. In 1959 and 1960 he stayed and studied in Paris. Between 1959 and 1966 he was a member of the unconventional avant-garde Gorgona Group, which brought together the most prominent names in contemporary Croatian art. Several of his sculptures are mounted in public spaces, amongst which his monument to writer Antun Gustav Matoš and his Landed Sun in Zagreb are the most famous.
Since the very beginning of his career as an artist, his sculptural expression has fluidly encompassed a wide array of expressions, ranging from expressiveness, condensed forms to conceptual projects. He experimented with different materials and techniques, and introduced the principles of redesign and recycling of various everyday items and his own sculptures. He modelled a number of emblematic pieces of conceptual openness and originality, often featuring a touch of creative humour.
In the period between 1961 and 1969, Ivan Kožarić modelled a series of abstract sculptures called Shapes of Space displaying his distinct feeling for the values of space. Kožarić’s Shape of Space XVIII sculpture from 1965 is defined by a dominant upright form of soft and rounded surfaces and outlines. The spatial forms contained within and on it – hollowed out deeper and shallower forms – are suggestive of spiritual traces, metaphysical properties and openness of interpretation.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Dragutin Trumbetaš (1938.-2018.)
Around the Furnace & A Mother and a Daughter, 1986
ink on cardboard

The experience of working as a migrant worker in the Federal Republic of Germany decisively influenced the work of Dragutin Trumbetaš, a self-taught painter from Velika Gorica near Zagreb. He worked in publishing in Zagreb until 1966, and his knowledge of different printing techniques was of great help later in his career. He expressed himself mainly through drawing; he would group his drawings and publish them in thematic series. It is from one such thematic series – namely, Life Like a Snake – that we are presenting two drawings. Their central theme is the everyday life of people coming from the lowest social strata. Unlike the artists gathered around the Earth Association of Artists – who were in the interwar period equally devoted to the social problems of both the countryside and the city – Trumbetaš focused almost entirely on the phenomenon of the lumpenproletariat or the lowest stratum of the industrial working class. That this attracted his interest was contributed to mostly by his Gastarbeiter (migrant worker) experience in the Federal Republic of Germany. In other words, his stay in a country that was at the peak of its economic development in the 1970s. The hard life of millions of migrants to West Germany was a lasting source of fascination and inspiration for Trumbetaš.

What we immediately take notice of in his Around the Furnace and A Mother and a Daughter drawings from 1986 is – besides his linear style of drawing – Trumbetaš’s attention to detail. He not only depicted a heap of discarded items and rubbish under a bed or furnace, but also decided to present some of them exactly as they are in reality – to write out their brand name and to show their design so that viewers would not be confused about what these are. This, on the one hand, complexifies the composition and holds viewers’ attention and, on the other, it contextualises the scene historically and geographically. In doing so, Trumbetaš did not lose on the universality of that which is depicted. Despite all the signs that point to the scenes having a historical framework, these drawings do contain a certain universality and it is this universality that lends them a critical quality.

Text:Klaudio Štefančić,curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Menci Clement Crnčić (1865-1930)
Sea, circa 1918
oil on canvas, 64.2×44 cm
MG-457

Painter and graphic artist Menci Clement Crnčić studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna between 1882 and 1884, and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under Prof. Nikolaos Gyzis between 1889 and 1892. After having worked briefly as a painting teacher at the School of Crafts in Zagreb, on the recommendation of painter, art historian, curator and politician Izidor Kršnjavi, in 1894 he was awarded a scholarship to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where he studies graphic arts under Prof. William Unger. He moved back to Zagreb in 1900, where in 1903 – together with painter Bela Čikoš Sesija – he opened a private art school, which first grew into the College of Arts and Crafts, and then into the Academy of Fine Arts, where he taught between 1907 and 1930. He became a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1919. Between 1920 and 1928, he also headed the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters (at today’s Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts) in Zagreb.

Menci Clement Crnčić was not only important for the development of modern graphic arts in Croatia, but was also a prominent seascape painter. Painted in daylight and featuring a skilful and convincing Realism, his marinas resemble bold photographic clippings that capture a wide array of weather conditions, ranging from rain, strong northerlies, easterlies and westerlies to perfectly smooth seas, and their effects on its surface.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Slavko Šohaj (1908-2003)
A Boy II, 1938
oil on canvas, 89×69.7 cm
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Slavko Šohaj’s A Boy II painting from 1938 is an anthological work of Cézanneism in Croatia and represents a sure step along the road to European Modernism. With the help of Cézannesque construction and local colours, Šohaj did not describe a scene, but rather interpreted the atmosphere of his studio, the centre of both his creative universe and universe of life. A compositional and gestural discipline, and a narrow range of motifs and themes are the features of the seven decades of creativity of Šohaj, the ‘last classic of Croatian Modernism’.

Slavko Šohaj studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Vladimir Becić and Prof. Ljubo Babić. After graduation, he stayed and studied in Paris in 1931/32 and in 1939. Having been inspired by the works of Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, Šohaj strove for a painterly synthesis to express his own intimate world. In 1934 and 1935 he exhibited as a guest exhibitor at the exhibitions of The Group of Three (Ljubo Babić, Vladimir Becić and Jerolim Miše). Critics appreciate him as a master of figurative Poetic Realism. He worked as a draughtsman at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb (1935-1965) and exhibited regularly at group exhibitions. His appearance at the Venice Biennale in 1942 won him international acclaim. Although his first ever solo exhibition was held in Paris as early as 1952, it was not until 1968 that Croatia saw the opening of his first solo exhibition in Zagreb. Not having cared much about the post-war trends in art of the 1950s, he befriended and exhibited with Croatian painters Oton Postružnik and Fran Šimunović. He did not care much about the Neo-Avant-Garde of the 1960s and 1970s either. Šohaj’s impressive oeuvre is mainly devoted to intimist themes, self-portraits and portraits, nudes and still lifes. Slavko and his wife, Heda Dubac Šohaj, donated over 150 masterpieces to the National Museum of Modern Art.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Božidar Rašica (1912-1992)
Lapad, Houses, 1934-1936
oil on canvas, 65.5×52 cm
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Božidar Rašica’s Lapad, Houses painting captivates with its vivacious colourist expression. His choice of bright, pure colours and use of energetic, broad and free brushstrokes is what connects young Rašica not only with his Dubrovnik-born peers and colleagues Ivan Ettore and Gabro Rajčević, but also with Croatia’s greatest colour expressionists, such as Ignjat Job.

Božidar Rašica studied architecture in Rome, Belgrade, Warsaw and Zagreb. After he graduated in 1942, he became one of the key creators of Croatia’s post-war modernist architecture featuring high standards in urban design (e.g., the Jadran Film pavilion, the Exportdrvo residential building from the 1950s on Zagreb’s City of Vukovar Street, etc.). He was also active as a painter and stage designer. He began painting in his youth alongside his uncle Marko Rašica, a ‘master of Dubrovnik-based colours’ of the first half of the 20th century. With the course of time, Rašica’s initial palette of glowing colours changed into calming hues. He moved to Zagreb in 1940 when he started nearing Poetic Realism, after which he turned to two-dimensionality and cubist analyses of volume. His compressing form into abstraction culminated in EXAT 51, an avant-garde group of painters and architects that Rašica co-founded together with established artists Ivan Picelj, Aleksandar Srnec, Vlado Kristl, and architect and designer Bernardo Bernardi. In the 1970s, Rašica returned to figurative motifs of intimist moods and powerful colours. In 1952 he got preoccupied with stage designs, many of which unified the stage and the audience with the help of movable stage elements. He taught in Zagreb at the Academy of Applied Arts, the Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Faculty of Architecture.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Stjepan Gračan (1941)
X-1 Group
(a seated figure)
1971
polyester, paint
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Stjepan Gračan graduated and received his master’s degree in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the same year – 1968. He specialised in monumental sculpture after attending Prof. Antun Augustinčić’s master workshop between 1969 and 1971. He has been teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts since 1988.
Gračan was one of the founding members of the Biafra Art Group, which was active between 1970 and 1978. Having embraced expressive and engaged Figurative Art as their expression using naturalist methods and major deformations in their depictions, the group organised exhibitions and actions in non-museum spaces in general and on the streets in particular. Remaining consistent with radical Figurative Art and the message with which he has looked to act on human conscience and emotions, once the Biafra Art Group dissolved Gračan started creating more diverse works. In the context of lives destroyed, he has also been modelling animal figures.
At the beginning of his involvement in the Biafra Art Group, Stjepan Gračan sculpted a series of burnt life-size figures. By using polyester and paint, he created burnt, crushed and melted figures, whose clothing and body surface are coloured, such as his X-1 Group sculpture from 1971. The sculpture aims to bombard the conscience of and prompt spiritual unrest in both individuals and society at large in the face of traumatic existence.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Miroslav Kraljević (1885-1913)
Assassination, 1912
ink on paper
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From amongst the drawings that Miroslav Kraljević created during his one-year stay in Paris – i.e., from September 1911 to October 1912 – his Assassination should be singled out. More specifically, it is not only his only drawing that refers to politics, but is also his only work as such – whether a painting, drawing, sculpture or graphic art – that can be linked more closely to the political and social unrest in Europe at the time. Kraljević did not depict a specific event, although some researchers later tried to link it to the assassination of Croatian Ban Slavko Cuvaj, which took place in May 1912 in Zagreb. Although the assassination of Ban Cuvaj may have indeed motivated Kraljević to draw it, his Assassination is definitely not a depiction of the said event if for no other reason than the fact that Ban Cuvaj was in a car when he was assassinated. Kraljević’s Assassination is an attempt to portray a new form of political, extra-parliamentary struggle rather than a portrayal of an actual event. This is supported by the fact that, whilst in Paris, Kraljević collaborated with Panurge, a satirical magazine whose mission and focus was on current social events. What sets an act of terrorism apart from other forms of violence is that it appears suddenly and is violently acute, and it is precisely these qualities that Kraljević succeeded in depicting. Rearing, frightened horses, a carriage which is unnaturally distorted as if it were a creature pulling away from a revolver pointed at it, and the figure of the assassin whose legs and hand holding the revolver are overemphasised (as if the assassin’s other parts of the body did not exist) are only some of the features of this exceptional drawing.

Miroslav Kraljević was one of the pioneers of modern painting in Croatia. He was born in 1885 in Požega in the region of Slavonia. In 1904 he dropped out of law school in Vienna to be able to devote himself to painting. After having graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, he moved to Paris in 1911. He died in Zagreb in 1913.

Text:Klaudio Štefančić,curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Mirko Rački (1879-1982)
The City of Dis, 1906
oil on canvas, 124×170 cm
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Symbolist painters loved themes from literature in general, and from Dante’s oeuvre in particular. Dante’s work inspired many Croatian painters – Vlaho Bukovac, amongst others – but it exerted most influence over the work of Mirko Rački (1879-1982), who started to get preoccupied with Dante at the suggestion of painter Izidor Kršnjavi, who translated The Divine Comedy at that time. For the Croatian translation, Rački produced a series of illustrations and several large painting adaptations. Rački centred on The Divine Comedy almost his entire life and career. Interestingly, the drawings, gouaches and watercolours that he produced between 1904 and 1907 for Izidor Kršnjavi’s translation were all purchased in 1911 at an exhibition in Italy and can today be found at the Department of Prints and Drawings in Florence.

Dante’s City of Dis exerted a powerful influence on Western philosophical thought. Surrounded by iron walls guarded by fallen angels, it divides the sins of the first five circles of hell from the sin of heresy of the sixth circle, and the River Styx from the River Phlegethon. Rački drew a sketch of his The City of Dis in 1906 during his stay in Venice. In a typically symbolist manner, it depicts Dante and Virgil crossing a river in a boat as they make their way towards the deepest circle of hell. Painted in dark and indistinct tones of colour, the horizontal composition features the motif of a boatman on a river, with mist over the waters of the river infusing the painting’s aglow atmosphere.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić copyright National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Ljubo Babić (1890-1974)
My Native Land, 1936
oil on canvas, 180×150 cm
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Ljubo Babić’s My Native Land painting from 1936 is a paradigm of the creative and theoretical effort he put during the 1930s into affirming the values and specificities of Croatia and its people, and into involving Croatian culture in what was at the time the contemporary European context. Seeking to distance himself from the complex socio-political state of affairs – including the then current ideology of the Earth Association of Artists – Babić underscored the need for artistic idealisation and individual values close to the social class of the bourgeoisie. He recognised in some of his landscapes typical national elements on which he built his expression which he defined as “ours and genuine, and at the same time appropriate for today’s Europe”. In wanting to affirm the idea of ‘Croatian homeland’, he further elaborated the importance of the theme of landscape based on an earlier series of his inspired by a trip he took to Spain in 1920.

Ljubo Babić graduated from the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He later also studied in Paris and graduated in art history in Zagreb in 1932. Having been a painter, set and costume designer, graphic artist, art teacher and critic, art historian, museologist, writer and editor, Babić played a pivotal role in Croatia’s 20th century culture and art. He participated in the founding of Croatia’s Spring Salon, the Independent Group of Croatian Artists, the Group of Four, the Group of Three, the Group of Croatian Artists and Croatian Artists. Having been the first curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, he authored the first permanent exhibition set up in 1920 at what was then and is today the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb. In wanting to present the complex development of Croatian art of the 19th and 20th centuries, in 1948 he conceived, designed and authored the first ever permanent exhibition set up at the National Museum of Modern Art, for the purposes of which the building that today houses the national museum was fully renovated.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić,senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Vjekoslav Parać
(1904-1986)
At the Park, 1930
watercolour on paper

In a letter to a friend in Croatia from Paris, Vjekoslav Parać writes that “Sometimes my passion stirs me to work, but it all ends when I get out into the boulevard. And then cars, electricity, girls, all that life, the hustle and bustle dispel the thought of painting.” Moving to Paris was an exceptional episode in the lives of many European artists, at least until the second half of the 20th century, and particularly for artists from the periphery of Europe. Vjekoslav Parać was one such artist. He was born in 1904 in the town of Solin in Dalmatia. He enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1922, and in 1929 he moved – as a scholarship holder of the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes – to Paris, where he stayed for two years.

In trying to somehow “catch” or show the motives that fascinated him so much – streets, squares, nightclubs, acquaintances; in a word, metropolitan life – Vjekoslav Parać started to produce an increasing number of drawings and watercolours. When the theme that he painted was traditional such as a still life, Parać would stage it in front of a window overlooking the city. His At the Park watercolour from 1930 indicates perhaps best what Parać was preoccupied with at the time – how to depict by means of painting the everyday experiences of the residents of a metropolis? Everything in this painting is subordinated to a passing moment – Parać first sketched the scene in ink defining it only roughly, a priest, a man walking a dog, people sitting on a bench, trees, after which he finished it by applying colour, the sole purpose of which was to highlight what he quickly sketched in ink. Ink and watercolour, and the way in which Parać used them, correspond perfectly with the impression of movement, more precisely with the moment when the figures of the priest and the man walking a dog walk past each other. To depict this everyday and typically urban scene, Parać had to reject the rule of foreshortening – although closer to the viewer, the priest is considerably shorter than the man walking a dog behind him. However, the sense of movement is still there, with one insignificant moment in the life of the city having been recorded.

Text:Klaudio Štefančić,curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Oton Iveković
A Forest, 1900
oil on canvas, 80.7×66 cm
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Oton Iveković (1869-1939) studied painting in Zagreb under painter Ferdo Quiquerez, then from 1886 in Vienna under painters Christian Griepenkerl and August Eisenmenger, and finally in Munich under Wilhelm von Lindenschmit the Younger and in Karlsruhe under painter Ferdinand von Keller. He worked as a drawing teacher at a grammar school in Zagreb, from 1895 at the School of Crafts and from 1908 at the College of Arts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts). In 1908, Iveković was elected as president of the Lada Croatian Artists’ Association. He travelled across Croatia, Italy, Germany and the USA, and during World War I he worked as a war artist. Besides Menci Clement Crnčić, Iveković is considered to be one of the most prominent representatives of Historicism in Croatia, particularly of patriotically inspired and inspirited History Painting. Towards the end of his life, he retreated to the fortress of Veliki Tabor in Croatia’s north-western region of Zagorje.

The popularity of Oton Iveković as a history painter has often pushed into the background his exceptional talent for and achievements in depicting realistically the atmosphere of one of the seasons in his landscapes. One of the most beautiful examples of this is his A Forest from 1900, which is a simple vertical composition divided into three parts: the upper third of the painting is a depiction of a grey and foggy autumn sky, the central third is occupied by the red hues of forest leaves in autumn, and the lower third depicts a grass-covered clearing in front of the forest in dark greens and light ochres.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Anton Dominik Fernkorn
1813 – 1878

St. George Slaying the Dragon
1853
bronze
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Ban Josip Jelačić
1863
bronze
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Anton Dominik Fernkorn was Vienna’s leading foundryman and sculptor in the mid-19th century. He attended the Arts and Crafts School in his native Erfurt and moved to Munich in 1835 to specialise in Munich’s foundries. He established himself as a sculptor upon his arrival in Vienna in 1940. Modelled in the vein of Historicism, Fernkorn’s most prominent sculptures are his monumental equestrian statues, such as St. George Slaying the Dragon from 1853 and Ban Josip Jelačić from 1863, both modelled in bronze and both of whose studies are kept in the holdings of the National Museum of Modern Art.

Fernkorn’s St. George Slaying the Dragon is a historicist sculpture and an elegant dynamic composition of a knight raising his sword on a rearing horse and a dragon beneath the horse. Modelled in the Neo-Baroque style, the equestrian sculpture is a public monument located at Zagreb’s Republic of Croatia Square facing the Museum of Arts and Crafts.

Fernkorn’s Ban Josip Jelačić is a neoclassical portrait figure of the ban and the figure of a galloping horse. It features realistic details and is infused with a romanticised atmosphere in memory of Ban Josip Jelačić, a military leader and national hero who fought off the insurgents that rose against the Habsburg Monarchy in 1848. The monument is positioned at Zagreb’s central square, the Ban Josip Jelačić Square.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Leo Junek (1899-1993)
A Self-Portrait in Front of a Wall, 1927/28
oil on canvas, 50×62 cm
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Flat forms, concise drawing and an open colour scheme helped Leo Junek to underscore in his A Self-Portrait in Front of a Wall from 1927/28 the sense of isolation and hopelessness felt by an individual imprisoned by modern-day anxiety. Together with Krsto Hegedušić, in 1929 Leo Junek initiated the founding of an art collective of a leftist political and social orientation called the Earth Association of Artists, which he parted ways with as early as the closing of their first exhibition in Zagreb in 1929. Although he often used the leitmotif of the Groszian-Krležian red brick typical of the work done by painters gathering around the Earth Association of Artists, Junek did not share the association’s pronounced political and revolutionary ideas or their desire for collective action given that he was devoted entirely to pure painting and Cézanneism. After he withdrew from the association, he treaded a more personal and urban path towards Modernism.

Once he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1925, Leo Junek moved to Paris as a French government scholarship holder and stayed in France for the rest of his life. Junek’s early work is typified by a series of self-portraits of an increasingly pronounced colour scheme. In the early 1930s he painted socially engaged compositions, after which he devoted himself to pure painting and the exploration of space, light and colour. Having been influenced by Raoul Dufy’s Fauvism, Junek painted two-dimensionally using local colours. In the 1940s, he painted masterpieces of a magical colour scheme and started nearing the ideas of Abstract Art and Tachisme. In 1950 he moved to Orsay and painted in the vein of colour-infused Lyrical Abstraction. Although he painted almost his entire oeuvre in France and had only four solo exhibitions set up in Croatia, Junek’s works and friendships exerted a significant influence on painting in Croatia, particularly in the interwar period.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Bela Čikoš Sesija
Athens and Psyche, 1898
oil on canvas, 73.7×34 cm
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Bela Čikoš Sesija (1864-1931) was one of the leading representatives of Symbolism in Croatia. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna under Prof. Julius Victor Berger and Prof. Leopold Karl Müller, and in Munich where he specialised under Wilhelm von Lindenschmit the Younger. He stayed in Italy twice. The purpose of his stays was to study classical art, which he needed to be able to bring to life Croatian painter, art historian, curator and politician Isidor Kršnjavi’s project of reconstructing and equipping the seat of the Department of Worship and Teaching. His first study stay took place in April 1892 when he travelled to Venice, Padua and Florence, while his second study stay was to the surroundings of Naples during 1893/94, when he painted plein-air landscape studies in the tradition of those embarking on the then fashionable Grand Tour. After having returned to Zagreb, Bela Čikoš Sesija collaborated with painter Vlaho Bukovac, which his Bukovac Painting His Gundulić Contemplating Osman Painting from 1894 is evidence of. He then attended American-born German painter Carl von Marr’s school in Munich, after which in 1895 he returned to Zagreb, where he stayed and painted for the rest of his life. In 1907 Čikoš Sesija started working as an art teacher at the College of Arts and Crafts, which transformed into the Academy of Fine Arts in 1921.
Bela Čikoš Sesija’s Athens and Psyche composition from 1898 is confirmation of the tendency of Symbolism towards an atmosphere of transitional, undefined states. The mysterious, supernatural atmosphere of the painting is expressed by vaguely drawn outlines and the cool blues of the ambience suggestive of infinity and spirituality.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Vilko Gecan (1894-1973)

A Cynic, 1921

oil on canvas, 110.5×99 cm

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Vilko Gecan’s A Cynic from 1921 points paradigmatically to the specificity of the way that Expressionism was conceived by Croatian artists in the 1920s. The young man in the painting is reading Der Sturm, a German art and literary magazine that played a key role in promoting Expressionism in both German speaking countries and Croatia.

The grimace that distorts the painter’s face beyond recognition, his dramatic gesture and body in spasm were undoubtedly inspired by German expressionist cinema and theatre. Thanks to Gecan having been a big fan of the 1920 German silent horror film Dr Caligari’s Cabinet, the painting radiates anxiety, which is built with the motifs of a sloping floor and an oversized table. In it, everything serves to facilitate expression – besides displaying a dramatic contrast between light and shadow, the composition is unstable featuring manifold perspectives.

Preceded by numerous drawings, A Cynic was first exhibited at The Spring Salon in Zagreb in 1921. One of the drawings was previously published in the avant-garde magazine Zenit published and edited by Serbian poet Ljubomir Micić, who underscored – despite claims that “there is no real Expressionism in our milieu” – the quality of Gecan’s drawings and etchings from his Clinic and Slavery in Sicily series inspired by his difficult experience of World War I.
After having spent three years in captivity on Sicily and after having volunteered to fight on the Macedonian Front, Gecan joined Milivoj Uzelac in 1919 in his move to Prague, where the two were taught by painter Jan Preisler. After his studies in Prague, he lived and worked in Zagreb, Berlin, New York and Chicago. Once he returned to Croatia in 1932, he painted intimist compositions featuring a strong colour scheme.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković
©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Josip Račić (1885-1908)

A Cafe on a Boulevard, 1908

watercolour on paper

Besides Miroslav Kraljević, Oskar Herman and Vladimir Becić, Josip Račić was one of the pioneers of Modernism in Croatian painting. He was born in Zagreb in 1885, where he studied lithography. In 1904 he moved to Munich, where he first attended Anton Ažbe’ school of painting and where in 1905 he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts to study painting. The watercolours he created in Paris are a special segment of his oeuvre. Intoxicated by its allure, Račić moved to Paris without having first completed his studies at Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts. He frequented the Louvre, produced copies of the old masters, absorbed Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, and indulged in the dynamics of city life. In addition to portraits, he started to paint typical Parisian motifs more and more often: bridges, parks, cafes, boulevards, etc. A Cafe on a Boulevard is Račić’s perhaps most famous watercolour.

What draws viewers’ attention in this night scene is, first and foremost, a contrast between the light coming from the inside of the cafe and the semi-darkness that dominates the pavement walked on by passers-by. The faces of the passers-by and their clothing or its details are not defined – all in the painting is subordinated to the contrast between light and semi-darkness, and to the special rhythm that Račić achieved with a series of illuminated windows on the facade of the building on the one hand, and a line of passers-by on the pavement on the other. What makes A Cafe on a Boulevard exceptional is Račić’s perspective with which he built the scene. The cafe itself and the passers-by are positioned in the background, while the foreground is occupied by the semi-darkness of the pavement. It is in this semi-darkness, in this empty space, that we can imagine the painter observing the scene which he is so close to – literally across the street! – and yet which he is so clearly detached from. Moreover, it is in this space we can imagine ourselves as we observe the world around us, half-present, half-distant.

Texst: Klaudio Štefančić, curator of the National Museum of Moder Art ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Foto: Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Ivan Zasche (1825-1863)

A Forest, s. a.

oil on cardboard, 48×38 cm

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Ivan Zasche was one of the first and most important painters with a formal education in painting who arrived and stayed in Zagreb at the invitation of Archbishop Juraj Haulik (1788-1869), for whom he produced drawings and a lithographic map called Park Jurjaves. Park vedutas featuring picturesque depictions of specific individuals were a peculiarity of landscape painting characteristic of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In his A Forest painting, Zasche used the same method of first drawing plein-air studies of nature, a segment of which he then painted in his studio, to which he added a small human figure. The landscape depicts a withered oak tree surrounded by young trees and a figure of a woman bent while carrying a load, the latter of which reinforces the metaphor of the transience of life and conveys a sense of proportion.

Zasche’s appearance in Zagreb in the mid-1850s and 1860s brought a touch of metropolitan class and introduced Zagreb to the artistic quality of Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts. Thanks to his exceptional talent, Zasche turned the non-existence of an arts scene in Zagreb to his advantage by having gradually freed himself from the strict rules, methods and approach of Academicism, and by having started to paint portraits, landscapes, scenes from everyday life and sacral compositions. Zasche was an exceptional painter of his time in Croatia’s social and cultural milieu – he was the first to have painted landscapes and scenes from everyday life besides portraits and sacral scenes, which were usual motifs at the time. It is very likely that he had been given impetus for this early on by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1793-1865), a free-spirited Biedermeier painter and Professor at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, who encouraged his students to draw plein-air studies of nature, which facilitated their exploration of a more personal visual expression.

Text:  Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Marin Studin

1895-1960

Melody

1919

bronze

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Croatian sculptor and medallist, Marin Studin, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Vienna and Prague, and under Antoine Bourdelle in Paris (1921-1922). In the interwar period, he was an art teacher at secondary schools, and then at the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade and Zagreb.

Inspired by folk art, Studin developed a unique style by the later stage of his career. He modelled expressionist biblical compositions and figures of fishermen, peasants and shepherds in stone and wood. After World War II, he created large-scale reliefs in wood expressing the terror and suffering of casualties of war, and public monuments in stone. Studin also modelled several sports medals and a plaque with the figure of a saint. Featuring a finely executed wrinkled male face, his bronze plaque An Old Man from 1913 is a sunken relief of a pronounced linearity.

Marin Studin modelled his stylised allegorical Melody bust at the beginning of his career (i.e., in 1919), when – under the influence of sculptor Ivan Meštrović – he sculpted works in the tradition of Art Nouveau, featuring pronounced expression and inspired by universal human symbolism.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Julije Knifer (1924-2004)

Composition VII, 1959

oil on canvas, 64.5×98 cm

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The meander is an anthological motif of the oeuvre of Julije Knifer, one of Croatia’s most important 20th century painters. Firmly fixed by the frame of his paintings, and painted in black and white surfaces equal in size and importance, the meander had been Knifer’s only theme since 1959. Knifer’s entire oeuvre is defined by his abstractionist reduction to one single motif, his systematic treatment of the motif of meander, and the consistency of repetition of the rhythm of the meander as the continuity of space-time. Knifer adopted the term meander ideated by art historian and critic Igor Zidić. Pronounced absurdity, paradox and irony brought Knifer closer to the ideas of what became in 1959 the Gorgona Group of Croatian Neo-Avant-Garde artists and art historians (1959-1965), which he was a founding member of. In 1961 he participated in the first exhibition of the New Tendencies art movement. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1956 (under Prof. Đuro Tiljak) and earned a master’s degree under Prof. Antun Mejzdić. His strict and repetitive non-psychological Self-portraits (1949-1952) and drawings of Stenjevec (1952) – behind the motif of which the structure of the meander is observable – are the prototypes of his anti-painting, which is what he calls the meander in the 1960s in his diary-like Records. Julije Knifer’s Composition VII from 1959 features a vertical and minimalist arrangement of upright rectangles in grey, black and white. According to art historian and critic Zvonko Maković, a range of influences is recognisable in Knifer’s system of uniform, monotonous rhythm – from Existentialism and Absurdism, to Kazimir Malevich and Paul Cézanne. One of Knifer’s favourite artists – which is no coincidence – was Piero della Francesca. By having increased the dimensions of the meander, he also designed ambient installations, such as the one executed in Tübingen in 1975. In the 1970s, he moved to and exhibited in Germany and France, and in 2002 he won the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture. He was also a passionate football fan.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Marko Rašica (1883-1963)

Melancholia, 1906

oil on cardboard, 34.6×34.3 cm

MG-6807

Dubrovnik-born Marko Rašica (1883-1963) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1907, where he was influenced significantly by Art Nouveau, Gustav Klimt and Prof. Rudolf Bacher. During his stay in Vienna, Rašica turned to melancholic and Dantean themes, which were characteristic of the literary and artistic movement of Symbolism at the turn of the century. Rašica’s Melancholia composition dates from this period, i.e. from 1906. The painting’s square format is divided horizontally into two parts: the upper part is occupied by a red sky at dusk and the lower by stone benches in purple hues. With her head lowered, shoulders drooping and arms crossed in her lap, a nude is seated diagonally (from the upper left to the lower right corner) covering the entire height of the painting and wrapped in a dark shadow suggestive of anxiety. The fact that he exhibited his work at the Imperial Austrian Exhibition in London in 1906 enhanced Rašica’s reputation amongst his colleagues and the Viennese aristocracy. He exhibited in Zagreb, stayed in Ljubljana, Munich, Italy, Dubrovnik, Prague, Paris and the Netherlands, and lived in Zagreb between 1910 and 1917.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović©National Museum of modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of modern Art, Zagreb

 

TOMISLAV BUNTAK

(1971)

Deposition from the Cross, 2006

acrylic on canvas, 200×180 cm

MG-7165

Tomislav Buntak (1971) is one of Croatia’s most established postmodern figurative painters and draughtsmen. His basic artistic principle is citation, which he uses to transfigure methods and motifs from the visual legacy of mankind, literature, pop culture and comics aiming to preserve and deepen them. Buntak’s commitment to Figurative Art and his exploration of painting and drawing techniques dates from times that were averse to such visual expression and has persisted to date when it is contemporary, thus making room for new generations of artists. Both his drawings and paintings feature two-part and three-part shading. The arrangement of light and shadow in his Deposition from the Cross painting from 2006 is also divided into several parts. Buntak’s postmodern mannerism echoes with the mannerism of Jacopo Pontormo’s Deposition from the Cross (1525-1528). His originality manifests itself in his limited colour palette, the monumentality and pathos of the composition, the figurativeness and elongated proportions of the figures, and the simultaneousness of the sequences of removing Christ from the Cross and carrying Him. Paintings, drawings and murals featuring site-specific ultraviolet lighting are Buntak’s speciality. The ones he executed at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka (2004), at the MoMA PS1 contemporary art centre in New York (2005) and at the Art Pavilion in Zagreb (2008) should be singled out. He graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1997 in the class of Prof. Miroslav Šutej. He has won numerous awards and his works are in the holdings of leading Croatian museums and galleries. He has been the president of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists and the Dean of the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb since 2018. Tomislav Buntak’s monograph by art historian and critic Branko Franceschi was published in 2012 by the Fraktura publishing house.

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

FERDINAND KULMER

(1925-1998)

Pegasus’s Garden

1984

acrylic on canvas, 195×390 cm

MG-4270

Ferdinand Kulmer (1925-1998) was a modernist and postmodernist painter who changed styles at Mercury’s speed of travel. He is a descendant of the noble Kulmer family – Styrian barons who moved to Croatia in the 18th century. From amongst his relatives, lawyer and politician Franjo Kulmer (19th century) was the most influential. Art historian and critic Tonko Maroević drew a comparison that pinpoints the very essence of Kulmer’s life – more specifically, Picasso first painted and then bought castles, while with Ferdinand Kulmer it was the other way around. He studied painting during WWII and in the post-war period: in Budapest from 1942 and in Zagreb until 1948 (under Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Omer Mujadžić), and worked as an associate at Krsto Hegedušić’s Master Workshop until 1957. During the course of his three-decade long career as an artist, the range of styles that he painted in is impressive, with the styles always up-to-date and fused into a hybrid of sorts – from (post)fauvist Figurative Art and Picasso, Abstract Art (from 1957), Art Informel, Tachisme, monochrome painting with elements of Action Painting and calligraphy, to postmodern New Figuration in the 1980s. In the 1960s, he was close to gestural Art Informel in the vein of Heinrich Hartung and Pierre Soulages, and in the 1970s to Japanese calligraphy.

Ferdinand Kulmer’s Pegasus’s Garden from 1984 presents him as an author who, according to art historian Igor Zidić, “ascended from this earthly realm with winged shoes, ignoring reality, causality”. Kulmer created a phantasmagorical scene of surreal and mythical beauty on a yellow background. The painting’s mystical bestiary features winged Pegasus – the bearer of lightning bolts – in the garden of the muses, with eyes like those of a nocturnal mammal, covering almost half of this dynamic composition. The mysterious hybrid creatures in the swirling garden reflect the energies of myth and dream, the unconscious forces of night, indicating the extent to which we, as both human and animal species, are unconsciously determined by the same energies and forces.

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

KAMILO TOMPA

(1903-1989)

An Audience, 1984

ink on paper

 

Kamilo Tompa (1903-1989) is probably the greatest chronicler of social and cultural life amongst Croatia’s artists. Hundreds of his drawings depict theatre or concert audiences, actors in action, museum exhibitions, funerals of colleagues, concerts, musicians, lectures and the like, most of which relate to Zagreb’s cultural life of the second half of the 20th century. Tompa’s An Audience drawing from 1984 features not only the peculiarity of Tompa’s style, but also the poetics of his work, wherein his motivation should be sought. For instance, given that Tompa drew his figures without character, given that he seems only to have wanted to record their presence in time and space, a comparison could be drawn between Tompa’s entire drawing oeuvre and the literary form of diary. The value of any diary does not lie in extraordinary events, but in the very discipline of recording ordinary experiences, the mere passage of time. It is difficult to count the number of people in this drawing; had he not drawn some men with beards and some women with long hair, the gender of his figures would be unidentifiable; nevertheless, what is evident is that yet another theatre or concert performance took place, a performance attended by Tompa himself as well. In other words, with this drawing, he seems to have wanted to say the following: “There was a show (concert, public lecture) and I was there.” And that (to him) is quite enough.

 

Kamilo Tompa graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1928 in the class of Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Vladimir Becić. He also studied art history in Paris. He was a professor at the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb and Head of the Department of Set Design at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb. Tompa was initially, particularly in his drawings, close to the social agenda of the Earth Association of Artists, after which he balanced, in terms of style, between figuration and abstraction.

 

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

DAMIR MATAUŠIĆ

(1954)

Pegasus, 1998

silver-plated bronze, 13x24x17 cm

MG-7158

 

Damir Mataušić graduated in sculpture in 1979 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (under Professor Želimir Janeš), where he has been teaching since 1996.

Mataušić’s sculptures feature a specific expression and a distinct aesthetics, which he has been applying successfully in several mediums of sculpture – ranging from medals, coins, livery collars and honours to small free-standing sculptures, reliefs and public monuments, from intimist and official to public and sacral sculptures displaying Mataušić’s deep perception and exceptional dedication during the process of sculpting. A feature of Mataušić’s work is the use of several types of materials, which are dominated by polished metals modelled with technical precision in inventive compositions. His oeuvre synthesises historical and cultural legacies without depriving artistic creativity of its dignity, wherein lies the value of his work.

Small free-standing sculptures of an intimist poetics, and of dynamic content and playful forms in which he brings to life his genuine perceptions, and an abundance of ideas and associations represent a special segment of Damir Mataušić’s oeuvre. He creates them enthusiastically, like an alchemist of joy. His mobile Pegasus statuette from 1998 is a modernised representation of the mythical winged horse as an amusing combination of the body of this noble animal with the wings of a biplane and wheels on its legs, modelled like a toy in children’s fantasies about flying.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

 

SONJA KOVAČIĆ-TAJČEVIĆ

(1894-1968)

A Study of a Female Nude, 1934

charcoal on paper, 560 x 440 mm

MG-3219

 

Besides Slava Raškaj and Nasta Rojc, Sonja Kovačić-Tajčević was one of the first female artists in Croatia to have received an education at an art academy and to have introduced into the patriarchal culture of art not only a certain manner and style characteristic of every creative individual, but also a certain experience which we can call feminine. Most of her oeuvre is associated with inter-war art movements (Post-Cubism in particular), which is why it is difficult to distinguish the scenes in her paintings from the scenes painted by her male colleagues. A number of her drawings kept in the holdings of the National Museum of Modern Art offer the chance of a different interpretation. Sonja Kovačić-Tajčević’s A Study of a Female Nude from 1934 is just another study in pen, just another portrayal of the naked female body, a motif favoured by male artists. Yet, something in it seems to stand out from similar works drawn by men. The impression is difficult to describe, because the theme is generic and the historical context in which the drawing was created is firmly codified. Does Kovačić-Tajčević’s female perspective hide in the way the model leans, in the pronounced shadow that falls on her right shoulder and the right side of her face, in the light-shadow relationship on the model’s chest and abdomen, in all of this taken together or elsewhere? It is difficult to say, but the interpretation of women’s creativity must be built from somewhere.

 

Sonja Kovačić-Tajčević (1894-1968) studied painting in Zagreb, Graz and Vienna. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1917, and in 1926 she attended a training course in Paris with painter André Lhote. She stayed in Paris for the second time in the period between 1928 and 1934, which she herself regarded as her artistically most prolific period.

 

 

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Zlatko Bourek

(1929-2018)

A Babe from Bizovac, 1980

polyester, papier mâché

MG-6902

 

Sculptor, painter, set and costume designer, and animator Zlatko Bourek graduated in sculpture and metalwork from the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb (under Professor Kosta Angeli Radovani) in 1955. In 1954 he started producing animated films at Zagreb Film. He was one of the founding members of the world-famous Zagreb School of Animation and was the set designer of the cult Professor Balthazar animated series. Having created an original version of Fantastic Realism, he painted figurative compositions with elements of the grotesque, irony and humour.

Painted in blue, yellow and white, and a tricolour belting it, Zlatko Bourek’s sculpture A Babe from Bizovac is an oversized three-legged female figure with pronouncedly long legs and of a grotesque allure. It is modelled as a hybrid of popular and high art. The elegance of the figure’s posture collides with some rough-hewn segments, as is the case with the figure’s carefully modelled legs that are at odds with the sculpture’s massive chests that open like drawers.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

ZLATAN VRKLJAN

(1955)

National Museum of Modern Art (a triptych), 1995

oil on canvas, 130×98 cm (x3)

Zlatan Vrkljan (1955) is a postmodernist of what is referred to as pure perception who treats paintings as material, morphological and illusionist facts. Vrkljan’s painting has absorbed the Avant-Garde, the tradition of both Croatia’s and global Modernism, and High Modernism. He graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1979 in the class of Šime Perić, and worked as an associate at Ljubo Ivančić and Nikola Reiser’s Master Workshop until 1981. He attracted the attention of both audiences and critics already with his first exhibition (Skyscrapers, 1978). He is an original painter who respects tradition, but also creates beyond it like a nomad painter. In the mid-1980s he painted mythological and allegorical themes, after which he gradually rid his palette of colour accents and moved towards monochrome painting (Black Paintings of the 1990s). Vrkljan’s oeuvre has to date been at the crossroads of Figurative and Abstract Art. Being a paraphrase of Ljubo Ivančić’s nudes, Zlatan Vrkljan’s achromatic National Museum of Modern Art triptych from 1995 was mounted between 2005 and 2020 in the stairway of the National Museum of Modern Art, formerly the entrance hall of the palace, and is intended to be a tribute to and the emblem of the National Museum of Modern Art. The triptych features a dynamic perspective, monumental motifs, and both expressive and non-expressive figurative stylisation. Zlatan Vrkljan has been a full member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts since 2014 and a full professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. During the forty or so years of his career as an artist, he has exhibited at numerous solo exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad (Zagreb, Paris, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Sarajevo, Ljubljana). He represented Croatia at the 7th International Cairo Biennale in 1998 and the Venice Biennale in 1999.

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Ljubo Ivančić (1925-2003)

A Self-Portrait (with an Easel), 1958

oil on canvas, 68×53.5 cm

MG 2368

Ljubo Ivančić (1925-2003) is a classic of Croatia’s expressive Figurative and Abstract Art at the crossroads of Existentialist Aesthetics and Art Informel. (Self-)Portraits are a thematic constant of his oeuvre, which is imbued with the tragedy, absurdity and grotesqueness of life. He drew formative inspiration from Croatia’s Mediterranean modernists infused with matter and atmosphere (Emanuel Vidović, Marino Tartaglia, Juraj Plančić, Ignjat Job), and an existentialist charge by interweaving tradition and modernity (Rembrandt, Francisco Goya, Georges Rouault, Francis Bacon). His both achromatic and chromatic palette of colours was at first saturated, heavy and dark, which in the 1970s he brightened up and intensified until the mid-1990s. Elongated, disproportionate and deformed figures of allusive shapes immersed in an evocative ambience are typical features and methods of his portraiture. After having fought in WWII from 1942, he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1949 (Đuro Tiljak’s master class), where he taught (1961-1979) and led the Master Workshop (1975-1984). He became a full member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1991.
Thanks to having placed painterly motifs (a brush, a palette, an easel, a canvas, a line) into the painting and to having applied the painting-within-a-painting principle, Ljubo Ivančić’s A Self-Portrait (with an Easel) from 1958 represents a polarity between his existential angst and physical presence.

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

ANTE RAŠIĆ

(1953)

Awakening, 1984

sheet metal, wire

MG-4274

Ante Rašić graduated in painting in 1977 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (under Professor Nikola Reiser). He worked as an associate at Ljubo Ivančić’s Master Workshop in Zagreb (1977-1978) and at Michel Charpentier’s sculpture studio in Paris (1978-1979). He is one of the founding members of the first Permanent Collective of Freelance Artists called ArTresor (1986) and co-founder of Oris, a magazine for architecture and culture of living (1998). He was the prestigious Rašić Design Studio’s longstanding Creative Director, where he did graphic, industrial and spatial design. He has been teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb since 1995.

Rašić created a wide oeuvre of Primary, Procedural and Conceptual Art using unconventional sculpture methods and techniques featuring original interpretations. His early works are close to the ideas of Arte Povera, Op and Kinetic Art, while his later works include constructivist pieces and ambient installations of dynamic rhythms and associations, all imbued with existentialist reflections.

Ante Rašić’s Awakening sculpture from 1984 is made up of several coarse and roughly cut geometric elements, whose distinctive shapes are assembled roughly. At one end of the Awakening’s base – which is shaped like an arrowhead or signpost cut irregularly from sheet metal – a rectangle representing concentrated weight is positioned. Acting as a counterweight at the other end of the base, an upright flagpole rises high with a swaying flag on top.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Stanko Vrtarić©Stanko Vrtarić

Adolf Waldinger

A Slavonian Forest, s. a.

watercolour, 12×22 cm

MG-2023

 

Adolf Waldinger (1843-1904) was given his first lessons in painting in his native Osijek by Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf, after which in 1861 he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, which he attended for only two semesters. In the following years, he acquired his knowledge of and skill in art in Vienna’s painting studios and during his travels to Bavaria, Austria and northern Italy. In 1869 he returned to Osijek where he worked as a drawing teacher at a grammar school for some time. His absolute romantic commitment to nature and art was the reason why he was misunderstood by society at large, and why he lived in social isolation and in poverty.

Waldinger’s works feature both romantic qualities – an atmosphere of solitude and a longing for the unattainable – and realistic analyticity in the sense of Gustave Courbet’s idea of painting representing ‘physical characteristics’, according to which paintings are to “be made up of the representation of the things the artist can touch and see”.

Adolf Waldinger drew and painted forests and forest plants almost obsessively during his long retreats to nature. Painted in calm bluish-green hues, Waldinger’s Slavonian watercolour landscapes are airy and light, which is the result of his classic, closed lines of a calm flow. Painted with the tip of his brush, the plants in the foreground expand in the background into a landscape of plains and hills with the help of aerial perspective. Thanks to him having studied real motifs in nature in much detail, Waldinger did not burden his drawings with unnecessary descriptiveness. This makes him close to Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller’s Realism, which – owing to him having painted from direct observation – features credible depictions of landscape fore- and backgrounds, psychological characterisations of figures and refined representations of textures.

 

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

Zlatko Šulentić

A Ginger-Bearded Man, 1916

oil on canvas, 100.5×70 cm

MG-3874

Zlatko Šulentić (1893-1971) attended the Transitional Advanced School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (1911-1914). He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. In terms of style, his oeuvre – marked primarily by intense colours – ranges from Expressionism to Intimism, as well as to Lyrical Abstraction. His first exhibition was at the famous first exhibition of Croatia’s Spring Salon in Zagreb.

Zlatko Šulentić painted his anthological A Ginger-Bearded Man exactly in the year in which Croatia’s Spring Salon’s first exhibition was held – i.e., in 1916 – but it was exhibited at the spring salon exhibition only three years later. In the portrait of a man in a seated position in almost full figure, space is constructed in a Cézannesque manner, which Šulentić adopted during his stay in Paris. What stands out in the otherwise neutral palette of greys and blue-greys is the colour accent of the man’s clasped hands and face – his beard in particular – painted in complementary contrasts of greens and reds. The expressiveness of Šulentić’s colour scheme is taken to be the early herald of Expressionism exhibited at Spring Salon exhibitions, particularly and typically between 1919 and 1921.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Robert Jean-Ivanović

1889-1968

A Kneeling Female Nude

1918

bronze

MG-2511

 

Croatian sculptor, medallist, modeller and high school teacher Robert Jean-Ivanović studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (1908-1909, 1911, 1914), in Munich (1909-1910) and in Prague (1915-1916).

Robert Jean-Ivanović’s central artistic preoccupation was with the human figure and portraiture. Initially, these were studies of the male body and dynamically broken male figures captured while doing hard manual labour, which he grouped into a series called Labour (1915-1928). He also modelled several public monuments and realistic portraits, such as A Portrait of Painter Karlo Mijić from 1939.

The largest thematic unit of Jean-Ivanović’s oeuvre comprises poeticised studies of female figures, including his Love (1918-1919) and Dancers (1923-1936) series. Regardless of whether they are executed as free-standing sculptures or as low reliefs, his sculptures feature ethereal presentation, soft and tender modelling and graceful postures, such as his A Girl with a Rose (circa 1920) and A Portrait of a Young Girl (1922) reliefs. A Marble Female Torso (1937) and its bronze derivative A Female Torso – An Amazon (circa 1940) are Jean-Ivanović’s finest pieces representing the beauty of the female body of a balanced harmony and a poeticised theme.

Modelled in an interesting seated position, Robert Jean-Ivanović’s A Kneeling Female Nude from 1918 is an intimate sculpture featuring Art Nouveau stylisation.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Marta Ehrlich (1910-1980)

An Interior with a Chest of Drawers, 1938

tempera on paper

 

During her career as an artist, Marta Ehrlich drew and painted numerous cityscapes, the most interesting of which are those depicting Paris. The view of most of her compositions seems to be from the inside looking outwards, from an interior directed towards an exterior. The angle is always slightly raised, and her paintings are dominated by trees which she painted in their entirety, through whose canopy the eye makes its way so as to recognise, down below, at the very bottom of her scenes, a pavement with human figures reduced to stains, while the top of her compositions is dominated by rooftops and the sky. The logic of the interior we are bringing here is reversed. That is, the composition looks as if it was painted from the outside looking inside. Quite in line with the difference between public (city) and private life which Modernism in art has insisted on since its very beginnings, Marta Ehrlich’s interior exudes a calm, meditative atmosphere, which is contributed to the most not only by her choice of pastel colours, but also by the depth of the space she depicted.

Marta Ehrlich Tompa (1910-1980) attended painter Vladimir Becić’s private painting school in Zagreb from 1929 to 1934. Between 1935 and 1938, she studied in Paris. After World War II, she rejected the style of painting of the School of Paris and started turning increasingly to themes and symbols which she portrayed in the vein of Abstract Art. She also designed pottery, worked on fabric designs and created stage designs.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić,  curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Ivan Sabolić

1921-1986

A Portrait of Ivo Šebalj

1966

silver-plated bronze

MG-2662

 

Ivan Sabolić graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1944 (under Professor Frano Kršinić), and specialised in sculpture with sculptor Antun Augustinčić in 1966. He was a full professor and dean of the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, and in 1975 he became the head of the academy’s Master Workshop.

His best works are human figures, nudes and portraits because this traditional domain of figuration was wide, deep and rich enough for Sabolić to explore during his entire career. He modelled sculptures in a wide array of styles ranging from Rodinesque dramaticism of taut surfaces to condensed expression close to Abstraction. In the 1950s he started developing his own style of figuration by synthesising universal themes with local features, observable first and foremost in his female figures, such as his A Female Nude from 1951. The motifs that Sabolić modelled in his later works are more socially engaged, with his expression having become more dynamic thanks to his more expressive treatment of surfaces and the introduction of movement. His monumental sculptures are realistic figurative compositions.

Ivan Sabolić’s most significant works are the portraits he created in the 1960s. His anthological portrait of painter Ivo Šebalj is an example of Sabolić’s masterly skill at highlighting the psychological features of his models by using condensed expression and closed volume.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Željko Hegedušić

The Grain Market in Mitrovica, 1935    on the reverse:                A Composition, circa 1935

oil on canvas, 61.5×47 cm                                                                         61.5×46.5 cm

MG-1532

 

Željko Hegedušić’s The Grain Market in Mitrovica from 1935 indicates that his position within the context of Croatia’s interwar painting was divergent. Although in 1932 he started exhibiting regularly as a guest with the Earth Association of Artists, which was founded by his older brother Krsto, Željko did not share the association’s fundamental commitment to descriptiveness or their pursuit of social criticism. He followed the association’s fundamental concept of form and ideology in general, but what he strove for was a surrealist aesthetics inspired by the overall European legacy of Modernism. Although the grain market in Mitrovica was indeed a typical motif of the association, Željko Hegedušić painted it with a complex network of smeary brushstrokes rather than by using the association’s trademark style of simplified flat forms of local colours. The scene of the vibrant marketplace ends with bleak architecture. The surrealist inventory that Hegedušić only hinted at in his The Grain Market in Mitrovica completely takes over his A Composition on the reverse, which is an imaginary construction of body parts and machines, architecture, musical instruments and symbols.

After having graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Željko Hegedušić studied in Paris, where he came into contact with Purism and metaphysical Surrealism. In the 1950s he started working on graphic art projects and mixed painting techniques. His imagination was becoming increasingly wide and brought to life surreal, playful motifs depicting a wide array of experiences ranging from tragic to lyrical. He taught at high schools in Zagreb and Srijemska Mitrovica, and at the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb. He also did wall paintings, applied print techniques, design and book illustration, and copied frescoes.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

The Group of Six Authors

Maj 75 magazine (1978-1990)

Having been named after the month and year of their first public appearance (i.e., May 1975), the Maj 75 magazine by a “groups of friends” – which is what painter Boris Demur, photographers Željko Jerman, Sven Stilinović and Fedor Vučemilović, poet Vlado Martek and experimental filmmaker Mladen Stilinović called themselves – presented mostly their street, square, beach, park and other open space actions, installations and interventions. Other artists who also presented their work in Maj 75 included, to name but a few, Vlasta Delimar, Tomislav Gotovac, Sanja Iveković, Mangelos (aka Dimitrije Bašičević), Bálint Szombathy, Raša Todosijević, Goran Trbuljak and many others. The activities and work of the artists presented in the Maj 75 magazine are closely linked to Conceptual Art or New Art Practice (which is what the international phenomenon of Conceptual Art was called in Yugoslavia). The magazine was produced simply and cheaply (using a hectograph, screen printing, a photocopier, etc.), was staple-bound, and its print run varied from issue to issue, ranging from 50 to 250 copies, with the print run of some issues unknown. It was distributed and shared through a network of people who thought similarly about art.

The Group of Six Authors was founded in 1975 in Zagreb, and its members were Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Sven Stilinović, Mladen Stilinović, Boris Demur and Fedor Vučemilović. The group was active until 1981. The closing edition of the magazine, presenting exclusively works by female artists and edited by Vlasta Delimar, was entitled Ex-Maj 75.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

Ivo Kerdić (1881-1953)

A Kiss, 1912

bronze

MG-2302

Medallist and sculptor Ivo Kerdić attended the Royal National Craft School in Zagreb in 1898. He worked in Paris at the Maison Moderne art foundry, and worked and studied in Vienna since 1902. In 1906 he finished the College of Arts and Crafts, and in 1911 the Special Engraving and Medal-Making School of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

At the invitation of sculptor and Professor Robert Frangeš-Mihanović, he returned to Zagreb in 1913 as the head of the foundry of what was to become the Academy of Fine Arts, where he worked until 1947 as an excellent teacher of generations of young sculptors.

Although he created most of his most respectable pieces in medal-making and applied art, an indispensable part of Kerdić’s oeuvre includes public and sacral monuments, as well as figurative and portrait sculptures.

Whilst in Vienna, he socialised with young Croatian artists, primarily sculptor Ivan Meštrović, whose influence played a crucial role in Kerdić continuing his education and perfecting his creative expression.

Kerdić was most influenced by Vienna’s Art Nouveau, in whose vein he sculpted his first significant work – A Kiss from 1912. The softly modelled female body is merged with the muscular male body, with the two ultimately growing into a pyramidal composition based on measure, clarity and harmony. A Kiss features the swirling line typical of Art Nouveau and pronounced soft surface modelling.

The pedestal bears the following inscription in stylised letters: In love / in a grove, only few / wouldn’t succumb.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Ivan Picelj (1924-2011)

A Composition, 1959-1960

oil on canvas, 83.5×97.7 cm

MG – 4419

Painter, graphic artist and designer Ivan Picelj (1924-2011) was an experimenter and a classic of Geometric Abstraction over a long period of time ranging from post-WWII and High Modernism to so-called Modernism after Postmodernism. He was one of the founding members of the EXAT 51 group of painters and architects (1951-1956), the Industrial Design Studio and the international New Tendencies art movement in Zagreb (1961-1973), whose activities he contributed to in his capacity as organiser, participant and graphic designer (posters, Bit International magazine). At the time, he created programmed works that explore the psychology of visual perception, and the rhythms and motions of particles within the visual circuit which brings his work closer to Op Art. He is a programmer of exact creativity (Božidar Gagro) and was one of the leading representatives of serigraphy in Zagreb. He based his work on the principles of the Bauhaus, Constructivism, Neo-Plasticism and Minimalism. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, which he left in 1946 not because of his tendency towards abstraction, but because of his need for freedom (Radovan Ivšić). In painting, he developed absolute Geometric Abstraction using basic forms and colours. Ivan Picelj developed his A Composition (1959-1960) by geometrically grading rectangular forms of achromatic colours and overlapping sections, having ultimately created a three-dimensional optical effect on a two-dimensional surface. In 1952 in his flat in Zagreb’s Gajeva Street, he organised EXAT 51’s first exhibition together with artists Marko Rašica and Aleksandar Srnec. He then participated in the VII Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris and in 1959 he started to collaborate with gallerist Denise René, with this collaboration having continued for many years to come. Picelj did graphic design throughout his career as an artist. He produced 11 graphic art folios, created reliefs in wood and objects, and is included in the Dictionary of Abstract Painting (Michael Seuphor, 1957).

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Sava Šumanović

A Painter at His Studio, 1921

oil on canvas, 91×74.5 cm

MG-1966

Departing significantly from the art scene in Croatia which drew at the time on the legacy of Miroslav Kraljević and the Munich Circle, and which was orientated towards Expressionism, the post-cubist composition A Painter at His Studio from 1921 is a paradigm of Sava Šumanović’s ‘new art’.

Sava Šumanović started exhibiting at Croatia’s Spring Salon already as a student at the High School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb. He socialised and collaborated with painters Milan Steiner and Bogumil Car, and exhibited his work at solo exhibitions as early as 1918 and 1920. His paintings sold well, and he produced illustrations for poet Antun Branko Šimić’s avant-garde magazine Juriš and set designs for the Croatian National Theatre.

Following his first successes in Zagreb, he moved to Paris where he worked at the studio of painter André Lhote. Upon his return to Zagreb, Šumanović was disappointed with the wider public’s lack of understanding of his art, so in protest he signed his paintings in French. Although Šumanović’s key exhibition of works painted in the style of classicised academic Cubism held in Zagreb in 1921 received good reviews by young critics Antun Branko Šimić and Rastko Petrović, Šumanović moved back to Paris in 1925. Inspired by painter Henri Matisse’s powerful colours, he painted large figural compositions. In 1927, inspired by Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry and Théodore Géricault’s painting The Raft of the Medusa, he painted The Drunken Ship, which was exhibited at the Salon of the Independents and chosen for the cover of Le Crapouillot, an important contemporary art magazine. Having gotten mentally ill, in 1930 he moved with his parents to Šid. He painted a series of cityscape vedutas, children’s portraits, landscapes and compositions of women bathers and pickers in the vein of Poetic Realism. He worked diligently until his execution in World War II in 1942.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Ivan Posavec

Maksimir

1998

Ivan Posavec belongs to the generation of photographers who were formed artistically by Zagreb’s subculture scene of the 1970s and 80s. He published his first photographs in youth magazines (Polet, Studentski List, etc.), and this journalism- and magazine-related environment determined his work for years to come. Concerts, socialist youth work actions, political rallies, the life of the youth in rural and urban environments, etc. – are motifs we find in his photographs. Once the Homeland War brought a complete social change, socialist youth magazines stopped being printed, so Posavec turned to other themes, amongst which panoramic photography occupies a special place. He photographed his series of panoramas, one of which we are bringing here, with an antique Russian FT-2 camera designed for recording panoramic photographs for military purposes. Posavec’s panoramas present everyday scenery (Maksimir Park, the Sava River embankment, fields, forests), which contain hardly anything and almost none of the cultural signs and symbols that marked his early photographs (famous faces, naked bodies, the hammer and sickle, First Communions, etc.). In these autumn or winter and often foggy landscape photographs, silence is all there is.

Ivan Posavec was born in 1951 in the village of Dužica near Sisak. He graduated in cinematography from the Academy of Theatrical Art, the Art of Film and Television in Zagreb in 1980 in the class of Nikola Tanhofer. He received a master’s degree in photography in 1984 from the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade in the class of Dragoljub Kažić. In 1979, together with Milisav Mio Vesović, he founded the MO (an abbreviation of meko okidanje, which translates as soft trigger) Group. He received the Tošo Dabac Photography Award in 1992 and the City of Zagreb Award in 2003.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić,  curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf

Tivoli, 1839

watercolour on paper, 37.3×53 cm

MG-97

 

Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf (1770-1841) was a self-taught painter and teacher at Osijek’s City Drawing School who, having arrived from Brno via Vienna, settled in Slavonia. He also gave his son, painter of landscape idylls and ruins Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf (1870?-1869), his first art lessons.

Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf acquired his painterly skills indirectly through book illustrations, and this at a time dominated by Classicism. The basic principles of the style equalled the ideas of ‘classical beauty’ reflected in the fixed proportions of visual representations depicting motifs from antiquity. Conceiving ideal compositions is what differentiates Classicism from Romanticism, whose version of escapism drew artistically on the immediate observance of nature.

Tivoli was one of the more frequent classicist motifs of many painters from Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) onwards. Johann Heinrich Tischbein’s (1751-1829) painting Goethe in the Roman Campagna was an example of escapism and an invitation of sorts to wealthy intellectuals to visit ancient Rome as part of their Grand Tour of Europe.

In his painting Tivoli from 1839 Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf adheres to the classicist linear arrangement of the foreground and the background, and a calm grey-green colour scheme. He painted the details of the vegetation minutely, which helped him to petrify the scene in which his dynamic presentation of a clamorous waterfall stands out as an exception. The airiness of the medium of watercolour helped Hötzendorf to soften the rigidity of the scene.

 

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Lujo Bezeredy

1898-1979

A Horse

1937

earthenware

MG-1459

 

Sculptor and potter Lujo Bezeredy studied at the Advanced Teacher School in Budapest, after which he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, which he soon left. Having placed much emphasis on the grotesque and social awareness – both of which were characteristic of the Earth Group of Artists – in 1928 he began making pottery. Later in his career, he modelled monumental and abstract forms in durable materials, such as bronze and concrete, and having been an influential and distinctive sculptor he proved himself to also be good at experimenting with ceramic and plastic materials (terracotta, majolica, clay printing).

What stands out in Bezeredy’s oeuvre are his expressive ceramics from the 1930s inspired by social themes. He created a wide range of figures as protagonists of the universal human experience. The origin of his sculptures is naturalistic, featuring elements of empathy and tragedy, pronounced deformations and a special sensibility for colour.

Lujo Bezeredy’s modelling of animals, which ranks him amongst Croatia’s best animalists, unearths a deep, grotesque reality. Captured in its arduous walk, his figure of A Horse from 1937 was inspired by an old, tortured and humiliated animal, featuring a paradoxically glittering, emerald green glaze finish.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Antun Maračić

Emptied Frames, Missing Contents

1994

Antun Maračić is a versatile artist and cultural professional. Although he had a long and distinctive career as an artist, he is perhaps best known to the general public for his longstanding management of the Museum of Modern Art in Dubrovnik, the Zvonimir Gallery and the Forum Gallery in Zagreb. He started his career within the New Art Practice movement, a specific variant of Conceptual Art in Croatia, with photography having been one of his interests since the very beginning. In 1994, he started photographing the Emptied Frames, Missing Contents series of photographs. These are emptied frames on the facades of buildings in which advertising or noticeboards normally stand. Maračić would mount his name and the name of the photography series on these frames and – now that they were slightly modified – photograph them. In the process, he not only captured a specific moment in social history, but was also attracted by emptiness and the potential of new content, of which he says the following: The energy of emptiness is incredibly strong because it involves many possibilities – it includes the possibility of the existence of an idea of what no longer exists, as well as the idea of what could possibly exist in that space. Despite its blankness, emptiness is a dynamic state because it includes that which is potential, that which is possible.

Antun Maračić was born on 12th December 1950 in Nova Gradiška. He graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1976. As a multimedia artist, he exhibited in over 30 solo and in about a hundred group exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad. From 1978 to 1980 he was a member of the Podroom Working Community of Artists collective. From 1981 to 1991 he was an active associate of the Extended Media Gallery in Zagreb. From 1992 to 1997 he was the director of the Zvonimir Gallery in Zagreb, and from 2000 to 2012 the director of the Museum of Modern Art in Dubrovnik. From 2012 to 2016 when he retired, he was the head of the Forum Gallery in Zagreb. He is the author of numerous texts on art (reviews, critiques, polemics, essays) published in dailies and periodicals.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić,  curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Ivo Lozica, 1910. – 1943.

Sand Carrier

1942

bronze

MG-1394

Ivo Lozica attended the Stonemasonry School in Korčula from 1923 to 1925, where he was taught by sculptor Frano Kršinić, who pointed him towards the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he studied sculpture from 1926 to 1930 (mentored by Rudolf Valdec and Robert Frangeš-Mihanović; in 1933 he completed sculptor Ivan Meštrović’s advanced course in sculpture). As a French government scholarship holder, he attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1933-1934. In 1935 he moved to Split and in 1938 he started teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. In 1942 he moved to his native Lumbarda on the Island of Korčula, where he was shot by Italian occupiers in 1943 because he was a member of the local Partisan Movement. He collaborated on Meštrović’s projects in Otavice (mausoleum) and Split (studio).

Drawing on the Mediterranean sculptural tradition (Frano Kršinić), particularly its understanding of light and form, and on his Parisian experiences (Aristide Maillol, Auguste Rodin and Antoine Bourdelle), Lozica created a unique oeuvre in a series of intimist, lyrically shaped nudes of round volumes and flickering surfaces, heralding the sculptural syntheses of figuration and abstraction taking place in Croatia in the post-WWII period.

In the early 1940s, Lozica started being more of a realist in his approach to modelling dynamic sculptures of social themes featuring motifs from typical life in Dalmatia. These sculptures bear witness to an obvious shift from Lyrical Abstraction to Realism, connecting social themes with unaffected figuration of expressively modelled volumes. His Sand Carrier from 1942 is a robust male nude of a pronouncedly tense musculature on the roughly modelled form of his heavily loaded body.

 

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Oton Postružnik

Peasants, 1928

oil on canvas, 74.5×96 cm

MG-2514

In his painting Peasants from 1928 Oton Postružnik synthesises what is essential from a real scene. The common scene featuring roughly and somewhat awkwardly portrayed figures symbolises the cruelty of the life of peasants. By using his very own ‘individual’ style, Postružnik symbolically depicted reality bearing clear features of his native landscape. The scene portrays typical figures with suppressed facial expressions and gestures, and is painted in typical reddish-brown tones with the light dimmed. Also, his motif of bricks in the wall separating the figures from the unattainable landscape in the background heralded the fundamental postulates of the Earth Group of Artists, of which Postružnik was one of the founding members.

Oton Postružnik studied painting in Zagreb and Prague. He also studied in Paris with André Lhote and Moïse Kisling. Upon his return to Zagreb, he participated in the Graphic Exhibition and started preparing The Grotesques exhibition together with painter Ivan Tabaković. Both exhibitions were held in 1926 and highlighted Postružnik’s not only personal, but also generational departure from well-established aesthetic (particularly expressionist) norms, presenting him as an already mature Avant-Garde artist. In 1927, Postružnik graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the class of Professor Ljubo Babić. Being socially aware and completely committed to the truth, in 1929 he partook in the founding of the Earth Group of Artists, whom he regularly exhibited with until he left the group in 1933. During his second scholarship to Paris in 1935, he enriched his style with colour, which was until then based on simple drawing and form. Having started out as a poetic intimist, his Dalmatian motifs from the 1950s synthesise form and colour uniquely. Having been inspired by nature, he later painted in the vein of Lyrical Abstraction. He also created prints and ceramics, and taught painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Milan Steiner

In the Rain, 1918

oil on canvas, 34.4×46.4 cm

MG-2261

Milan Steiner (1894-1918) graduated from the Transitional Advanced School of Arts and Crafts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts) in Zagreb in 1916. He exhibited only once in his life, and this in 1916 at the end of his studies at the final student exhibition. Steiner’s small oeuvre was created in less than five years and stands out with its artistic quality. As far as his Croatian influences are concerned, he drew on Miroslav Kraljević’s legacy, and as for his international influences, those of Max Liebermann and Max Slevogt are observable. Critics highlight the specificity and internal cohesion of Steiner’s painting, which was a continuation of the painting of the Munich Circle.

Milan Steiner’s painting In the Rain from 1918 depicts an everyday urban scene in a condensed manner and in grey hues. The specific postures of the depicted figures, which are indicated by Steiner’s long, oblique, visible and smeary brushstrokes, lend an air of Expressionism to the painting as a whole, dynamise human movement and help create the impression of rain falling.

 

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Peruško Bogdanić

1949

The First Heretic, 1990

wood, stone

MG-6264

Peruško Bogdanić graduated in sculpture in 1976 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the class of Vjekoslav Rukljač, where he started teaching in 1995 and was its dean from 2012 to 2014. He has been actively involved in running the Montraker International Sculpture School in Vrsar since 1996.

He joined the postmodernist movement and has created a sculptural oeuvre of primary and pure forms, mainly in wood and stone. He has been inspired by mythological and historical connotations reduced to symbolic premises. His organic forms of balanced textures are associative constructivist sculptures of simple forms and lyrical perceptions. Building an original sculptural value, Bogdanić has synthesised in a highly aesthetic manner the values of the traditional medium of sculpture featuring late modernist reflections. He is the author of several public sculptures in both Croatia and abroad.

Peruško Bogdanić’s minimalist sculpture The First Heretic from 1990 bears his recognisable style. Associatively totem-like, the work consists of a tall, upright and slightly curved tree log with dovetails, on top of which lies a highly stylised piece of stone which penetrates with its fractional form into space at an oblique angle.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Ivan Generalić (1914-1992)

A Motif from Paris, 1953

oil on glass, 560×425 mm

MG-2342

Although immensely talented, Croatia’s pioneer and the world’s classic of Naive Art, painter Ivan Generalić (1914-1992), was self-taught. He was discovered at the age of 15 by painter Krsto Hegedušić in 1930 in the village of Hlebine. He exhibited with the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists until 1935 when the group parted ways. His early works (1930-1945) feature flatly and somewhat clumsily painted rural scenes, are socially engaged which was prompted by his membership of the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists (Requisition, 1934) and are orientated towards landscape themes of Poetic Realism bringing romanticised depictions of rural motifs and tonal painting (Cows in the Forest, 1938). Generalić’s oeuvre seems to have been barely touched on by the ideas of Socialist Realism, and this only in a short post-war period; he continued developing his expression which climaxed in the 1950s in the form of allegorical, fairy-tale-like, fantastic nocturnal scenes, still lifes and landscapes (Solar Eclipse, 1961). In 1953, a solo exhibition of his work was set up in Paris, which marked the beginning of his international success. Generalić’s oil on glass A Motif from Paris is from the same year. Being a naive artist, he approached the painting’s urban theme – a theme so atypical of his oeuvre – with cold, objective figuration. The painting is dominated by flatly composed facades of buildings serving as a backdrop. Antennas and chimneys, signs of the city, penetrate the cloudy sky. The name of a ground-floor bistro handwritten on its awning and two female figures, both modelled in a strikingly condensed manner with their backs turned, are the only insignificant sign of human presence in Generalić’s distant and unattached depiction of Paris.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Marijan Trepše

At an Inn, 1919

oil on cardboard, 43.7×51.7 cm

MG-2161

Marijan Trepše’s earliest works, such as the painting At an Inn from 1919, present him as a powerful expressionist. Trepše developed Paul Cézanne’s postulate of pure painting and Miroslav Kraljević’s fascinating departure from symbolic and figurative painting in accordance with what were then contemporary post-war European artistic trends. He replaced the fine cafes and sleek ladies that Kraljević frequented and painted in Paris as little as a few years earlier with obscure and eerie inns strongly reminiscent of sinister scenes from German expressionist films. Much like in Fritz Lang’s films, everything in Trepše’s composition is suggestive of fear and discomfort. In the post-war period, the young artists of The Prague Four group of artists who just started exhibiting at the Spring Salon in Zagreb admired Trepše for being their closest link to Kraljević’s modern ideas.

Marijan Trepše graduated in painting in Zagreb. During his subsequent training in Prague, he created mainly prints under Professor Max Švabinský, after which he moved to Paris. Trepše painted his best works in the first decade of his career, with his later work characterised by virtuosity of technique. Besides prints, he created stained glass windows, of which his Golgotha mounted in 1935 in the Chapel of the Wounded Jesus in Zagreb’s Ilica Street stands out. Having worked as a stage designer for the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, in the period from 1925 to 1957 he created as many as 129 stage designs.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Aleksandar Srnec

(1924-2010)

Object 300877, 1977

aluminium, chrome, electric motor

MG-3998

Sculptor, painter, graphic artist and designer Aleksandar Srnec graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1949. He also made animated films.

Srnec was one of Croatia’s leading post-WWII protagonists of Abstraction, progressive design and contemporary visual communication. He was a founding member of the EXAT 51 group of painters and architects and an active participant in the New Tendencies, an art movement of European significance which was of incredible importance in Croatia.

Srnec’s artistic expression features radicalised Geometric Abstraction. In the early 1950s, he constructed his first freely composed mobile kinetic objects. In around 1956 he started experimenting with mobile sculptures and reliefs. In 1962 he devoted himself to lumino-kinetic research, and in 1968 to issues of ambience and the production of kinetic sculptures made of different metal with a high polish finish. He also experimented with pure light.

Aleksandar Srnec’s spatial-dynamic light Object 300877 is made of highly polished concave surfaces, which is set in motion by and changes dynamically with the help of an electric motor, which is part of the object’s construction. The rotation of the object creates optical effects that create a sense of dematerialisation of both the object and surrounding space. The object’s surfaces reflect images of surrounding space, and flickers of red and green which are the colours that bent aluminium strips are painted in on the inside as parts of the structure of Object 300877.

 

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Gabriel Jurkić
A Landscape, 1919

oil on canvas, 50×150 cmMG-3102

Painter Gabriel Jurkić (1886-1974) studied painting in Zagreb (at painters Bela Čikoš Sesija and Menci Clement Crnčić’s private art school, and the High School of Arts and Crafts) and in Vienna at the Academy of Fine Arts, and attended Polish painter Kazimierz Pochwalski’s master classes. His early painting oeuvre features Symbolism and is evidently influenced by the work of the Italian painter Giovanni Segantini, while his later paintings are closer to Realism and plein-air painting bathed in sunshine. He lived and worked in Sarajevo, after which he moved with his wife to the Gorica Franciscan Monastery in Livno, where the two spent the last years of their lives.

The strikingly elongated, panoramic format of Gabriel Jurkić’s painting A Landscape from 1919 potentiates the breadth of the painted landscape. Rich in colour, the evening scene depicts the motif of a meadow with a mountain in the background under a giant sky, a small figure of a shepherd and a flock of sheep. Thanks to Jurkić having used tiny, elongated brush strokes, this symbolist painting is reminiscent of Giovanni Segantini’s Divisionism.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Ana Opalić

Vesna & Marin, 1995

Presenting women, men, children and animals in everyday life situations, Ana Opalić started taking series of portrait photographs of family members and close friends in 1997. Some pose in the interiors of their homes or workplaces, some in the exteriors where, we assume, their daily lives unfold – on their way to work and back, while going shopping or taking a walk in their spare time and the like. Most have serious faces, their posture is always upright and slightly tense, and their hands – if not occupied by something – either in unnatural positions or hidden in pockets. Aware that they are posing for portrait photographs – this is what their intimate relationship with the photographer allows us to conclude – it seems as if they took the shooting very seriously. In other words, their striking a pose is pronounced, which is why these portraits are reminiscent of painterly portraits. What characterises painterly portraits are, amongst other things, long-term stillness of the body – which is why bodies often seem stiff, which is particularly evident in pre-modern painting – and a careful arrangement of the relationship between bodies and objects in space. Many of these qualities feature in Ana Opalić’s photographs, such as the Vesna & Marin photograph we are presenting.

Ana Opalić was born in 1972 in Dubrovnik. She graduated in cinematography from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb in 1997. She has been exhibiting since 1991; she has had a number of solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad. She represented Croatia at the Venice Biennale (together with Boris Cvjetanović) in 2003. She set up https://croatian-photography.com/, a website for Contemporary Croatian Photography, and directs and shoots documentaries.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić,  curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

Juraj Škarpa (1881-1952)

The Head of Christ, 1925

wood

MG-7445

 

Juraj Škarpa attended the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (1913-1914), and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1920 in the class of Prof. Robert Frangeš Mihanović.

He was an associate of sculptor Ivan Meštrović on the Račić Family Mausoleum project in Cavtat, with whom he subsequently parted ways. In terms of style, Škarpa is an inter-war modernist. He combined Art Nouveau with Expressionism and became one of few Croatian expressionist sculptors. He modelled portraits and allegorical compositions in stone and wood, although a large part of his oeuvre comprises sacral and cemetery sculpture. Having been visibly influenced by Robert Frangeš Mihanović, he successfully modelled female nudes.

Juraj Škarpa’s study for The Head of Christ from 1925 shows how true he was to his own expressionist and visual language. Expressively, the elongated head is conceived as a mask. The expressiveness is potentiated by the red colour of the wood, which can be interpreted symbolically (grapevine, wine, blood, the Eucharist).

Text: Tatijana Gareljić,  museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

  

Vjekoslav Karas (1821-1858)

A Portrait of Ana Krešić, 1852-1856

oil on canvas, 78×59 cm

MG-77

 

A Portrait of Miško Krešić, 1852-1856

oil on canvas, 78×59 cm

MG-78

Painter and composer Vjekoslav Karas was one of the storied Croatian artists who, along with Josip Račić, ended his life by suicide because he felt that the world failed to understand him. Karas’s unsystematic education and training in painting began with him taking lessons from amateur Karlovac-based painters. Thanks to his patrons, in 1838 he travelled to Italy to be schooled. He first stayed in Florence, where the Zadar-born painter Franjo Salghetti-Drioli (1811-1877) set him up in a studio. Karas frequented Florence’s churches and public collections to make copies and studies, and attended anatomy classes at the Grand Duke Academy of Fine Arts. Between 1841 and 1847 he resided in Rome, where he became acquainted with the Romantic religious painting of the Nazarene Movement. Whilst in Rome, he also met the Rijeka-born painter Ivan Simonetti (1817-1880). During his occasional stays in Zagreb, he adopted Ljudevit Gaj’s (a Croatian linguist, politician, journalist and writer) Illyrian ideas. Owing to a lack of financial means, in 1848 he finally returned to Croatia. Abject poverty forced him to travel across Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and produce commissioned works. From 1852 to 1858 when he died, he lived and worked commuting between Karlovac and Zagreb.

In terms of style, Karas’s oeuvre features Classicism, Nazarene Romanticism and Biedermeier Realism, with his portraits of spouses Ana and Miško Krešić being his anthological climax. Both portraits are condensed in form and non-descriptive in detail, and depict two progressive bourgeois with their physiognomies unbeautified. The spouses’ psychological characterisation is reflected in their pursed lips and a penetrating, almost rough gaze, with Ana Krešić’s hands being a masterpiece of successful realistic depiction. Karas did not sign the portraits because, as with most of his paintings, he was dissatisfied with their quality and “always strived to be better”, as he himself stated.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević,  museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Robert Auer

A Portrait of a Woman, 1909

oil on canvas, 68.4×45.4 cm

MG-366

Robert Auer (1873-1952) studied painting at the School of Crafts in Zagreb, at the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he moved to in 1895 and exhibited at the Munich Art Nouveau exhibition in 1896. Together with his wife, painter Leopoldina Auer Schmidt, in 1987 he opened a private art school in Zagreb, which was attended by painters Tomislav Krizman and Joso Bužan. He participated in the founding of the Lada Croatian Artists’ Association and the Society of Croatian Artists. He taught at the School of Crafts in Zagreb from 1905 and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb from 1918. In terms of style, Auer painted in the vein of Munich-based Academicism and Jugendstil, and portraits and nudes in the spirit of idealised Realism, which were particularly popular amongst the bourgeois of his time.

Robert Auer’s A Portrait of a Woman from 1909 intrigues with its unusual choice of view of the bust of a young girl dressed in contemporary bourgeois clothes – she has her back turned to viewers. It’s a three-quarter view portrait with the girl gently bowing her head and lowering her gaze. The composition is impressive thanks to its condensed quality and deliberate simplicity. The colour accents of the large warm ochre field of the upper half of the painting, and the darker and lighter pink shades of the dress in the lower half frame the gentle skin tones of the girl’s face and the brown tones of her hair, which in terms of Auer’s exploration of colour composition, nearly reaches value in itself.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Franjo Mraz

Winter, 1936

tempera on glass, 30×40.4 cm

MG-1659

The painting Winter or Villagers Taking Ice to Town from 1936 is a paradigmatic painting of the oeuvre of Franjo Mraz, a self-taught painter from the village of Hlebine. With the active encouragement of painter Krsto Hegedušić, Mraz recorded, together with Ivan Generalić, everyday village life during the 1930s in painting and drawing. Initially in pencil and watercolour, and then in tempera and oil, he painted ploughmen, diggers, reapers and field hands in the fields, as well as cattle, fields and forests, typical motifs and landscapes of the region of Podravina. Mraz painted two-dimensionally and applied soft-toned colours freely without drawing hard outlines. He used the technique of reverse painting on glass (verre églomisé in French, Hinterglasmalerei in German), which he emulated from the mostly sacral paintings on glass that the peasants of Podravina had long been buying from Austrian and Slovenian travelling painters. He was fascinated by the lustre of glass – a perfectly smooth and easily accessible material – that blends with colours. Using a traditional painting technique, Mraz painted scenes of specific lighting featuring a great freedom of colour and a powerful lyrical charge. He later painted the horrors of World War II realistically. He joined the ranks of the Partisans. Mraz’s illustrations for the partisan press were often inspired by his personal experiences and brutally expressive. In 1950 he moved to Belgrade, where in 1955 he became a professional painter. After a war and post-war period steeped in Realism, in the mid-1950s he returned to depictions of everyday village life, idyllic plains and people who reminded him of his beloved home of Podravina.

 

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Matko Vekić

A Bridge, 1999

oil on canvas, 195×200 cm

MG 6782

Matko Vekić (1970) is one of the most well-established and engaged Croatian painters of his generation. His painting mixes modernist stylisation and critique of society with a postmodernist reductionist narrative whose signs always point to something other than the visible. Vekić’s motifs resist superficial emblems and ornaments which, paraphrasing Adolf Loos, he considers a ‘crime’. He graduated in painting in the class of Đuro Seder in 1995 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he has been teaching since 2011. With the help of the concrete-abstract, figurative-nonfigurative, organic-inorganic polarities, each of Vekić’s painting series is a well-thought-out painterly manifesto, artistic worldview and visual programme of signs pointing to a contemporary focus (Animal Circle – Zodiac, 2005; Symbol, Ornament, Sign and Crime, 2009; The Cruelty of the Circle, 2010; Orienta(lisa)tion, 2016). Comprising concrete and metal junctions, bridges and overpasses, Vekić’s early urban iconography renders the contemporary urban fabric of the city as a place of blocking dystopia.

Vekić’s painting A Bridge (1999) expresses his cold, analytical and distant gaze. With the help of a polarity – an intense view of the sky and a smallish organic arabesque of tree rings – Vekić draws a contrast between faceless figuration and an indirect “trace of nature”.

In his 20+ years of career as an artist, he has had over 40 solo exhibitions. He represented Croatia in 2006 and 2010 at the Cairo International Biennale, and in 2009 at the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

 

Anka Krizmanić

The Nova Ves Working-Class Suburb, 1912

oil on canvas, 40.5×50 cm

MG-5907

Anka Krizmanić (1896-1987) attended Tomislav Krizman’s private art school from 1910 to 1913, and the School of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Dresden from 1913 to 1917. She lived in Paris between 1920 and 1930. In 1910 she started exhibiting with the Medulić Association of Croatian Artists. After having had a successful career, in 1986 a retrospective exhibition of Krizmanić’s work was organised in Zagreb.

Anka Krizmanić’s oeuvre includes a wide array of media from drawings, prints, pastels and oil on canvas to sgraffiti, tapestries, fashion drawings and illustrations, and puppetry sketches. The psychological characterisation of her portraits is acute.

Although Anka Krizmanić’s The Nova Ves Working-Class Suburb veduta from 1912 is an early painting of hers, it nevertheless displays an enviable level of artistic maturity. The contrast between a clearly geometrically structured landscape including a depiction of a hill in the background and the industrial architecture of the modern era in the foreground of the painting is accentuated by Krizmanić’s use of colour – the architecture in the foreground is painted in darker brown tones, while the landscape in the background features pastel yellows and greens.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Ksenija Kantoci (1909-1995)

The Head of a Ram, 1957

wood

MG-5936

 

Ksenija Kantoci graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1937, and continued her studies in France, Italy and Germany.

Kantoci’s oeuvre abounds in powerful existentially inspired and concise forms of small sizes, of an accentuated monumentality and of symbolic quality. She modelled stylised portraits, abstract female figures and heads of domestic animals mostly in wood, but also in bronze, stone and terracotta, all of which are complemented by drawings made in various techniques. Kantoci’s striking psychologically charged and realistically conceived portraits feature a reduction of form and a compression of volume, as is the case in the portrait of her husband, Croatian painter Frano Šimunović, dating from 1955-1956. By reducing mass, Kantoci almost completely abandoned her reality-based concept, which clearly sets her apart from other Croatian sculptors of the generation.

The volume of Ksenija Kantoci’s The Head of a Ram from 1957 is generalised, with the sculpture’s narrative details reduced to the essential shape of the animal’s head.

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

 

Ivo Gattin (1926-1978)

Red Surface, 1961

burnt resin on jute, 103.5×155.4 cm

MG-2555

 

Ivo Gattin (1926-1978) was the first and leading representative of Art Informel in Croatia. Radicalism and experimentation with non-painterly materials (pigment, wax, sand, resin, wire) and creative processes (coating, burning, piercing, scratching, tearing, beating, decollage) were his character traits (art historian Igor Zidić) and the key methods of his material and physical, abstract expression. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (1946-1951). At first, he created in the spirit of Surrealism (a 1956 exhibition, Zagreb), from which – at the peak of Art Informel (1956-1963) – formless matter developed with the help of controlled automatism and unpredictability. Gattin’s 1957 exhibition in Zagreb came as a shock and raised the question of whether it was truly art. Between 1963 and 1970 he lived in Milan and did illustrations. He created drawings and prints by frottage (rubbing), burning and tearing. In 1967 he took a career break, after which he returned in 1976. The key determinants of Gattin’s Art Informel are monochrome pictures and deviations from the rectangular format, which he transformed into amorphous objects that spread into space thanks to Gattin having penetrated their matter.

Ivo Gattin’s Red Surface from 1961 is a shapeless, course, monochrome, uterine, procedural and perforated mass which space penetrates through and which evokes the very essence of the process of painting. Semantically speaking, the Red Surface is an existential reflection of anxiety in the midst of the Cold War.

Gattin exhibited independently in Zagreb (1956, 1957, 1978), Venice (1959), Milan (1964) and Novara (1965). In 1992, curator Branka Stipančić organised a problem-based exhibition of Gattin’s work at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Translated by: Ana Janković

Ferdo Quiquerez

A Landscape/A Tree, 1874-1875

oil on canvas, 16×24.5 cm

MG-2203

Thanks to his small-format landscapes, Ferdo Quiquerez (1845-1893) is considered to be one of the founders of Realism in Croatia along with the first generation of Croatian painters who attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, namely Isidor Kršnjavi and Nikola Mašić. He studied painting with Mücke by making sketches for historical compositions. After having received a scholarship from Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer in 1870, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he was mentored by Professor Karl von Piloty, a painter of historical compositions, and printmaker and painter Johann Leonhard Raab. Because he was in poor health, he dropped out of the academy in Munich in 1872 and travelled to Italy, where he stayed until 1875. He first resided in Venice, and then in Rome and its surroundings, where he copied works of art in churches and public collections. In Sorrento and on the Island of Capri, he painted – together with Henryk Siemiradzki and Isidor Kršnjavi – bright landscapes in plein-air and by applying paint freely and in smears. Thanks to the Zadar-born painter Franjo Salghetti-Drioli, in 1875 Quiquerez went to Montenegro via Zadar and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he became the court painter to Prince Nicholas I of Montenegro. His studies are a faithful record of the people and landscapes that he passed through. In 1876 he returned to Zagreb, and in 1878 started teaching drawing at a grammar school.

With the canopy of the tree extending beyond the painting, Quiquerez’s A Landscape/A Tree dates from his Italian period of free compositions. Having been painted in plein-air, and the paint having been applied freely and in smears, it represents a break away from the restraints of Academicism and the imposed narrative approach. In other words, it represents a return to pure painting, that is, his commitment to the basic elements of form. Using the same approach, Quiquerez painted several of his Montenegrin landscapes and portraits, with which he directly – although without any conceptual forethought – paved the way for Modernism.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Hinko Juhn

1891-1940

A Reclining Female Nude

1917

bronze

MG-1333

 

Hinko Juhn was a sculptor, ceramicist, medallist and art teacher, and the initiator of ceramic art in Croatia. He finished the High School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb in 1911 in the class of Robert Frangeš-Mihanović, and in 1912 he studied in Florence. He started to study ceramics in 1918 in the Czech Republic, then in Dresden, where he visited the Meissen porcelain factory, and then in Vienna. As the first person in Croatia to have received formal training in ceramics, he became the Head of the Department of Ceramics at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (1921-1924), and then at the School of Crafts (1924-1940).

Juhn was one of the co-founders of the Spring Salon art event in 1916, whose exhibitions he participated in until the salon was discontinued in 1928. Spring Salon sculptors articulated their personal postulates of Modernism (including elements such as stylisation and expression, form reduction, realist and neo-classicist endeavours), with each sculptor, particularly Juhn, having achieved outstanding results at the salons.

In his oeuvre, Juhn focused on the human figure in general and the female nude in particular. He made sculptures of smaller dimensions and soft modulations featuring Art Nouveau stylisation. Under the influence of sculptors Aristide Maillol and Ivan Meštrović, he modelled poetic female nudes and portraits in stone, bronze, wood and ceramics. In the 1920s, he started modelling pure forms in the spirit of Art Deco, which was particularly pronounced in his ceramic statuettes (Diana with a Hind, 1925) and sports medals of rounded bodily volumes in motion (the Zagreb Automotive Club of Croatia plaque, 1932)

Juhn’s A Reclining Female Nude in a refined pose with her legs crossed and her striking head raised on top of a corpulent body is an example of poetic monumentality in small-scale sculpture.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković

Maksimilijan Vanka

An Old Woman with a Dutch Hat, 1913

oil on hardboard, 50×50 cm

MG-4304

Maksimilijan Vanka (1889-1962) studied painting in Zagreb with painter Bela Čikoš Sesija and in Brussels. He was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb until 1934, after which he moved to the United States. He was an important member of the Group of Four, together with painters Ljubo Babić, Vladimir Becić and Jerolim Miše from 1926 to 1929, when the Group of Four transformed into the famous Group of Three after Vanka left. He became a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1929. Large-format compositions depicting folklore and religious themes, colourful landscapes in watercolour, portraits and self-portraits comprise a significant portion of his oeuvre. He also did fresco painting and sculpture. Vanka’s designs for the decorations and costumes of Krešimir Baranović’s ballet Licitar Heart are particularly interesting.

Vanka painted his An Old Woman with a Dutch Hat in 1913 at the age of 24. Vanka’s entire oeuvre is known for its distinctive Realism, which was often colourist in nature. Although the colours in which he painted the old woman are more restrained, there are striking yellow highlights present on her face. The deformities of the old woman’s facial features, her sagging shoulders, penetrating gaze and expression of worry and fear, coupled with Vanka’s accentuated brushstrokes, contribute to the expressionist quality of the composition. The motif of the Dutch hat and Vanka’s placement of the portrayed bust indoors are a deliberate reference to the great tradition of modern Dutch painting.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković

Slavomir Drinković
1951-2016
A Knot – a marble sculpture study
1989-1992
bronze, steel
MG-6298

Slavomir Drinković graduated in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1977 (mentored by Prof. Valerije Michieli), after which he specialised in monumental sculpture with sculptors Antun Augustinčić and Ivan Sabolić. In 1989, he also started doing design, architecture and stage design. He was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb from 1995, and from 2006 to 2010 its dean.

Drinković was a sculptor who placed most emphasis on the strength of material, structure and the elementariness of the process of sculpting, which enabled him to make simple structures into monumental sculptures while using a reduced formal language. Many of his sculptures are mounted in public places and fitted in with their surroundings as a new urban sign, such as his Ab Ovo monument in Osijek. Resembling a cross, a bird in flight carved into a crack of black marble is one of the most impressive monuments to the victims of Croatia’s Homeland War.

Drinković’s refined craftsmanship is reflected in his propensity to maximally purify the surface of his sculptures by polishing them to a high gloss, or to make his torqued columns – such as his A Knot sculpture – as symmetrical as possible. The truncated column of his A Knot is a fragment of endless entanglement. In essence, the sculpture represents a braided rope and is reminiscent of a string of female attributes.

Text:Tatijana Gareljić©National Museum of Modern Art
Translated by: Ana Janković

 

 

 

 

Miljenko Stančić (1926-1977)

Vjekoslav Karas, 1953

oil on canvas

460×670 mm

MG-2175

 

Miljenko Stančić (1926-1977) was the introducer and leading painter of Croatia’s post-war Surrealism and Fantastic Art based on tradition, precise tone modulation, the legacy of the old masters (Georges de La Tour, Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch) and Josip Račić’s ‘pure perception’. With his exceptional skill and by having synthesised the old and the new, Stančić created a unique style in the manner of so-called museum-like, anachronistic painting. The paintings he created between the early 1950s and the late 1970s depict personal metamorphoses (vedutas of Varaždin, fantastic transformations of human figures, metaphysical figures in poetic interiors, erotic paintings) and subdued gammas illuminated by “inspirited lighting and an increasingly virtuoso and melancholic palette” (writer Miroslav Krleža). He graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1949, and in printing from Tomislav Krizman’s advanced graphic art school in 1951. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts between 1960 and 1977.

 

Vjekoslav Karas from 1953 is Stančić’s early anthological painting that bears witness to his respect for tradition (Karas’s painting A Roman Woman, 1845-1847), mortality (Karas’s suicide) and his identification with the founder of modern painting in Croatia. Everything in the painting is symbolic, reductively descriptive and attributive: “(…) the lute (…) is the musical instrument taken from the hands of A Roman Woman by Karas (…) The extinguished candle represents death; the empty palette is unfinished work; the dice thrown represents failing at life. (…) the space of Karas’s workshop is but a mirror image of a morgue.” (Igor Zidić, 1979). Stančić was a member of the Group of Five. From the 1960s onwards, he also exhibited at the exhibitions of the Belgian group of artists called Fantasmagie.

Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Petar Pallavicini

1886-1958

Don Quixote

1922

bronze

MG-4466

Petar Pallavicini attended the Special Sculpture and Stonemasonry School in Hořice in the Czech Republic (1905-1909) and the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (1909-1912). He taught at the Royal Art School in Belgrade (1924-1937). He modelled original portraits of reduced forms and poetic female figures of an accentuated verticality.

Pallavicini was influenced at first by sculptor Ivan Meštrović, but by the beginning of the 1920s he developed his own style of modernised forms. The portraits that he created in that period feature a simplified form reduced to a voluminous drawing with plastically presented distinguishing features, which is observable already in his realistic A Portrait of Engineer I. Domicel from 1919. His The Beauty of Lopud from 1930, a softly modelled nude of a seated young girl, is part of his Adriatic series of lyrical female figures.

Pallavicini’s portrait of Don Quixote is stylised. Don Quixote’s elongated face bearing reduced and chiselled features rises elegantly from the derived yet synthesised form of the smooth bust, creating an anthological piece of Croatian sculpture.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Omer Mujadžić

A Newsboy, circa 1929

oil on canvas, 100×75 cm

MG-6704

Omer Mujadžić enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb when he was only fifteen. After having graduated, he continued his studies in Paris. Whilst in Paris, the young Mujadžić was influenced by André Lhote’s Post-Cubism and Picasso’s return to Figurative Art, and more heavily by his visits to the Louvre and the studies of such old masters as El Greco and Tintoretto. By having encapsulated contemporary French modernist trends, the tradition of Ivan Meštrović and Jozo Kljaković’s sculptural expression, including Ljubo Babić’s teaching on the need to condense the realist expression of the time, Mujadžić returned to the Croatian scene with works in the spirit of Neoclassicism and Magic Realism. In 1929 he participated in the founding of the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists, with whom he exhibited until 1930. For Mujadžić, his affiliation with the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists implied not only social engagement, but also orientation towards German New Objectivity, in whose spirit he painted several scenes from sports arenas and suggestive scenes from the street featuring a great sense of reality and concrete life situations.

 

Mujadžić froze the city’s gloomy everyday life in a photographically ‘cut off’ shot of his A Newsboy. The newsboy is caught up in his thoughts and seems trapped in front of a rough dark brick wall, a motif so typical of the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists.

 

During the 1930s, Mujadžić lightened his palette and softened his forms in the spirit of Colourist and Poetic Realism. During World War II, he painted mostly intimist motifs in refined hues. He painted nudes, portraits, landscapes, still lifes and sacral compositions in oil and pastel, and also did drawings and illustrations. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1931 and 1973, and mentored such masters as Oton Gliha, Edo Murtić, Ferdinand Kulmer and others.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Petar Dobrović

Kupari Town, 1933

oil on canvas, 55×73 cm

MG-1480

Petar Dobrović’s Kupari Town oil painting from 1933 is a paradigmatic painting not only of Dobrović’s mature creative power, but also of his pure joy of life. He painted his hedonistic vision of a Mediterranean landscape by layering paint thickly in an ecstasy of colour and vivacity.

Petar Dobrović was born in Pécs in Hungary, and graduated in painting in 1911 from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in Budapest. His beginnings were marked by Impressionism, but after he stayed in Paris between 1912 and 1914, he took on board the modern conceptions of Cubism, Cezannism and Expressionism. He participated in Hungary’s avant-garde movements, and was arrested in 1921 for his political activities in Pécs. He then moved to Belgrade, where he taught at the Royal Art School in Belgrade and exhibited regularly. Dobrović’s highly evolved Colourism started standing out in his first paintings from the Island of Hvar, i.e. as early as around 1925. After he returned from another trip to Paris and the French Riviera with Milan Konjović in 1926-27, Dobrović’s interest returned to Dalmatian landscapes and ever-expanding Colourism. Whilst in Belgrade, he also participated in the founding of the Form (Oblik in Croatian) Art Group, which advocated the autonomy of aesthetics in art and Modernism between 1926 and 1939. Dobrović published drawings, vignettes and art criticism in writer Miroslav Krleža’s magazine Danas (Today) in 1934. Committed to leftist ideas, he portrayed Krleža and the people gathering around Krleža’s magazine Danas assembled in his studio on his largest canvas called In the Editorial Office of the Danas Magazine. Being one of its founders (1937), Dobrović taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, where one of the students he mentored in 1940-41 was Edo Murtić.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

Vladimir Becić

Still Life, 1909

oil on canvas, 52×65 cm

MG-893

Vladimir Becić (1886-1954) attended Menci Clement Crnčić and Bela Čikoš Sesija’s private school of painting in Zagreb. After having dropped out of law school, in 1905 he travelled to Munich and attended Heinrich Knirr’s private school of painting. After having enrolled in 1906 in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, he completed Ludwig von Herterich’s drawing course and enrolled in Hugo von Habermann’s painting classes, also attended by Josip Račić, Miroslav Kraljević and Oskar Herman (the Munich Circle) between 1905 and 1910. He moved to Paris in 1909 and enrolled in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and drew for Le Rire, a French humour magazine. In 1910 he started moving about different towns, including Zagreb, Osijek, Belgrade and Bitola. He spent the period between 1916 and 1918 on the Macedonian Front as a war correspondent and painter for the French L’Illustration weekly. After World War I ended, he travelled to Blažuj near Sarajevo, where he set up a studio and painted landscapes, portraits and scenes from everyday life in the countryside in the manner of colourist Realism. During the 1920s, he briefly painted in the vein of Magical Realism as well, but after he joined the Group of Three in 1929, and in his portraits, landscapes and scenes from everyday life returned to colourist Realism. Becić taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb and was a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Painted in the dimmed colours of the Munich School, Becić’s Still Life from 1909 is an excellent example of his application of the postulates of Cezannism. The shapes of the bread, fruit and jug displayed on a round table covered with a simple white tablecloth clearly indicate that Becić used the geometric objects of cylinder and sphere as their templates. The horizontal composition is simple and consists of three main parts: the lower half of the painting is occupied by a representation of the surface of the table, the upper half by a grey background, while the central part is where the motif of still life is arranged on the table.

Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Branko Ružić

1919-1997

The Ark

1966

wood

MG-2530

Branko Ružić graduated in sculpture in 1944 (mentored by Frano Kršinić) and in painting in 1948 (mentored by Marino Tartaglia) from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he taught from 1961 to 1985.

The sculptural works that Ružić created are both archetypal and contemporary, which earned him a prominent position in contemporary Croatian sculpture. He developed his own sculptural language of concise organic forms, of powerful internal dynamics and of monumentality. Elementary, simple, ancient yet modern, and mostly made of wood, Ružić’s oeuvre consists of refined and simplified forms whose significance is existentialist. As a painter, Ružić also sought to portray the world around us the way he experienced it, the way his inner eye saw it. The form of his paintings is concise, with which he presents a maximum of experience of a referential theme by using a minimum of visual language, often exploring the motifs he already established in his sculptures.

Ružić’s The Ark (Noah’s Ark) represents his vision of fellowship amongst people. By carving in the body of wood on both sides, face to face, he modelled stretched and geometrically cut figures in a round log creating a dynamic sculptural composition. The hollow inner space of the log is a dark immaterial shadow – the spiritual state of the figures facing each other, both closing and opening the space of the sculpture.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Izidor Kršnjavi, Bedouins, 1874

oil on canvas, 9.5×34.2 cm

MG-2112

Art historian, politician, painter and writer Izidor (Iso) Kršnjavi (1845-1927) was a key figure in Croatian culture in the second half of the 19th century. He was first taught painting by Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf in Osijek. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts first in Vienna and later in Munich, where he was mentored by Professors Wilhelm von Lindenschmit the Younger and Wilhelm von Diez, artists who used informal teaching methods to steer their students towards observational studies and plein-air painting. Between 1872 and 1877 he stayed in Italy on several occasions – he had a studio in Rome and in southern Italy he painted together with Karl Hubert Frosch, Henryk Hektor Siemiradzki and Ferdinand (Ferdo) von Quiquerez-Beaujeu. Having become dissatisfied with his work, he stopped painting in 1877. He favoured small-scale oils on canvas, drawings and copper etchings in the vein of the Realism of Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts and produced several sketches of the old masters reduced to basic strokes and colours for the purpose of teaching. Kršnjavi founded the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University in Zagreb with a lecture he gave in 1877 under the title The Significance of the History and Archaeology of Art, and in 1879 he prompted to action the Art Society founded in 1868. From 1891 to 1895 he was the Minister of Education and Religion in Károly Khuen-Héderváry’s administration. In 1905, in his capacity as president of the Art Society he founded the National Museum of Modern Art. Kršnjavi’s project of reconstructing and equipping the seat of the Department of Worship and Teaching is programmatically important. Based on Hermann Bollé’s project, and in line with the culture of Classicism, Humanism and Christianity, the reconstruction was executed in the spirit of Idealism and Realism by artists who later became representatives of Croatia’s Modernism.

Kršnjavi’s Bedouins study was created during his stay in southern Italy and is a typical small-scale, strikingly horizontally elongated composition painted in the manner of Munich’s Realism freed from the strict rules of Academicism. He painted the sketchy depiction of a genre scene using a distinctly light and airy palette of colours under the influence of the light and atmosphere of the Mediterranean.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Slavko Kopač (1913-1995)

A Cow, 1949

oil on canvas, 730×920 mm

MG 3864

 

Slavko Kopač (1913-1995) was a leading modernist in Croatia with an international career, who intermixed Art Brut, Surrealism and Art Informel. In his book Art of Another Kind from 1952, Michel Tapié ranks Kopač amongst the greatest painters and pioneers of Art Brut. After having graduated in 1937 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (mentored by Vladimir Becić), he first painted in the spirit of Post-Impressionist Realism and then in the vein of Miroslav Kraljević’s expression and Leo Junek’s colourist facets. During his stay in Italy (1943-1948), he created vistas and watercolours akin to Surrealism. After having rejected Realism and Academicism, Kopač started creating an elementary and primary expression, which is one of the precepts of Art Brut. In 1948, he moved to Paris, where the founder of Art Brut, Jean Dubuffet, appointed him as secretary and curator of the Collection of Art Brut. He was secretary and curator of the said collection until 1975 when it moved to Lausanne. André Breton entrusted Kopač with equipping a limited edition of his 1949 poem Un regard des divinités. In 1950 he participated in the creation of Almanach surréaliste du demi-siècle, an anthology of surrealists, and in 1953 he exhibited at Breton’s gallery l’Étoile scellée. He painted and sculpted using new materials, such as sand, rubber and metal, as well as stone, wood, paper, glass and coal. Attributing to them the features of Luddism and primordial principles, he modelled people, various beings, plants and animals in the manner of Primitivism. Kopač’s A Cow (1949), painted before Dubuffet’s first painting of cow, is an original depiction and synthesis of his childlike and primitive expression presented in a two-dimensional form on a two-dimensional background. A Cow is a rudimentary, archetypal symbol reminiscent of cave art.

 

 Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

 

Marija Ujević-Galetović

1933

Franz Kafka

1976

porcelain

MG-3952

Marija Ujević-Galetović graduated in sculpture in 1958 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (mentored by Frano Kršinić), where she started teaching in 1987 as the first female professor of sculpture. She also studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London and spent time in Italy, the UK and France on study stays.

In her rich oeuvre, Ujević-Galetović has drawn on the tradition of Croatian figurative sculpture based on refined volumes bearing a contemporary visual code. She models the melancholic features of her frozen-motion statues successfully by reducing their form geometrically. Regardless of whether they are of a religious, sepulchral, memorial or profane character, thanks to their ingenious solutions and associations her notable public sculptures fit in perfectly with the modern urban environment that they are placed in. Mounted in different attractive locations around Zagreb, her sculptures of August Šenoa, Vlaho Paljetak, Miroslav Krleža or A Male Runner are to be singled out thanks to their subtle monumentality.

In the early 1960s, Ujević-Galetović drew close to Pop Art and New Figuration. She synthesised forms and experimented with the properties of different materials, which is observable in the porcelain bust of writer Franz Kafka. The portrait is esoteric in nature thanks to Ujević-Galetović having successfully introduced discord between its concise form on the one hand, and the realistically portrayed physical and psychological traits of the writer on the other. This is further enhanced by an effective opposition between the glossy glaze of the white figure and its blue hat.

 Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

Krsto Hegedušić

A Flood, 1932

oil on canvas, 106×123.5 cm

MG-1530

 

Krsto Hegedušić’s painting A Flood from 1932 represents a synthesis of the programme of the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists, which Krsto Hegedušić was the initiator and secretary of. In a naturalistically rough manner, the soul-stirring scene depicts hard life in Podravina’s countryside. Having drawn not only on Croatia’s native folk art heritage, but also on Pieter Brueghel the Elder and George Grosz, Hegedušić painted the scene as simply as possible bringing only the most essential details. Drawn clearly, the composition is built flatly using locally inspired colours. The figures are divested of the illusion of perspective and volume. The central scene is accompanied by three independent scenes, which are arranged further away from the foreground like in a comic strip. Besides a high horizon, figures accustomed to hardship are the other feature that typifies Hegedušić’s painting in the vein of the Zemlja group of artists. They are fully typified, with their proportions symbolically exaggerated to the point of being grotesque. Hegedušić’s native landscape is identified by the severity of the natural disaster, a recognisable motif of a late winter landscape in the surroundings of the Hlebine area and the muddy river flooding the plain. Hegedušić’s A Flood expresses paradigmatically his critical agenda and subversive action, while writer Miroslav Krleža singled this painting out as an explicit example of Hegedušić’s individuality, talent and imagination.

 

Although his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb – where he was mentored by Tomislav Krizman, Vladimir Becić, Jozo Kljaković, Edo Kovačević and Ljubo Babić – and the ongoing course of Croatia’s Modernism in art had little effect on Krsto Hegedušić, his originality and determination in the 1930s birthed a new paradigm of form and motif, facilitating the emergence of Croatian Naive Art. In 1937, he started teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Besides painting, he also did drawings, graphics, frescoes, book illustrations, and theatre stage and costume design. He died in 1975.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

FERDO ĆUS (1891-1914)

A Head of a Boy, 1913

wood

MG-1331

Ferdo Ćus graduated in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1910 (mentored by Robert Frangeš-Mihanović and Rudolf Valdec). In 1913 and 1914, he continued his studies at the woodcarving school in St. Christina in Tyrol, Austria. Recognised as a talented sculptor while still a student, in 1910 he sculpted bronze statues of boys on turtles for the fountain in Petrinja, and in 1911 he modelled independently the groups of owls mounted on the roof of the building that housed the University Library in Zagreb, today the Croatian State Archives.

Due to his early death, Ćus’s oeuvre is not extensive. Nevertheless, it reflects his strong artistic personality as realised in his wooden sculptures of saints, human figures and animalistic motifs of thematic diversity and sensibility.

Ćus’s children’s portraits, such as A Head of a Boy (1913), are modelled softly within their closed volume. Curiously, the surfaces of the boy’s hair, smooth with solid edges, are modelled in the manner of Facet Cubism.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Boris Demur
Requiem in Croatia, 1991
Acrylic on canvas
400 x 400 cm
National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
MG-6519

Boris Demur (1951-2014) was a Neo-Avant-Garde painter and Post-Conceptual artist. He was a co-founding member of the Group of Six Artists (Zagreb, 1975-1981). He graduated in painting in 1975 (Prof. Raul Goldoni) and in graphic arts in 1977 (Albert Kinert), and from 1975 to 1977 he participated in painter and sculptor Ljubo Ivančić’s master workshop. Having equated art with life, Demur developed a personal image of an existentialist artist. During the 1970s, he started painting in the vein of Expressionist Abstraction, and later expressive Art Informel by combining (non)painterly materials and by using collage, decollage, assemblage and frottage techniques.

In the mid-1970s, Demur’s painting was primary, analytical, elementary and procedural in nature, with painting being nothing but a work of art, nothing but a fact. In 1983, he reintroduced motif and bodily gesture into his painting with the archetype of a spiral, which continued to be his main theme until the end of his life and career.

Demur’s Requiem in Croatia (1991), a painting of a white spiral on a black background, is a reflection of chaos theory, according to which all unpredictable processes have their own pattern and regularity. The cross is an expression of identification of Demur’s personal religiosity with unavoidable correlations with Croatia’s Homeland War reality. Later, he introduced the double spiral of yin-yang as a symbol of the integrity of life.

During the 40+ years of his career as an artist, he exhibited at numerous solo exhibitions in both Croatia and abroad, and in 1996 he was Croatia’s representative at the São Paulo Art Biennial. In the same year, he received the Order of the Croatian Morning Star with the image of Marko Marulić, Croatia’s national order bestowed for achievements in culture. In 2004, the National Museum of Modern Art presented a retrospective of his work (Retrospective I, curated by Zdenko Rus).

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Marijan Detoni

A Dilapidated Wall Fantasy, 1938

oil on canvas, 53×67.5 cm

MG-1994

A Dilapidated Wall Fantasy, Marijan Detoni’s experimental canvas, opened up endless possibilities of interpretation akin to Lyrical Abstraction as early as 1938. It is in a labyrinth of wet traces and puddles which young Detoni was referred to by Da Vinci after he read the latter’s A Treatise on Painting that he revealed the power of stains, signs, material and gesture, having thus anticipated the Avant-Garde movements of post-war European painting. In the painting, the motif of the brick – a trademark of sorts of the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists to which Detoni belonged from 1932 to 1934 – as well as condensed human figures and war machines moving dramatically presaging the inevitable doom of Europe are recognisable.

Marijan Detoni graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1928 in the class of Professor Ljubo Babić. In his earlier works, Detoni highlights volumes of a Cézannesque conception, and from 1926 he often depicted scenes from provincial life into which he introduced elements of humour and the grotesque. While on a scholarship in Paris in 1934, he drew turbulent scenes from the streets of Paris and scenes from the lives of unemployed workers. Detoni expressed himself masterfully through simple drawings, locally inspired colours and basic modelling. His pre-war paintings feature Colourism, and as a forerunner of abstract tendencies in Croatian painting, in 1938 he painted two Dilapidated Wall Fantasies. While in Paris in 1939, he was inspired by the Modernism of the School of Paris, after which he returned to local themes and euphoric experiences of light and colour. He joined the partisan movement in World War II, and in the post-war years featuring the dictated aesthetics of Socialist Realism he centred on partisan war themes. Later he painted inspiring visions, fantastic and phantasmagorical compositions and totally abstract paintings.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Marijan Detoni

A Dilapidated Wall Fantasy, 1938

oil on canvas, 53×67.5 cm

MG-1994

A Dilapidated Wall Fantasy, Marijan Detoni’s experimental canvas, opened up endless possibilities of interpretation akin to Lyrical Abstraction as early as 1938. It is in a labyrinth of wet traces and puddles which young Detoni was referred to by Da Vinci after he read the latter’s A Treatise on Painting that he revealed the power of stains, signs, material and gesture, having thus anticipated the Avant-Garde movements of post-war European painting. In the painting, the motif of the brick – a trademark of sorts of the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists to which Detoni belonged from 1932 to 1934 – as well as condensed human figures and war machines moving dramatically presaging the inevitable doom of Europe are recognisable.

Marijan Detoni graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1928 in the class of Professor Ljubo Babić. In his earlier works, Detoni highlights volumes of a Cézannesque conception, and from 1926 he often depicted scenes from provincial life into which he introduced elements of humour and the grotesque. While on a scholarship in Paris in 1934, he drew turbulent scenes from the streets of Paris and scenes from the lives of unemployed workers. Detoni expressed himself masterfully through simple drawings, locally inspired colours and basic modelling. His pre-war paintings feature Colourism, and as a forerunner of abstract tendencies in Croatian painting, in 1938 he painted two Dilapidated Wall Fantasies. While in Paris in 1939, he was inspired by the Modernism of the School of Paris, after which he returned to local themes and euphoric experiences of light and colour. He joined the partisan movement in World War II, and in the post-war years featuring the dictated aesthetics of Socialist Realism he centred on partisan war themes. Later he painted inspiring visions, fantastic and phantasmagorical compositions and totally abstract paintings.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

 

 

Vanja Radauš (1906-1975)

Typhus Sufferer, 1957

bronze

MG-2301

Vanja Radauš graduated in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (mentored by R. Frangeš Mihanović and R. Valdec; attended I. Meštrović’s special course in 1930). He resided in Paris (in 1928, 1930 and 1931), where he got to know the works of A. Watteau, A. Rodin and A. Bourdelle. His study of Michelangelo’s works in Italy in 1937 steered him towards expressive, dynamic and dramatic forms, which became a distinctive feature of his entire sculptural oeuvre. In 1940 he started teaching at the School of Crafts in Zagreb, and between 1945 and 1969 when he retired he taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb as a full professor.

Radauš’s sensitivity and passion for social issues brought him close to the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists, of which he was a member from 1932 to 1933. He remained unwaveringly committed to Zemlja’s programme principles both as an individual and an artist throughout his career. His expressive, dynamic and masterful modelling and thematic focus on marginal members of society come to the fore in his statues, portraits and nudes. He left a trace on all types of sculpture, from medal making, terracotta, plaster, stone, wax and bronze sculpture to public monuments, such as The Fallen (The Wounded), a statue from 1938 installed in the courtyard of the National Museum of Modern Art. The irregular shape of his first medal (Ante Starčević, 1943) and the way he treated surfaces displaying pronounced expressiveness and associativity charted a new direction in Croatian medal making.

Radauš’s Typhus Sufferers, a series of bronze statues, are an expression of his distinct negation of the heroic pathos.

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

 

 

Đuro Seder (1927)

Composition, 1961

oil on canvas, 1100×1305 mm

MG 4095

Đuro Seder is a multifaceted, universal painter. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1951 (mentored by Antun Mezdjić; in 1953, he attended Marino Tartaglia’s special course). He did illustration and graphic design, and in the mid-1950s he painted dynamised paintings in the spirit of Tachisme. Being the founding member of the Gorgona art group (1959-1966) that brought together artists of a shared spiritual kinship, he advocated a Neo-Avant-Garde spirit, freedom of art and thought, which heralded the New Art Practice that came later. Seder’s oeuvre displays a unique progression from the mute, dark impossibility of painting (Seder’s essay, 1971) in the form of non-iconic Art Informel (Composition, 1961) to black and dark green expressive figuration from the late 1970s that gradually announced the possibilities of painting (Seder’s essay, 1981) and New Painting (1981), of which he is one of the architects. Seder’s Composition (1961) emanates a logical fact – the painting is a non-descriptive composition that refers to nothing outside its materiality. It is a seemingly completely monochrome, existentialist-Art-Informelist and layered dark visualisation from which occasional red dabs glow. It is devoid of any reference to both reality (other than its being stripped bare) and the processes of painting. In the 1990s, Seder developed a distinctive Neo-Expressionism of total painting, as well as a series of ironic and self-ironic self-portraits featuring a healthy sense of humour and, on occasion, joy in the vein of New Wild (since 2007) and new spiritual-sacral painting.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

 

Vojin Bakić, 1915-1992

Torso III

1956

marble

MG-2349

Vojin Bakić is one of the greatest Croatian sculptors of the second half of the 20th century. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1939, and attended a special course taught by sculptors I. Meštrović and F. Kršinić until 1945. He spent time on study stays in Milan, Florence and Paris. He collaborated with the EXAT 51 art group and the New Tendencies movement, and is an avant-garde artist who was amongst those who introduced abstraction into Croatian art.

Between 1938 and 1945, he modelled sensuous female nudes of closed and softly shaped volumes. In the period between 1945 and 1948, he treated surfaces impressionistically with an expressive interplay between light and shadow. The volume of his female nudes and bull statues created between 1949 and 1958 is compressed, with the details merged into the totality of the sculptures creating a miraculous balance of large, pure forms of abstract beauty. In 1958, he started experimenting with open forms, interior spaces and light reflections on glossy surfaces. His monumental memorials are based on innovative and modern sculptural concepts, i.e., abstract, elementary and geometrised forms, and became universal signs of the way the anti-fascist fight in World War II is remembered in collective consciousness.

Bakić’s series of nudes and torsos unify his unearthing of organic and associative forms. The pure, refined and polished white marble of his Torso III represents a youthful female torso of an abstract form of universal beauty.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Nikola Mašić: A Geese Keeper on the Sava River, 1880-1881

oil on canvas, 92×227 cm

MG-171

Known as a painter of compositions of what is called Beautified Realism, Nikola Mašić (1852-1902) started his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1872, but after having become dissatisfied with its programme, he continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Having been taught composition by Alexander Wagner, Mašić acquired the knowledge needed to work on large-scale figurative compositions. He had an affinity for the painting style of Wilhelm Lindenschmit the Younger, a painter of historical compositions whose palette became lighter over time under the influence of the Munich School. He spent the summer of 1874 in Rome and its surroundings wanting to become familiar with the monuments of antiquity at first hand, which was to help him paint his future figurative compositions. However, the sketches and studies that he did at the time show his fascination with the atmosphere and light of the Mediterranean. During his stays in Croatia, he painted in Posavina. In 1878 he attended the Paris World’s Fair, where he saw painter Marià Fortuny’s Japonisme. Being an acclaimed painter, in 1879 he was given a studio in Munich, travelled around Europe and followed fine art events. Due to vision impairment, he returned in 1884 to Zagreb, where he first worked as a drawing teacher at the School of Crafts, and where in 1894 he was appointed as director of the Strossmayer Gallery.

 

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, musum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Vladimir Varlaj

An Orchard in the Countryside, 1924

oil on canvas, 57.5×73.4 cm

MG-1050

 

In An Orchard in the Countryside from 1924 Vladimir Varlaj expands the Cézannesque and Expressionist methods that distinguish the work of the Prague Four group of painters (Uzelac, Trepše, Gecan and Varlaj), marked by a ‘return to order’ and a consistent reduction of details to basic structures defined by a simple drawing and a sequence of planes. In the spirit of the poetics of Magical Realism, Varlaj expresses his personal vision of the world by subordinating real landscapes or vedutas to the rule of absolute balance. He replaces descriptive colours with symbolic ones and natural with inner lighting.

Vladimir Varlaj started his education as an artist in Zagreb with Professor Tomislav Krizman, and finished the High School of Arts and Crafts mentored by Emanuel Crnčić. In 1917 he returned from the Eastern Front disabled, and in the following year he went to visit his friend and painter Milivoj Uzelac in Prague. Not a single painting of Varlaj’s exists from the period preceding his first appearance at the 1919 Spring Salon in Zagreb. Besides the Spring Salons, from 1921 to 1927 he also regularly participated in exhibitions of the Group of Independent Artists initiated by painter Ljubo Babić. Varlaj’s anthological series of landscapes and vedutas of an accentuated plasticity and exceptional suggestiveness was interrupted by a serious illness as early as 1934. The still lifes he painted later seem to be his way of bidding both painting and life farewell. He died in 1962 without having had a single solo exhibition held.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Juraj Plančić
Fishermen (Fishermen from Brittany; Fishing), 1929
oil on canvas, 60×73 cm
MG-1708

Fishermen, Juraj Plančić’s painting from 1929, represents his imaginary world of vivacity, as well as his stylistically singular and consistent oeuvre. He painted his pastoral, processional and fishing scenes by modelling their surface and by translucently applying paint of characteristic hues. His work displays a special graphism, which he achieved via light, melodic drawing and by scratching lines into paint. As far as his colouristic intimism is concerned, Plančić’s oeuvre contributes anthologically to the development of Croatian Modernism.

Juraj Plančić was born in Stari Grad on the Island of Hvar. After having finished the High School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and after having been encouraged by painters Vladimir Becić and Jozo Kljaković, Plančić went to Paris with his colleague Krsto Hegedušić in 1926 as a French government scholarship holder. Despite having to work hard to eke out a living, Plančić frequented the museums of Paris and painted inspired especially by Manet and Derain. The first time that he exhibited his work was at the Autumn Salon in 1927. Although he moved to Rosny-sous-Bois with his family due to destitution, it was in this small town that Plančić painted his idyllic figurative compositions of a golden glow which brought him his first success at the Autumn Salon in 1928. His solo exhibition at the Galerie de Seine in 1929 and group exhibitions at the Salon of Independent Artists held at the Grand Palais in 1929 and 1930 also won critical acclaim and sold his works. Within the period of as little as some twenty months prior to his death from tuberculosis in the summer of 1930, Plančić painted seventy fascinating Arcadian landscapes. By sublimating all French styles of painting from Rococo, Watteau and Fragonard to Impressionism, Fauvism, but also his contemporaries such as Maurice Utrillo, Plančić created a novel and an entirely personal aesthetics of European breadth.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Branislav Dešković

1883-1939

A Dog Tracking

1912

bronze

MG-2242

 

Branislav Dešković attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice (1903-1905), where he was mentored by the Italian sculptor Antonio Dal Zòtto. He stayed briefly in Vienna, and in 1907 he moved to Paris, where he regularly exhibited at the Salons (1908-1921).

Dešković’s earliest works were influenced by Academicism and the Italian Verists. During his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, he sculpted a series of realist portrait reliefs, such as A Portrait of a Bearded Man (1904).

Whenever he travelled to Croatia, he modelled sculptures under the influence of the patriotic movement, and in the spirit of Art Nouveau and stylised monumentalism. After having led a bohemian lifestyle and once his health started deteriorating, in 1921 he settled down in Split.

He is best known for his dynamic sculptures of hunting dogs under the influence of Rodin’s aesthetics, modelled as freestanding sculptures and in typical poses. Given his very own version of Impressionism, he is considered to be the most prominent animalist in Croatian modern sculpture.

A Dog Tracking is a perfect impression of a hunting dog frozen in action while focusing on its primary task.

 

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Goran vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

Braco Dimitrijević

Leopard, 1979-2004

oil on canvas, 104×214 cm

 

Active from the late 1960s to the present, Braco Dimitrijević (1948) is one of the pioneers of the international Conceptual Art movement. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1971. In the same year, his wife Nena and he organised At The Moment, the first ever exhibition of Conceptual Art in Yugoslavia in a passageway on Frankopanska Street in Zagreb.

From his rich conceptual practice, his Casual Passers-By are the most famous. These are series of photographs, which he took over a long period of time, and which marked the beginning of the art form of critical interventions in public space. He premiered his Casual Passers-By in Zagreb in 1971, and then exhibited them in Paris, Venice, New York and other cities around the world. After 1976, he started developing a world-famous series of installations under the name Tryptichos Post Historicus. By using the innovative method of appropriation, his Tryptichos Post Historicus series interrelate three categories of objects: a famous work of art, an everyday item and fruits of nature.

The Leopard painting is an example of the way in which Dimitrijević’s model of post-historical triptych and method of appropriation work in the medium of painting. The walking leopard’s fur patterns blend in with the background which is done by dripping and spraying paint onto the canvas, which is a reference to the painting method of Jackson Pollock, the founder of Action Painting. This painting series heralded a series of installations in which Dimitrijević brought animals and works of art together, the highlight of which took place in 1998 at a solo exhibition at the Paris Zoo. In 1976, he published Tractatus Post Historicus, his most famous theoretical work. One of the most famous of his statements expressing his conviction as an artist is: “Louvre is my studio, street my museum”.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Goran vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

 

Emanuel Vidović
Angelus, 1906/07
oil on canvas, 945×1385 mm
MG-2748

 

After having been given lessons in painting in Split by painter and builder Emil Vecchietti, Emanuel Vidović (1870-1953) enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice in 1887, which, formally, he never finished. Between 1892 and 1895, he stayed in Milan, where he exhibited paintings on the theme of Venice’s fishing life at the Esposizioni Riunite in 1894 and at the Esposizione Permanente in 1895. His stays in Chioggia, a picturesque fishing village near Venice, were a particularly significant formative influence on him as a painter, a theme he kept on returning to throughout his life. His formative period was also affected by Venetian landscape painters, such as Guglielmo Ciardi, and by en plein air painting under the influence of the Macchiaioli, a group of Tuscan artists who painted using alla macchia (spotty) brush strokes with an emphasis on the relationship between light and shade, a style of painting which peaked in the period between 1854 and 1860. Vidović created his sunset landscapes in parallel with his en plein air paintings. After having taken a brief divisive Segantinian turn that resulted in his Small World diptych in 1904, in the period between 1906 and 1920 Vidović’s painting is characterised by landscape reduction achieved by stylisation and using different shades of a single colour with a touch of black, which highlights the symbolic quality of his paintings.
These features are discernible in Angelus, his paradigmatic painting from 1906/07 painted in shades of red. Being a Christian iconography motif, Angelus is rich in sacral, spiritual meanings, and was well-suited for Vidović’s symbolic expression. The painting’s reduced landscape as a metaphor for the state of the soul with Böcklinesque outlines of a ship on water and of a coastline (an island) in the background points to the universal imagery of European Symbolism.

Tekst: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb © The National Museum of Modern Art Zagreb

Photo: Goran Vranić © The National Museum of Modern Art Zagreb

 

 

 

 

Ivan Meštrović
1883-1962
A Portrait of Ruža Meštrović
1915
bronze
MG – 802

 

Having won worldwide fame and acclaim, Ivan Meštrović is the most prominent Croatian sculptor of the first half of the 20th century.
He studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna from 1901 to 1905. This is where, during his formative years, he was influenced by the overall atmosphere of Vienna’s Art Nouveau, having himself become a typical representative of the same in sculpture. Between 1923 and 1942, he served as the rector of Zagreb’s Academy of Fine Arts. His artistic, professional and public work exerted significant influence on his coevals, the younger generation of sculptors and the birth of Modernism in Croatia.
Most of Meštrović’s early works deal with symbolic themes. A representative example is the Spring of Life, a well-shaped public sculpture from 1905 installed in front of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb.
Since the beginning of his distinguished career, Meštrović had been recognised as a remarkable talent and master artist of a distinctive skill at shaping sculptural forms. Using his exceptional talent, he executed monumental, religious and intimate motifs of universal value.
Meštrović’s entire sculptural oeuvre is imbued with portraiture and unique female characters. Executed in the spirit of Art Nouveau, the portrait of Ruža Klein Meštrović, his wife at the time, is a masterpiece of elegant gesture. Her face and high bust are stylised, while the slight diagonal turn of the body highlights movement and dynamises the form.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb © The National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Goran Vranić © The National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

 

Edo Murtić (1921-2005)
Highway, 1952
oil on canvas, 823×1455 mm
MG-2339

 

Edo Murtić’s Highway is a painting from his Experience of America series (1951-1952) created during his stay in the US and Canada. By moving away from the poetics of Social Realism, the series marks a turning point in Croatian and Yugoslavian post-war painting, heralding Murtić’s characteristic variant of American Abstract Expressionism, the most influential school of painting at the time. In the US, Murtić met Jackson Pollock, which gave him fresh creative impetus. Unlike Pollock’s gestural Action Painting automatism, Murtić’s expression is more colour centred. The composition of the Highway balances between the motif of the overpass in the foreground, and abstract rhythmic gestures and colour surfaces developing in the background suggestive of a dynamic city. Starting with the reduction of reality in landscape paintings during the 1950s in the vein of Lyrical Abstraction and Tachisme, in the early 1960s Murtić developed a recognisable abstract style of painting characterised by dynamic gesture and intense colours. This made Murtić the most influential and most widely known artist of High Modernism in socialist Yugoslavia, with a respectable career on the international arts scene. Murtić learned from the greatest artists of his time at the academies in Zagreb and Belgrade. As a staunch socialist, he joined the partisan movement during WWII. Being a prominent cultural worker, he later advocated democratic values. He had a highly intense and influential career that lasted for sixty years. After his brief figuration period in the 1980s, for the rest of his life he remained an abstractionist of Picasso’s versatility.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant Copyright National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Goran Vranić, Copyright National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

 

 

Vlaho Bukovac: Gundulić Contemplating Osman, 1894

oil on canvas, 185×308 cm

catalogue entry no.

MG-295

 

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922) introduced Modernism into Croatia. In his childhood, his inquisitive and adventurous spirit took him to the USA. Thanks to a pan-Slavicist writer, Medo Pucić, and Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, he attended École des beaux-arts in Prague. His style of painting was influenced by Alexandre Cabanel, an eclectic painter of historical and religious compositions in the spirit of Academicism. With time, he became acquainted with Impressionism and Orientalism, and developed his artistic expression drawing from Realism and Impressionism, and occasionally from Symbolism. After having completed his studies in 1880 and thanks to the successes he achieved at the Salons in Paris, he set up a studio in Paris. Concurrently, he also painted in Dalmatia and the UK, and in 1893 he settled in Zagreb, where in 1895 he initiated the construction of the Art Pavilion. In opposition to Izidor Kršnjavi’s Croatian Art Society founded in 1879, in 1897 Bukovac founded the Society of Croatian Artists inviting artists to paint en plein air, which gave impetus to the development of Modernism in Croatia. Under his influence, painters started using a lighter palette and rejecting the brown hues that dominated galleries. As a result, a variant of Croatian realist painting of bright colours came about, dubbed the Colourful School of Zagreb. Because of his disagreement with Kršnjavi, Bukovac first went to Cavtat in 1898 and then to Prague in 1903 to teach at the acade

Gundulić Contemplating Osman, a painting which Bukovac started in Paris and finished in Zagreb in 1894, shows Ivan Gundulić, a Croatian Baroque writer, contemplating his historical and romantic epic, Osman. The diagonal Baroque composition and the characters are academically realistic, while Gundulić’s gaze is fixed on the impressionistically treated haze and the gleam of light above the water. The ease with which he painted is evident not only in the realistic depiction of the draperies and incarnations, but also in the details of the plants and rocks in the foreground. The fact that both the painting’s theme and Baroque composition are a reference/citation makes Gundulić Contemplating Osman nevertheless be in the vein of History Painting.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb ©The National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Photo: Goran Vranić © The National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Autor:

Kamilo-Tompa,-Na-ulici,-1931.,-MG-2517

Autor:

Miroslav-sutej,-Bum-Bum,-1968.,-MG-4160

Autor:

Martina-Kramer,-Izmedu-(SS),-2001.,-MG-6743

Autor:

Ivan Rendic, Hercegovka,1883., MG-2004

Autor:

Bruno Bulić, 14. ožujka, 1939., MG-1501

Autor:

Matko-Trebotic-i-Joseph-Beuys,-Zapis,-1982.,-MGP-1046