Leo Junek (1899-1993)
A Self-Portrait in Front of a Wall, 1927/28
oil on canvas, 50×62 cm
MG-7101

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
MG 2114

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

MG-2668

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

MG-67

 

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

MG-2635

 

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

MG-4079

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

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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

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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

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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

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A Portrait of Miško Krešić, 1852-1856

oil on canvas, 78×59 cm

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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

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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:

Vladimir-Becic,-Akt-djevojcice,-1907.,-MG-867

Autor:

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

Autor:

Duje-Juric,-Bez-naziva,-1990.,-MG-6732

Autor:

Ivo-Rezek,-Portret-gospode-L.M.,-s.d.,-MG-1138

Autor:

Marino-Tartaglia,-Cvijece-I-A,-1966.,-MG-2606

Autor:

Josip-Diminic,-Uzajamni-prihvat,-1974.,-MG-3359