Lujo Bezeredy

1898-1979

A Horse

1937

earthenware

MG-1459

 

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Antun Maračić

Emptied Frames, Missing Contents

1994

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Ivo Lozica, 1910. – 1943.

Sand Carrier

1942

bronze

MG-1394

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

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

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

 

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Oton Postružnik

Peasants, 1928

oil on canvas, 74.5×96 cm

MG-2514

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Milan Steiner

In the Rain, 1918

oil on canvas, 34.4×46.4 cm

MG-2261

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

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

 

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Peruško Bogdanić

1949

The First Heretic, 1990

wood, stone

MG-6264

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Ivan Generalić (1914-1992)

A Motif from Paris, 1953

oil on glass, 560×425 mm

MG-2342

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Marijan Trepše

At an Inn, 1919

oil on cardboard, 43.7×51.7 cm

MG-2161

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Aleksandar Srnec

(1924-2010)

Object 300877, 1977

aluminium, chrome, electric motor

MG-3998

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

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

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

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

 

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

Gabriel Jurkić
A Landscape, 1919

oil on canvas, 50×150 cmMG-3102

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Ana Opalić

Vesna & Marin, 1995

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

Juraj Škarpa (1881-1952)

The Head of Christ, 1925

wood

MG-7445

 

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

  

Vjekoslav Karas (1821-1858)

A Portrait of Ana Krešić, 1852-1856

oil on canvas, 78×59 cm

MG-77

 

A Portrait of Miško Krešić, 1852-1856

oil on canvas, 78×59 cm

MG-78

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art

 

Robert Auer

A Portrait of a Woman, 1909

oil on canvas, 68.4×45.4 cm

MG-366

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Franjo Mraz

Winter, 1936

tempera on glass, 30×40.4 cm

MG-1659

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

 

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

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

Matko Vekić

A Bridge, 1999

oil on canvas, 195×200 cm

MG 6782

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Anka Krizmanić

The Nova Ves Working-Class Suburb, 1912

oil on canvas, 40.5×50 cm

MG-5907

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

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

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

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

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

Ksenija Kantoci (1909-1995)

The Head of a Ram, 1957

wood

MG-5936

 

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

 

Ivo Gattin (1926-1978)

Red Surface, 1961

burnt resin on jute, 103.5×155.4 cm

MG-2555

 

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Ferdo Quiquerez

A Landscape/A Tree, 1874-1875

oil on canvas, 16×24.5 cm

MG-2203

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

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

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

Hinko Juhn

1891-1940

A Reclining Female Nude

1917

bronze

MG-1333

 

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

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

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

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

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

Maksimilijan Vanka

An Old Woman with a Dutch Hat, 1913

oil on hardboard, 50×50 cm

MG-4304

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Miljenko Stančić (1926-1977)

Vjekoslav Karas, 1953

oil on canvas

460×670 mm

MG-2175

 

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

 

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Petar Pallavicini

1886-1958

Don Quixote

1922

bronze

MG-4466

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Omer Mujadžić

A Newsboy, circa 1929

oil on canvas, 100×75 cm

MG-6704

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

 

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

 

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Petar Dobrović

Kupari Town, 1933

oil on canvas, 55×73 cm

MG-1480

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

Vladimir Becić

Still Life, 1909

oil on canvas, 52×65 cm

MG-893

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Branko Ružić

1919-1997

The Ark

1966

wood

MG-2530

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

Izidor Kršnjavi, Bedouins, 1874

oil on canvas, 9.5×34.2 cm

MG-2112

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Slavko Kopač (1913-1995)

A Cow, 1949

oil on canvas, 730×920 mm

MG 3864

 

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

 

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

 

 

Marija Ujević-Galetović

1933

Franz Kafka

1976

porcelain

MG-3952

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

 

Krsto Hegedušić

A Flood, 1932

oil on canvas, 106×123.5 cm

MG-1530

 

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

 

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

Photo Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

FERDO ĆUS (1891-1914)

A Head of a Boy, 1913

wood

MG-1331

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Marijan Detoni

A Dilapidated Wall Fantasy, 1938

oil on canvas, 53×67.5 cm

MG-1994

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

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

 

 

Marijan Detoni

A Dilapidated Wall Fantasy, 1938

oil on canvas, 53×67.5 cm

MG-1994

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

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

 

 

 

 

Vanja Radauš (1906-1975)

Typhus Sufferer, 1957

bronze

MG-2301

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

 

 

 

Đuro Seder (1927)

Composition, 1961

oil on canvas, 1100×1305 mm

MG 4095

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

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

 

 

 

Vojin Bakić, 1915-1992

Torso III

1956

marble

MG-2349

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Ana Janković

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

 

 

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

oil on canvas, 92×227 cm

MG-171

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

 

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

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

 

 

Vladimir Varlaj

An Orchard in the Countryside, 1924

oil on canvas, 57.5×73.4 cm

MG-1050

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Branislav Dešković

1883-1939

A Dog Tracking

1912

bronze

MG-2242

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Braco Dimitrijević

Leopard, 1979-2004

oil on canvas, 104×214 cm

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Vlaho Bukovac: Gundulić Contemplating Osman, 1894

oil on canvas, 185×308 cm

catalogue entry no.

MG-295

 

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

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

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

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

Autor:

Vilko-Gecan,-Portret-dr.-Piskulica,-1928.,-MG-1059

Autor:

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

Autor:

Leo-Junek,-Pred-zidom,-1929.,-MGP-142

Autor:

Vlasta-Delimar,-Bez-naziva,-1991.,-MG-6351

Autor:

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

Autor:

Boris Bucan, Pas, 1988., MG-5595