Ljubo Babić
Croatian Peasant, 1926
oil on canvas
151 x 120.5 cm

With his painting the Croatian Peasant, Ljubo Babić pays tribute to the strong, hard-working and honest Croatian peasant whose efforts and labour the homeland rests upon. In the spirit of contemporary Neorealism, Babić emphasizes, with the monumental figure, the meaning and not the manifestation of reality. Instead of a portrait, Babić paints a personification of important national, but also universal human virtues. Although he participated in the founding of the Croatian Spring Salon, Ljubo Babić stopped participating in their exhibitions in the early 1920s and formed the Independent Group of Artists. In contrast to the Salon, which was then more oriented towards European trends, the Independents aspired to create their own original artistic expression without foreign influences. Babić will soon theoretically explain the need for national artistic singularity and elaborate it further as a painter. Babić’s creative and theoretical efforts related to ‘our’ expression left a significant mark on Croatian art from the end of the 19th century until World War II.

As a painter, set and costume designer, graphic artist, art pedagogue and critic, art historian, museologist, writer and editor, Ljubo Babić was an epochal figure in the 20th century Croatian culture and art, and after the Independent Group of Artists he also participated in the foundation of the Group of Four, Group of Three, Group of Croatian Artists and Croatian Artists. As the first curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, he was the author of its first permanent display shown in 1920 in the Museum of Arts and Crafts. In 1948, he designed the first display of the National Museum of Modern Art’s collection, which represents the complex development of 19th and 20th century Croatian art, for which purpose today’s building underwent extensive renovations.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, Senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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