In the Struggle, 1938
Detoni’s lithograph “In the Struggle” is part of his oeuvre that is marked by the participation in the work of the art group Zemlja, a group that strongly advocated, within the framework of Croatian and Yugoslav art between the two world wars, for an active role of artists in society. The extent of this group’s influence and the topicality of its program is best illustrated by the fact that it was banned from public work by the authorities in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1935. Marijan Detoni was born in 1905, and he graduated from the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts in 1928. In 1933, as a recipient of the French government scholarship, he spent a year in Paris where he visited museums, but his attention was more preoccupied with the social unrest, which ignited on the streets of Paris in those years as a result of the great economic crisis. One year later, he will publish a portfolio of 30 linocuts, “People from the Seine” in Vukovar, as a kind of reflection of his stay in Paris and probably one of the best print portfolios in Croatian art.
In this lithograph, the entire frame is filled with men pushing, shouting at each other, clashing. Each figure is shown in a position that suggests intense movement. In cases where only the head is shown, Detoni depicts the face in a grimace, thus suggesting the movement of the body. In the background, a series of two-storey houses marks the scene of the unrest – the city. There is nothing in the image that is indicative of the cause of the conflict, but knowing Detoni’s work from that period, we will not be mistaken if we recognize in this scene the street riots caused by the social and economic crisis.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb