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