Slavko Šohaj
The Painter and Objects, 1957
oil on canvas
85.3×99.5 cm

Slavko Šohaj (1908-2003) was one of Croatia’s most prominent lyrical intimist painters. He took over Paul Cézanne’s structure of composition and construction of painted objects. At the same time, he not only toned-down Henri Matisse’s intense Colourism, but also balanced it rhythmically against the peculiarities of his intimate world. Although he had an inexhaustible source of both impressionist and fauvist role models he could have followed, he developed his own measured style. He painted landscapes and vedutas. The poetics of his later oeuvre grew out of the intimate motifs and spaces of his studio (self-portraits, portraits, sensual nudes, interiors, still lifes). Under the influence of Matisse, in the 1960s his paintings started being flatter. Šohaj’s palette of colours is a harmony mostly of blues, greens and purples. With the help of its slanted composition and reverse perspective, Šohaj’s The Painter and Objects painting from 1957 is a display of toned down colours, Šohaj’s awareness of what it means to be a painter by vocation and the quiet life of objects.
Šohaj graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Vladimir Becić in 1931. In the 1930s, he also studied in Paris. In 1934, he exhibited his work as a guest artist with The Group of Three, where he was recognised as a poetic realist. He exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1942, and in the early 1950s at solo exhibitions in Paris. Together with painters Oton Postružnik and Frano Šimunović, he co-founded another Group of Three in 1958. His first solo exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art was set up as late as 1968, where in 2017 the donation of his wife Heda Šohaj was also presented. He worked as an art associate at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb (1935-1965), and became a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1977. He won the 1978 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture. Šohaj was musically gifted, and played both the piano (class of Svetislav Stančić) and the violin. Music was always present in Šohaj’s meditative space, and he was particularly fond of Frédéric Chopin.

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

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