My Studio, 1931
oil on canvas
Antun Motika painted his My Studio painting in 1931 during his study stay in Paris. Having absorbed the works of impressionists and post-impressionists, Motika came to the realisation that painting is, like any other art, an expression of the artist’s personal experience. The interior of his studio does not emanate dark and depressing connotations the way interiors do in the work of his contemporaries. On the contrary, Motika was, according to art historian Nina Šepić (1957), amongst the first to have introduced white as a dominant colour to Croatian painting. His compositions exude lightness and lyricism, which is evident in the relationship between his colours, lines and forms. He built his interiors with the help of brushstrokes “thrown” onto the canvas, preferably in watercolour or gouache.
Antun Motika was born in 1902 in Pula. He enrolled in sculpture studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Rudolf Valdec in 1922, but in 1923 he decided to switch to painting. After having graduated in 1927, he continued his studies at Prof. Ljubo Babić’s master classes. In 1929 he started teaching drawing at the Mostar Gymnasium, where he remained until 1940. In parallel with the beginning of his teaching career, in 1930 Motika travelled to Paris for a ten-month study stay. In 1940 he was transferred to Zagreb to teach arts (ceramics, textiles, photography) at the School of Applied Arts and Design, where he remained until his retirement in 1961. In 1954 he started frequenting glass workshops on the Island of Murano near Venice, where he created glass sculptures. He held his first solo exhibition in Zagreb in 1933, after which he was invited to exhibit with The Group of Three. Because of its daring rejection of the dogmatic framework of Socialist Realism, his 1952 Archaic Surrealism exhibition provoked violent reactions with Croatian critics and is today considered to be of special cultural significance. He received the 1970 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture, and in 1974 a retrospective exhibition of his work was set up at the National Museum of Modern Art.
Text: Zlatko Tot, intern curator 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