Klek Mountain, 1929
oil on canvas
Exhibited at the first exhibitions of the Earth Association of Artists, Oton Postružnik’s Klek Mountain painting from 1929 introduced a sense of calm in terms of theme and style into the association’s otherwise socially charged and activist agenda. He departed from depictions of the hardships of everyday life and turned to a classically calm composition of a landscape featuring a bridge, a landscape that develops harmoniously with the help of a rhythmical sequencing of motifs which he unified using a cold register of colours. With this painting Postružnik departed from the aesthetics of the Earth Association of Artists and neared the aesthetics of Magical Realism, which is indicated by his idealised approach to the composition (details are minimised and shapes reduced to geometric forms), coupled with an absence of locally inspired colours, and socially engaged and folklore elements.
Oton Postružnik studied painting in Zagreb and Prague. He also studied in Paris under painters André Lhote and Moïse Kisling. After he returned to Zagreb, he participated in the Graphic Exhibition and started preparing The Grotesques exhibition together with painter Ivan Tabaković. Both exhibitions were held in 1926 and highlighted Postružnik’s not only personal, but also generational departure from well-established aesthetic (particularly expressionist) norms, presenting him as an already mature Avant-Garde artist. In 1927, Postružnik graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the class of Professor Ljubo Babić. Having been socially aware and committed to the truth, in 1929 he partook in the founding of the Earth Association of Artists, whom he regularly exhibited with until he left the association in 1933. During his second scholarship to Paris in 1935, he enriched his style with colour, which had until then been based on simple drawing and form. Having started out as a poetic intimist, his Dalmatian motifs from the 1950s synthesise form and colour uniquely. Having been inspired by nature, he later painted in the vein of Lyrical Abstraction. He also produced prints and ceramics, and taught painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970.
Text: Zlatko Tot, curator intern 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