Dragutin Trumbetaš
Around the Furnace & A Mother and a Daughter, 1986
ink on cardboard

The experience of working as a migrant worker in the Federal Republic of Germany decisively influenced the work of Dragutin Trumbetaš, a self-taught painter from Velika Gorica near Zagreb. He worked in publishing in Zagreb until 1966, and his knowledge of different printing techniques was of great help later in his career. He expressed himself mainly through drawing; he would group his drawings and publish them in thematic series. It is from one such thematic series – namely, Life Like a Snake – that we are presenting two drawings. Their central theme is the everyday life of people coming from the lowest social strata. Unlike the artists gathered around the Earth Association of Artists – who were in the interwar period equally devoted to the social problems of both the countryside and the city – Trumbetaš focused almost entirely on the phenomenon of the lumpenproletariat or the lowest stratum of the industrial working class. That this attracted his interest was contributed to mostly by his Gastarbeiter (migrant worker) experience in the Federal Republic of Germany. In other words, his stay in a country that was at the peak of its economic development in the 1970s. The hard life of millions of migrants to West Germany was a lasting source of fascination and inspiration for Trumbetaš.

What we immediately take notice of in his Around the Furnace and A Mother and a Daughter drawings from 1986 is – besides his linear style of drawing – Trumbetaš’s attention to detail. He not only depicted a heap of discarded items and rubbish under a bed or furnace, but also decided to present some of them exactly as they are in reality – to write out their brand name and to show their design so that viewers would not be confused about what these are. This, on the one hand, complexifies the composition and holds viewers’ attention and, on the other, it contextualises the scene historically and geographically. In doing so, Trumbetaš did not lose on the universality of that which is depicted. Despite all the signs that point to the scenes having a historical framework, these drawings do contain a certain universality and it is this universality that lends them a critical quality.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior 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

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