My Native Land, 1936
oil on canvas
Ljubo Babić’s My Native Land painting from 1936 is a paradigm of the creative and theoretical effort he put during the 1930s into affirming the values and specificities of Croatia and its people, and into involving Croatian culture in what was at the time the contemporary European context. Seeking to distance himself from the complex socio-political state of affairs – including the then current ideology of the Earth Association of Artists – Babić underscored the need for artistic idealisation and individual values close to the social class of the bourgeoisie. He recognised in some of his landscapes typical national elements on which he built his expression which he defined as “ours and genuine, and at the same time appropriate for today’s Europe”. In wanting to affirm the idea of ‘Croatian homeland’, he further elaborated the importance of the theme of landscape based on an earlier series of his inspired by a trip he took to Spain in 1920.
Ljubo Babić graduated from the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He later also studied in Paris and graduated in art history in Zagreb in 1932. Having been a painter, set and costume designer, graphic artist, art teacher and critic, art historian, museologist, writer and editor, Babić played a pivotal role in Croatia’s 20th century culture and art. He participated in the founding of Croatia’s Spring Salon, the Independent Group of Croatian Artists, the Group of Four, the Group of Three, the Group of Croatian Artists and Croatian Artists. Having been the first curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, he authored the first permanent exhibition set up in 1920 at what was then and is today the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb. In wanting to present the complex development of Croatian art of the 19th and 20th centuries, in 1948 he conceived, designed and authored the first ever permanent exhibition set up at the National Museum of Modern Art, for the purposes of which the building that today houses the national museum was fully renovated.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, 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