ink on paper
From amongst the drawings that Miroslav Kraljević created during his one-year stay in Paris – i.e., from September 1911 to October 1912 – his Assassination should be singled out. More specifically, it is not only his only drawing that refers to politics, but is also his only work as such – whether a painting, drawing, sculpture or graphic art – that can be linked more closely to the political and social unrest in Europe at the time. Kraljević did not depict a specific event, although some researchers later tried to link it to the assassination of Croatian Ban Slavko Cuvaj, which took place in May 1912 in Zagreb. Although the assassination of Ban Cuvaj may have indeed motivated Kraljević to draw it, his Assassination is definitely not a depiction of the said event if for no other reason than the fact that Ban Cuvaj was in a car when he was assassinated. Kraljević’s Assassination is an attempt to portray a new form of political, extra-parliamentary struggle rather than a portrayal of an actual event. This is supported by the fact that, whilst in Paris, Kraljević collaborated with Panurge, a satirical magazine whose mission and focus was on current social events. What sets an act of terrorism apart from other forms of violence is that it appears suddenly and is violently acute, and it is precisely these qualities that Kraljević succeeded in depicting. Rearing, frightened horses, a carriage which is unnaturally distorted as if it were a creature pulling away from a revolver pointed at it, and the figure of the assassin whose legs and hand holding the revolver are overemphasised (as if the assassin’s other parts of the body did not exist) are only some of the features of this exceptional drawing.
Miroslav Kraljević was one of the pioneers of modern painting in Croatia. He was born in 1885 in Požega in the region of Slavonia. In 1904 he dropped out of law school in Vienna to be able to devote himself to painting. After having graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, he moved to Paris in 1911. He died in Zagreb in 1913.
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