Ferdinand Kulmer
Pegasus’s Garden, 1984
acrylic on canvas
195×390 cm

Ferdinand Kulmer (1925-1998) was a modernist and postmodernist painter who changed styles at Mercury’s speed of travel. He is a descendant of the noble Kulmer family – Styrian barons who moved to Croatia in the 18th century. From amongst his relatives, lawyer and politician Franjo Kulmer (19th century) was the most influential. Art historian and critic Tonko Maroević drew a comparison that pinpoints the very essence of Kulmer’s life – more specifically, Picasso first painted and then bought castles, while with Ferdinand Kulmer it was the other way around. He studied painting during WWII and in the post-war period: in Budapest from 1942 and in Zagreb until 1948 (under Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Omer Mujadžić), and worked as an associate at Krsto Hegedušić’s Master Workshop until 1957. During the course of his three-decade long career as an artist, the range of styles that he painted in is impressive, with the styles always up-to-date and fused into a hybrid of sorts – from (post)fauvist Figurative Art and Picasso, Abstract Art (from 1957), Art Informel, Tachisme, monochrome painting with elements of Action Painting and calligraphy, to postmodern New Figuration in the 1980s. In the 1960s, he was close to gestural Art Informel in the vein of Heinrich Hartung and Pierre Soulages, and in the 1970s to Japanese calligraphy.

Ferdinand Kulmer’s Pegasus’s Garden from 1984 presents him as an author who, according to art historian Igor Zidić, “ascended from this earthly realm with winged shoes, ignoring reality, causality”. Kulmer created a phantasmagorical scene of surreal and mythical beauty on a yellow background. The painting’s mystical bestiary features winged Pegasus – the bearer of lightning bolts – in the garden of the muses, with eyes like those of a nocturnal mammal, covering almost half of this dynamic composition. The mysterious hybrid creatures in the swirling garden reflect the energies of myth and dream, the unconscious forces of night, indicating the extent to which we, as both human and animal species, are unconsciously determined by the same energies and forces.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum advisor 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

Skip to content