oil on canvas
74,5 × 96 cm
In his painting Peasants from 1928 Oton Postružnik synthesises what is essential from a real scene. The common scene featuring roughly and somewhat awkwardly portrayed figures symbolises the cruelty of the life of peasants. By using his very own ‘individual’ style, Postružnik symbolically depicted reality bearing clear features of his native landscape. The scene portrays typical figures with suppressed facial expressions and gestures, and is painted in typical reddish-brown tones with the light dimmed. Also, his motif of bricks in the wall separating the figures from the unattainable landscape in the background heralded the fundamental postulates of the Earth Group of Artists, of which Postružnik was one of the founding members.
Oton Postružnik studied painting in Zagreb and Prague. He also studied in Paris with André Lhote and Moïse Kisling. Upon his return 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. Being socially aware and completely committed to the truth, in 1929 he partook in the founding of the Earth Group of Artists, whom he regularly exhibited with until he left the group in 1933. During his second scholarship to Paris in 1935, he enriched his style with colour, which was until then 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 created prints and ceramics, and taught painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970.
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