oil on canvas
Edo Murtić’s Highway is a painting from his Experience of America series (1951-1952) created during his stay in the US and Canada. By moving away from the poetics of Social Realism, the series marks a turning point in Croatian and Yugoslavian post-war painting, heralding Murtić’s characteristic variant of American Abstract Expressionism, the most influential school of painting at the time. In the US, Murtić met Jackson Pollock, which gave him fresh creative impetus. Unlike Pollock’s gestural Action Painting automatism, Murtić’s expression is more colour centred. The composition of the Highway balances between the motif of the overpass in the foreground, and abstract rhythmic gestures and colour surfaces developing in the background suggestive of a dynamic city. Starting with the reduction of reality in landscape paintings during the 1950s in the vein of Lyrical Abstraction and Tachisme, in the early 1960s Murtić developed a recognisable abstract style of painting characterised by dynamic gesture and intense colours. This made Murtić the most influential and most widely known artist of High Modernism in socialist Yugoslavia, with a respectable career on the international arts scene. Murtić learned from the greatest artists of his time at the academies in Zagreb and Belgrade. As a staunch socialist, he joined the partisan movement during WWII. Being a prominent cultural worker, he later advocated democratic values. He had a highly intense and influential career that lasted for sixty years. After his brief figuration period in the 1980s, for the rest of his life he remained an abstractionist of Picasso’s versatility.
Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb