Vjekoslav Karas, 1953
oil on canvas
460 × 670 mm
Miljenko Stančić (1926-1977) was the introducer and leading painter of Croatia’s post-war Surrealism and Fantastic Art based on tradition, precise tone modulation, the legacy of the old masters (Georges de La Tour, Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch) and Josip Račić’s ‘pure perception’. With his exceptional skill and by having synthesised the old and the new, Stančić created a unique style in the manner of so-called museum-like, anachronistic painting. The paintings he created between the early 1950s and the late 1970s depict personal metamorphoses (vedutas of Varaždin, fantastic transformations of human figures, metaphysical figures in poetic interiors, erotic paintings) and subdued gammas illuminated by “inspirited lighting and an increasingly virtuoso and melancholic palette” (writer Miroslav Krleža). He graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1949, and in printing from Tomislav Krizman’s advanced graphic art school in 1951. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts between 1960 and 1977.
Vjekoslav Karas from 1953 is Stančić’s early anthological painting that bears witness to his respect for tradition (Karas’s painting A Roman Woman, 1845-1847), mortality (Karas’s suicide) and his identification with the founder of modern painting in Croatia. Everything in the painting is symbolic, reductively descriptive and attributive: “(…) the lute (…) is the musical instrument taken from the hands of A Roman Woman by Karas (…) The extinguished candle represents death; the empty palette is unfinished work; the dice thrown represents failing at life. (…) the space of Karas’s workshop is but a mirror image of a morgue.” (Igor Zidić, 1979). Stančić was a member of the Group of Five. From the 1960s onwards, he also exhibited at the exhibitions of the Belgian group of artists called Fantasmagie.
Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant 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