(1852 – 1902)
oil on canvas
18,8 x 11,8 cm
Known as a painter of compositions of the so-called beautified Realism and autonomous studies, Nikola Mašić started his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1872, but having become dissatisfied with its programme, he decided to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. In Alexander Wagner’s Komponierenklasse he acquires the necessary knowledge to work on large-scale figurative compositions. He had an affinity for the painting of Wilhelm von Liendenschmidt, a painter of historical compositions, whose palette became brighter under the influence of the modern Munich School of painting. He spent the summer of 1874 in and around Rome studying ancient monuments, which was supposed to help him paint his future figurative compositions. However, the sketches and studies he created at that time show a fascination with the atmosphere and light of the south. During his stay in Croatia, he painted in the region of Posavina. In 1878, he attended the Paris World Fair and became acquainted with the painter Marià Fortuny i Marsal’s Japonisme. In 1879, as an acclaimed painter, he opened a studio in Munich, but continued to travel around Europe attending fine art events. Due to his deteriorating eyesight, he eventually returned to Zagreb in 1884, where he first worked as a drawing teacher at the School of Crafts, and in 1894 he was appointed as director of the Strossmayer Gallery.
The Sunflower study is one of Mašić’s numerous studies created during the summer holidays he spent in Croatia. During his time spent wandering and painting around the region of Posavina, he took note of many motifs (animals, plants, pottery, boats), small things that he will later use when painting large figurative compositions. He paints them on canvases bought and prepared for this particular purpose, which he numbers precisely. Painted in plein-air, they display an immediate crispness of expression, while the objectness is maximally reduced to the painterly essence. The intensity of summer light in the Sunflower study is embodied in the bright orange colour of this summer flower, which diagonally occupies the entire frame of the small painting. Nevertheless, Mašić’s inherent meditativeness is visible in the depiction of an already slightly withered flower which reminds us, even in the carefree moments of summer, of eternal transience.
Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum advisor of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022.
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022