Curator: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, NMMU senior curator

The exhibition Artists on Artists – A Visual Panopticon presents a hundred or so portraits in which our painters, sculptors, graphic artists and photographers portray their colleagues. Emphasising the complex relationship between the portrait painter and the sitter, but also other artists and the broader cultural and social environment – the exhibition set-up conceived and interpreted by Lada Bošnjak Velagić follows the development of Croatian artistic modernity from the late 19th century to the present day.

The exhibition of works from the Museum holdings and several loans from public and private collections in Zagreb, Petrinja, Karlovac and Varaždin, presents, within an intriguing self-reflexive theme, the encounters, collaboration, friendship and love that connected Croatian artists, such as Vlaho Bukovac and his students Bela Čikoš and Franjo Rački, close friends like Milivoj Uzelac and Vilko Gecan, or in turn, artist couples such as Ruža and Ivan Meštrović, Nasta Rojc and Branko Šenoa, Ksenija Kantoci and Frano Šimunović….

Connecting the exhibited portraits and their authors with concrete historical circumstances, the exhibition presents lesser-known contexts of the familiar works of art and artists. Portraits of the artists vividly bespeak an entire concatenation of interrelationships and situations, for example, the support provided to the artists by institutions and individuals related to the provision of better working conditions, studios, scholarships, foreign study trips, artistic commissions and other forms of patronage.

Following, for example, the fate of Zlatko Šulentić’s painting A Man with a Red Beard, which was found in Geneva only after the artist’s death, after being lost for more than half a century, we are ‘introduced’ to the recruit whom Šulentić painted in the Karlovac barracks in 1916. Šulentić’s friend from Petrinja, Stanoje Jovanović obtained a painting degree after the war and was a familiar presence on the Croatian visual arts scene during the 1930s. Jovanović’s figure from Šulentić’s portrait can also be recognised in his hitherto little-known and not exhibited work First Exhibition of the Zagreb Artists 1934, on loan from Boris Vrga’s collection in Petrinja. In a witty review of the revue exhibition in which the artist himself participated in 1934 – Jovanović shows many co-exhibitors, their gestures and exhibited works, thus actually ‘portraying’ the Croatian visual arts scene between the two wars.

Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Images: Zlatko Šulentić, Man With Red Beard, 1916 (detail) / oil on canvas 100,5 x 70 cm / MG-3874. Images from the exhibition set-up. Photo: Goran Vranić and National Museum of Moder Art's archives © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022

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