Vlaho Bukovac
(1855 – 1922)
Portrait of Ljudevit Vranyczany, 1898
oil on canvas
80x79.7 cm

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922), is considered to be the father of Modern art in Croatia. At a young age, his inquisitive and adventurous spirit took him to America. Thanks to the pan-Slavism oriented writer Medo Pucić and Bishop Strossmayer, he attended the École des beaux-arts academy in Paris. His style of painting was influenced by Alexandre Cabanel, an eclectic painter of history paintings and religious compositions in the spirit of the official Academicism. With time, he became acquainted with impressionist painting and Orientalism, and he developed his own artistic expression drawing from Realism, Impressionism and occasionally Symbolism. After having completed his studies in 1880 and thanks to the successes he achieved at the Paris Salons, he set up a studio in Paris. He painted in Dalmatia and England concurrently, and in 1893 he settled in Zagreb, where in 1895 he initiated the construction of the Art Pavilion. In 1897, he founded the Society of Croatian Artists that opposes Kršnjavi’s Croatian Art Society founded in 1879, and invited artists to paint in plein air thus giving an impetus to the development of Modern art in Croatia. Under his influence, painters started using a brighter palette, rejecting the brown hues that dominated galleries at the time. As a result, a variant of Croatian realist painting with bright colours was birthed and soon became known as the Colourful School of Zagreb. Because of his disagreement with Kršnjavi, Bukovac first moved to Cavtat in 1898 and then to Prague in 1903 to teach at the Academy of Fine Arts there.
The portrait represents the owner of the Vranyczany Palace that houses today’s NMMA. Baron Vranyczany was a great admirer of art and patron of the artists who socialised not only in his palace in Zagreb but also his estate in Oroslavlje, where the portrait was created. It is one of Bukovac’s typical portraits from the Zagreb period. A dignified, confident man sits in plein air, indicated only by two floral red-green tendrils running down the bright wall surface. Bukovac conveys his superior colouristic skill with dry faktura and varied brushstrokes, in a colour scale ranging from different bright whitish, ivory and beige tones. The painter’s dedication in the bottom right corner and the family coat of arms in the upper right corner, speak of the prominence of the person for whom it was not unimportant to point this out. As a show of gratitude, the artists left their drawings in the Guest Book of the castle in Gornje Oroslavlje, which is kept in a private collection.

Baron Vranyczany was also interested in exotic plants which were planted in the courtyard of the palace in Zagreb, also containing a gazebo.
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

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