Celestin Mato Medović

Study for the Bacchanal, 1890-1893

oil on canvas, 32, 25.5 cm



Celestin Mato Medović (1857 - 1920), together with Vlaho Bukovac, paved the way for early Modern Art with some of his more freely conceived works.

For reasons of modest financial means, he was ordained a priest in order to study painting. In 1880, he went to Rome to study painting where he was introduced to the Nazarene Movement, then to Florence where he adopts the then academic manner of Narrative Realism. After having returned to Dubrovnik in 1886 he worked on religious compositions. Thanks to Dr Franjo Rački, Medović reappeared in public, which resulted in the continuation of his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (1888 - 1893), where he attended the Komponierenklasse of Alexander Wagner, a painter of history compositions. Upon his return to Kuna, and under the influence of the symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin, he paints landscapes with heavy, dark colours. In 1895 in Zagreb, he was introduced to Bukovac’s version of pleinairism, which is manifested in dissolving the strict academic forms and brighter palette, later called the “Colourful School of Zagreb”. Because of disagreements with Iso Kršnjavi, then minister in Khuen Hedervary’s government, at whose invitation he painted four history compositions in the Hall of the Department of Religious Affairs and Education, he loses his studio in Zagreb and returns to Kuna where he creates his best authentic Pelješac landscapes, full of plain air light, as well as realistic portraits and still lifes.

The Study for the Bacchanal is one of nine known studies made for a composition of imposing dimensions, executed in the spirit of Munich’s decorative historical academicism. Immediacy of the approach characteristic of studies created based on live models is apparent at once. The study depicts a semi-nude male figure, with his back turned and a greenish drapery around his waist, his head spontaneously tilted forward. The flesh tones are rendered in layers of warm ochre and bluish, greenish and pinkish shades. The green background matches the green of the drapery. The academic approach required the creation of numerous studies when working on large figurative compositions.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Translated by: Robertina Tomić

Foto: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022.




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