Mato Celestin Medović,
The Penitent Woman, before 1901
oil on canvas 41.4 x 21.8 cm

Together with Vlaho Bukovac, Celestin Mato Medović (1857–1920) is one of the most striking personalities of the first generation of Croatian modern painters. After having specialised in the genre of history painting, focusing on historical and religious themes, and then becoming captivated with pleinairism and Bukovac’s circle, Medović returned to his native Pelješac, where he devoted himself to painting landscapes and still lifes. In the early Pelješac period (before 1912), he painted large-scale landscapes with a disciplined divisionist manner (Heather, 1911), while in the later Pelješac period smaller canvases are dominated by dotted fragments of paint (Landscape with Heather, 1914–1918). In addition to being important as a representative of the history and landscape painting in Croatian art, Medović’s role as the founder of Croatian modern printmaking, which he shares with Tomislav Krizman, is also significant.
Medović’s painting The Penitent Woman is an example of his sketchy approach to the motif in the period around 1900. It was Grgo Gamulin who noticed a more intimate approach to religious painting as a sign of modernity in this small-scale oil on canvas. Combining the idea of the chosen theme with the dotted painting manner and realist procedure, The Penitent Woman balances on the verge of Symbolism and Realism.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum counsellor at the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023

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