Vladimir Becić
Construction of the Hydroelectric Plant – Diversion of the River Neretva, 1949
oil on canvas, 60 x 75 cm

Vladimir Becić (1886 – 1954) is one of the most significant and serious painters of the Munich Circle and one of the leading representatives of Croatian modern painting. The most important of his several stylistic transformations are the periods of the Munich Circle and the time of new Realisms of the 1920s. During the first phase at the Academy (1906 – 1909), and later, Becić conveys the features of tradition and the new, contemporary Academicism (H. von Habermann), the peculiar realism of W. Leibl, as well as E. Manet’s recapitulation of Goya’s and Velasquez’s painting. This is reflected in the constructive and plastic attitude towards the image (Oak Tree, 1907, Self-Portrait with a Bowler, 1909, Still Life, 1909). At that time, Becić used minimal painting tools in the manner of pure painting, and a reduced, almost achromatic range. He is the first Croatian painter to have adopted, in step with modernity, P. Cézanne’s structure of the stroke – facets, trying out his techniques in a series of landscapes (Poplars, 1911). He thus adopts the modern expression. During the Great War of 1916 – 1918, he was a war photographer, reporter and illustrator, and in the Blažuj Phase, from 1919, he adopted monumental neoclassicism of the new Realisms (Mountain Landscape with a Stream, 1923). From 1924 to 1947, he worked as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, and in 1929 he became part of the Group of Three and was preoccupied with the colourful Bosnian and Dalmatian landscapes and genre-scenes (Boy with a Corn on the Cob, 1937). After World War II, he painted the themes and motifs of Socialist Realism, which are coded with scattered Cézanneism, as well as the evanescent, sketchy realism. The scene of the Construction of the Hydroelectric Plant – Diversion of River Neretva (1949) is rendered in a similar fashion, in which Becić paints a summary form in the style of dynamic, practically expressive colouristic Realism, suggesting the daily construction of the Jablanica Hydroelectric Plant, the flagship reconstruction project of the then SFRY. Becić participated in numerous exhibitions, while his retrospective exhibitions were staged in 1984 (Art Pavilion) and 2018 (Klovićevi Dvori Gallery). In 1934, he became a full member of the then Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Text: Željko Marciuš, 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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