Edo Murtić
Zadar, 1953
oil on canvas
81 x 115 cm
MG- 2331

Edo Murtić’s Zadar (1953) is essentially a self-confident departure from the poetics of Socialist Realism. It fits in with Socialist Realism only formally with its theme, but it departs from it stylistically and figuratively with its post-Expressionism. The painting manifests a particular legacy of coloured “pure painting” of the Group of Three, as well as the colouristic expression of P. Dobrović. The significance of the two doves as symbols of peace embodied on the ruined headless ancient monumental sculpture is also woven into the engaged lyrical-expressive figuration. The composition is rendered with a colouristic perspective that succinctly materialises the square and the ruins of Zadar in the background. The layered scene also signifies the absurdity and consequences of war. The painting had a great reception in New York, and it also marks Murtić’s time spent in the destroyed post-war Zadar that the artist felt very sentimental about. It also possesses an anticipatory charge of abstracting the imago. In the early 1960s, Edo Murtić (1921 – 2005) developed a recognisable abstract style of painting characterised by dynamic gestures and intense colours, which made him the most influential and most widely known artist of High Modernism in socialist Yugoslavia, with a respectable career on the international art scene. In the early 1950s whilst in the USA, Murtić met Jackson Pollock, which gave him fresh creative impetus. Unlike Pollock’s gestural Action Painting automatism, Murtić’s expression is more colour-centred. Murtić learned from the greatest artists of his time at the academies in Zagreb and Belgrade (P. Dobrović, Lj. Babić). As a staunch socialist, he joined the partisan movement during World War II. Being a prominent cultural worker, he later advocated democratic values. He had a highly intense and influential career that lasted for sixty years. After the period of figuration in the 1980s, for the rest of his life and career he remained an abstractionist who created a diverse oeuvre similar in its eclecticism to that of Picasso.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum counselor at the 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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