Olive Grove (Smokvice near Viganj), 1930
oil on canvas
60 x 50 cm
In 1929, Ljubo Babić brought together the Group of Three around the idea of our original artistic expression. With Jerolim Miše and Vladimir Becić, he focused tremendous effort, talent and high technical skill to understanding the reality of our region and finding an adequate expression for it. Having been influenced by French contemporary painting after 1930, he began to construct that reality with colour. Olive Grove, an enchanting scene from Smokvice Bay on the peninsula of Pelješac is characteristic of the series of landscapes from the south of Dalmatia conceived in this way. In this simultaneously real and dreamy scene with Mediterranean vegetation, drystone wall and stairs, Babić epitomises the heat of the sun and the vivid grey of the Dalmatian karst, and reduces the minuscule human figure deep in the scene to a colouristic accent irrelevant to the content.
Ljubo Babić (1890 – 1974) started his art education in Zagreb, and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He continued his studies in Paris, and in 1932 he obtained a degree in art history in Zagreb. As a painter, set and costume designer, graphic artist, art pedagogue and critic, art historian, museologist, writer and editor, he became an epochal figure in the 20th century Croatian culture and art. He participated in the foundation of the Croatian Spring Salon, the Independent Group of Artists, Group of Four, Group of Three, Group of Croatian Artists and Croatian Artists. As the first curator of the Modern Gallery (today the National Museum of Modern Art), he was the author of its first permanent display in 1920. He created more than 200 innovative theatre stage sets. He illustrated numerous books and designed many posters.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator 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