Red Shoes (Still Life), 1937
oil on canvas, 50 x 63 cm
Antun Mezdjić was born in 1907 in Zagreb, where he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1933 under the mentorship of Vladimir Becić and Ljubo Babić. The first phase of his painting development is related to the Earth Association of Artists, and he participated in their exhibition in Zagreb in 1932. He spent the entire following year (1933) in Paris studying painting. First and foremost, Mezdjić is an excellent painter of Intimism, and his cityscapes, still lifes and portraits are clearly executed in line with Cézannism.
In Paris, under the influence of Leo Junek, he turned to colouristic painting, and explored the possibility of intense colouristic and light interventions on canvases. Inspired by Junek’s style of contrasting chromatic focal points, in the painting Red Shoes he uses red as a chromatic value that defines a pair of children’s shoes in the centre of the painting, contrasting them with the white statue of the male nude and two seashells on an almost abstract pastel-white background. Having created a work of extreme colour saturation, his treatment of colour here comes close to Cézanne’s pure understanding of colour, and suggests the artist’s penchant for abstraction which characterizes works created in the 1950s, when he painted inspired by nature, leaves, waves.
The last stage of Mezdjić’s oeuvre was marked by the return to figurative art and still life themes. Mezdjić spent his entire working life, until his retirement in 1971, as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. He was the recipient of the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award in 1971. He died in Zagreb in 1981.
Text: Marta Radman, trainee curator of 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