Bela Čikoš Sesija
Athens and Psyche, 1898
oil on canvas
Bela Čikoš Sesija (1864-1931) was one of the leading representatives of Symbolism in Croatia. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna under Prof. Julius Victor Berger and Prof. Leopold Karl Müller, and in Munich where he specialised under Wilhelm von Lindenschmit the Younger. He stayed in Italy twice. The purpose of his stays was to study classical art, which he needed to be able to bring to life Croatian painter, art historian, curator and politician Isidor Kršnjavi’s project of reconstructing and equipping the seat of the Department of Worship and Teaching. His first study stay took place in April 1892 when he travelled to Venice, Padua and Florence, while his second study stay was to the surroundings of Naples during 1893/94, when he painted plein-air landscape studies in the tradition of those embarking on the then fashionable Grand Tour. After having returned to Zagreb, Bela Čikoš Sesija collaborated with painter Vlaho Bukovac, which his Bukovac Painting His Gundulić Contemplating Osman Painting from 1894 is evidence of. He then attended American-born German painter Carl von Marr’s school in Munich, after which in 1895 he returned to Zagreb, where he stayed and painted for the rest of his life. In 1907 Čikoš Sesija started working as an art teacher at the College of Arts and Crafts, which transformed into the Academy of Fine Arts in 1921.
Bela Čikoš Sesija’s Athens and Psyche composition from 1898 is confirmation of the tendency of Symbolism towards an atmosphere of transitional, undefined states. The mysterious, supernatural atmosphere of the painting is expressed by vaguely drawn outlines and the cool blues of the ambience suggestive of infinity and spirituality.
Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb