A Boy II, 1938
oil on canvas
Slavko Šohaj’s A Boy II painting from 1938 is an anthological work of Cézanneism in Croatia and represents a sure step along the road to European Modernism. With the help of Cézannesque construction and local colours, Šohaj did not describe a scene, but rather interpreted the atmosphere of his studio, the centre of both his creative universe and universe of life. A compositional and gestural discipline, and a narrow range of motifs and themes are the features of the seven decades of creativity of Šohaj, the ‘last classic of Croatian Modernism’.
Slavko Šohaj studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb under Prof. Vladimir Becić and Prof. Ljubo Babić. After graduation, he stayed and studied in Paris in 1931/32 and in 1939. Having been inspired by the works of Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, Šohaj strove for a painterly synthesis to express his own intimate world. In 1934 and 1935 he exhibited as a guest exhibitor at the exhibitions of The Group of Three (Ljubo Babić, Vladimir Becić and Jerolim Miše). Critics appreciate him as a master of figurative Poetic Realism. He worked as a draughtsman at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb (1935-1965) and exhibited regularly at group exhibitions. His appearance at the Venice Biennale in 1942 won him international acclaim. Although his first ever solo exhibition was held in Paris as early as 1952, it was not until 1968 that Croatia saw the opening of his first solo exhibition in Zagreb. Not having cared much about the post-war trends in art of the 1950s, he befriended and exhibited with Croatian painters Oton Postružnik and Fran Šimunović. He did not care much about the Neo-Avant-Garde of the 1960s and 1970s either. Šohaj’s impressive oeuvre is mainly devoted to intimist themes, self-portraits and portraits, nudes and still lifes. Slavko and his wife, Heda Dubac Šohaj, donated over 150 masterpieces to the National Museum of Modern Art.
Text: lada Bošnjak Velagić, 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