Valerije Michieli
(1922 – 1981)
Mate’s Head, 1953

In 1949, Valerije Michieli obtained a degree in sculpture under Frano Kršinić at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he himself worked as a professor from 1962 until his death in 1981. He also painted, often depicting dogs in his artworks. From the very beginning, he inclined towards an expressionist style influenced by the heavy and painful experiences of his youth, possibly also influenced by his work in Vanja Radauš's workshop. The empathy towards human and animal destinies is evident in his works featuring contorted, dramatic, and often elongated forms that are open on all sides, and rough surfaces. He is considered the most significant animalistic sculptor after Branislav Dešković, having created cycles of horses (1955-1960) and dogs (1950-1981) that range stylistically from expressionist to non-figurative shapes.
Although a professor at the Zagreb Academy, Michieli remains deeply connected to the stone of Brač and its rough-textured landscapes.
The museum sculpture Mate from 1953 deviates from his typical elongated, contorted, and open forms with its closed form. The elongated oval of the head is devoid of unnecessary description, and with minimal intervention in the basic form, Michieli presents a figurative and suggestive portrait, seemingly of a disgruntled local resident. This demonstrates how he successfully portrays the psychological states of the portrayed individual using minimal expressive means.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant 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

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