Oton Postružnik
Composition I, 1961
oil on canvas
130.5 x 162.5 cm

Oton Postružnik (1900 – 1978) was a socially and critically engaged painter (printmaker and sculptor) in the pre-WWII period and one of the most prominent representatives of Lyrical Abstraction in the post-war period. In 1915 he enrolled in painter Ljubo Babić’s private art school. In 1917 he took part in anti-Hungary protests, when he gave a fiery speech, which resulted in being cautioned by the authorities. In 1920 he left the Advanced School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and moved to Prague to study (under painter V. Bukovac). After he returned from Prague, he continued his studies at the newly founded Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he graduated under Lj. Babić (1924). Postružnik was one of the first students to work in ceramics under H. Juhn. In the same year, he opened a private painting school together with painter I. Tabaković, with whom he exhibited The Grotesques series of drawings akin to the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) art movement at the Ullrich Salon. This series of drawings heralded the critical and social agenda of the Earth Association of Artists (1929-1935), which he was a founding member of. He studied in Paris in 1925 and 1926 (under A. Lhote and M. Kisling), which may have influenced his monumental painting (Klek Mountain, 1929). He often spent time in Dalmatia, where he developed a distinctive colourism based on bright and open colours, and a powerful and free style. In the 1950s he started reducing his figural templates to flat signs, pure colours and compositional glows of light. The painting Composition I (1961) is a paradigmatic visualisation for understanding Postružnik’s reduction and abstraction of the landscape and the motif to floating natural forms at the intersections and correlations between Organic and Lyrical Abstraction and softened Art Informel. It is material lyricism of moderate colouring and organic forms based on counterpoints between the biomorphically reduced floating anti-gravitational saturated and peculiar relief matrix and a foundation of thinned flat surface interspersed with spots, dots and variable building traces that improvise and repeat the central motif in reduced form. Postružnik taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970, and received the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award in 1964.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Skip to content