At the City of the Dead, 1919
oil on canvas
100 x 137.5 cm
The large symbolic composition “At the City of the Dead” is Vidović’s vision of the journey to eternity. Among the many Split harbour scenes from Vidović’s dark phase, which he painted during and immediately after World War I in a dark and empty building of the Croatian National Theatre in Split, this masterpiece stands out with its remarkable power of abstracting the phenomenal world that he uses to describe the indescribable and speak about the unspeakable. The distinct range of green tones unites the sea, land and sky, and the moonlit night reveals a Dantean ship sailing towards the other world. In Vidović’s dream vision, the motif of the city cemetery compounds the artist’s sorrow after the death of his child and the tragedy of war that befell the world.
Emanuel Vidović (Split, 1870 – 1953) is one of the most prominent modernist painters in Croatia. He started his artistic education at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice in 1887, and despite having soon left the Academy, he stayed in Italy. He was learning to paint in the style of Italian Divisionism, painted the canals and lagoons, in the atrium of St. Mark’s Basilica as his first studio. He later lived and exhibited in Milan and Chioggia. At the end of the century, he returned to his native Split, where he worked as a teacher at the School of Crafts and painted intensely. In 1908, he was the initiator of the extremely successful and significant “First Dalmatian Exhibition”, and he participated in the foundation of the Medulić Association of Croatian Artists. It is estimated that in more than half a century of dedicated work, Emanuel Vidović painted several thousand paintings, half of which he had destroyed himself. He painted mostly landscapes with motifs from Italy, Split and Trogir, as well as interiors and still lifes.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, 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