Josip Račić, Pont des Arts, 1908

Josip Račić
Pont des Arts, 1908
oil / cardboard
29.1 x 46.5 cm

Oton Iveković was Josip Račić’s (1885–1908) primary school drawing teacher. From 1899 to 1903, he studied lithography in V. Rožakowski lithography workshop in Zagreb, and during 1903 he took painting and drawing classes with Bela Čikoš Sesija and Menci Clement Crnčić. In the spring of 1904 he moved to Vienna, and then to Munich where he attended Anton Ažbe’s school. He created satirical and graphic reproductions. In 1905, he worked in the Richard Bong lithographic institute for reproductions in Berlin. In the autumn of the same year, he enrolled in the drawing school at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich where he studied with Johann and Ludwig Herterich and Hugo von Habermann. His application for a scholarship from the Croatian government was denied. In Munich, he socialized with Vladimir Becić, Miroslav Kraljević and Oskar Herman, and they became known as Die Kroatische Schule (the Croatian School) within the Academy. In 1906, he drew caricatures for the satirical magazine Koprive. He spent the last year of his life, 1908, in Paris, where he created a series of successful works.
The painting Pont des Arts (1908), is one of the most famous vedutas in Croatian painting and one of Račić’s last paintings. That same year, he also painted a series of watercolours with motifs of Parisian vedutas by the Seine, Jardin du Luxembourg, Place d'Etoile, as well as boulevard and café scenes. These works also represent the culmination of Račić’s “modernity” which is manifested in simple reduced compositions, the use of stylized forms and large surfaces of colour with pronounced brushstrokes. They are characterised by a lyrical note devoid of sentimentality, which quiets the depiction of the noisy hustle and bustle of Paris to an intimate atmosphere. The composition of Pont des Arts is distinctive for its dynamism and diagonal penetration of the quay along the riverbank, against the strong horizontal of the bridge and the outline of the city, as well as the summary quality of visual means in greyish-yellow hues.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum consellor at the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023

Josip Račić, A Cafe on a Boulevard, 1908

Josip Račić
A Cafe on a Boulevard, 1908
watercolour on paper

Besides Miroslav Kraljević, Oskar Herman and Vladimir Becić, Josip Račić was one of the pioneers of Modernism in Croatian painting. He was born in Zagreb in 1885, where he studied lithography. In 1904 he moved to Munich, where he first attended Anton Ažbe’ school of painting and where in 1905 he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts to study painting. The watercolours he created in Paris are a special segment of his oeuvre. Intoxicated by its allure, Račić moved to Paris without having first completed his studies at Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts. He frequented the Louvre, produced copies of the old masters, absorbed Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, and indulged in the dynamics of city life. In addition to portraits, he started to paint typical Parisian motifs more and more often: bridges, parks, cafes, boulevards, etc. A Cafe on a Boulevard is Račić’s perhaps most famous watercolour.

What draws viewers’ attention in this night scene is, first and foremost, a contrast between the light coming from the inside of the cafe and the semi-darkness that dominates the pavement walked on by passers-by. The faces of the passers-by and their clothing or its details are not defined – all in the painting is subordinated to the contrast between light and semi-darkness, and to the special rhythm that Račić achieved with a series of illuminated windows on the facade of the building on the one hand, and a line of passers-by on the pavement on the other. What makes A Cafe on a Boulevard exceptional is Račić’s perspective with which he built the scene. The cafe itself and the passers-by are positioned in the background, while the foreground is occupied by the semi-darkness of the pavement. It is in this semi-darkness, in this empty space, that we can imagine the painter observing the scene which he is so close to – literally across the street! – and yet which he is so clearly detached from. Moreover, it is in this space we can imagine ourselves as we observe the world around us, half-present, half-distant.

Texst: Klaudio Štefančić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Foto: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Ivan Meštrović, Caryatid, 1908, Jesus and Mary Magdalene, 1916

Ivan Meštrović
(1883 – 1962)
Caryatid, 1908
74 x 19 x 13 cm

Jesus and Mary Magdalene, 1916
176 x 133.8 cm

Ivan Meštrović, one of our greatest sculptors, was formed in the early 20th century, in the spirit of his time and Secession as a stylistic trend. In line with the postulates of Modern art, he made use of the archaic form and wood as the material in which he shaped the Caryatid with “constructive architectonics”, depicted as a standing female nude with the pronounced vertical of the linear drapery slung over the forearm of her left arm, which is raised and bent, and her oval head is bowed. Her right arm hangs loosely alongside the body and is crooked backwards at waist height. The stylized lines soften the compact composition. The wood has a polished texture, the contour lines flow fluidly while light delicately accentuates the surface extrusions.

After Ivan Meštrović finished working on his national cycle, the sculptor increasingly turned to universal religious motifs. The series of Christological wooden reliefs includes the scene of Jesus and Mary Magdalene executed in shallow relief with expressive flatness and linearity of Gothic figures and an emphasis on the elongated arms of the main protagonists of the scene. The central scene of the seated Christ and the kneeling Mary Magdalene is punctuated by the horizontal figural composition in the background. The artistry and expressiveness of the composition carved onto a wooden panel was achieved with flawless linear stylisation.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, Museum advisor 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


Ivana Rončević Elezović, Oton Iveković Winter, 1908

Ivana Rončević Elezović
Oton Iveković
Winter, 1908
oil on canvas, 60.2 x 80.3 cm

Oton Iveković (1869–1939) studied painting in Zagreb under Ferdo Quiquerez, then from 1886 in Vienna under Christian Griepenkerl and August Eisenmenger, and finally in Munich under Wilhelm von Lindenschmit and in Karlsruhe under Ferdinand von Keller. He worked as a drawing teacher at a grammar school in Zagreb, from 1895 at the School of Crafts and from 1908 at the College of Arts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts). In 1908, he was elected as president of the Lada Croatian Artists’ Association. He travelled across Croatia, Italy, Germany and the USA, and during World War I he worked as a war painter. Along with Menci Clement Crnčić, Iveković is considered as one of the most prominent representatives of Historicism in Croatia, particularly inspired by national sentiment. Towards the end of his life, he retired to Veliki Tabor Castle in the region of Hrvatsko Zagorje.

Winter from 1908 is another example of Iveković’s masterful landscapes. The subtle composition in off-white and silver tones depicts a small distant figure in the vastness of the winter landscape. The painting’s viewpoint is located in the upper left corner, where a peasant hut is visible behind several bare trees, while furrowed lines across the snow-covered field lead up to it.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator 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

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