A Portrait of Ruža Meštrović, 1915
MG – 802
Having won worldwide fame and acclaim, Ivan Meštrović is the most prominent Croatian sculptor of the first half of the 20th century.
He studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna from 1901 to 1905. This is where, during his formative years, he was influenced by the overall atmosphere of Vienna’s Art Nouveau, having himself become a typical representative of the same in sculpture. Between 1923 and 1942, he served as the rector of Zagreb’s Academy of Fine Arts. His artistic, professional and public work exerted significant influence on his coevals, the younger generation of sculptors and the birth of Modernism in Croatia.
Most of Meštrović’s early works deal with symbolic themes. A representative example is the Spring of Life, a well-shaped public sculpture from 1905 installed in front of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb.
Since the beginning of his distinguished career, Meštrović had been recognised as a remarkable talent and master artist of a distinctive skill at shaping sculptural forms. Using his exceptional talent, he executed monumental, religious and intimate motifs of universal value.
Meštrović’s entire sculptural oeuvre is imbued with portraiture and unique female characters. Executed in the spirit of Art Nouveau, the portrait of Ruža Klein Meštrović, his wife at the time, is a masterpiece of elegant gesture. Her face and high bust are stylised, while the slight diagonal turn of the body highlights movement and dynamises the form.
Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © The National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb