Ivan Meštrović, Girl with a Lute, 1918

Ivan Meštrović
(1883 – 1962)
Girl with a Lute, 1918
casting, bronze
45.5 x 27 x 19.5 cm
MG-2952

Ivan Meštrović is Croatia’s preeminent modern sculptor, who was educated in the atmosphere of the Vienna Secession and is its most prominent representative in the medium of sculpture. The artistic value of Meštrović’s monumental, religious and intimate works is universal. His continuous Secession morphology has developed and become increasingly more subtle and refined at the end of the second decade of the twentieth century, when, in addition to religious subject-matter, he developed musical themes translated into melodic forms of reduced anatomy and subtle linearity, such as the elegant curved figures of women with stringed instruments, which he increasingly minimised, almost reducing them to a disembodied mass with elegantly entwined hands picking at non-existing instruments.
With its musical theme shaped in the style of Art Nouveau, the stylised portrait of a Girl with a Lute belongs to this series of sculptures. The elegant figure of a girl is depicted with her head bowed, engrossed in music, her eyes downcast, while her arm is bent clinging to her elongated neck and her long fingers are touching the strings of the lute. The separated thumb and forefinger indicate the movement used to pluck the strings of a supposed musical instrument. In this sense, we can speak of an artistically abstract concept and an embodiment of music that is inherently esoteric and invisible. Accordingly, the sculptural representation with a thin, shallow base is executed in half volume in the form of a mould with a hollow reverse side.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, 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

Robert Jean-Ivanović, A Kneeling Female Nude, 1918

Robert Jean-Ivanović
(1889-1968)
A Kneeling Female Nude, 1918
bronze
MG-2511

Croatian sculptor, medallist, modeller and high school teacher Robert Jean-Ivanović studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (1908-1909, 1911, 1914), in Munich (1909-1910) and in Prague (1915-1916).
Robert Jean-Ivanović’s central artistic preoccupation was with the human figure and portraiture. Initially, these were studies of the male body and dynamically broken male figures captured while doing hard manual labour, which he grouped into a series called Labour (1915-1928). He also modelled several public monuments and realistic portraits, such as A Portrait of Painter Karlo Mijić from 1939.

The largest thematic unit of Jean-Ivanović’s oeuvre comprises poeticised studies of female figures, including his Love (1918-1919) and Dancers (1923-1936) series. Regardless of whether they are executed as free-standing sculptures or as low reliefs, his sculptures feature ethereal presentation, soft and tender modelling and graceful postures, such as his A Girl with a Rose (circa 1920) and A Portrait of a Young Girl (1922) reliefs. A Marble Female Torso (1937) and its bronze derivative A Female Torso – An Amazon (circa 1940) are Jean-Ivanović’s finest pieces representing the beauty of the female body of a balanced harmony and a poeticised theme. Modelled in an interesting seated position, Robert Jean-Ivanović’s A Kneeling Female Nude from 1918 is an intimate sculpture featuring Art Nouveau stylisation.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum advisor of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Ljubo Babić, Christ, 1918

Ljubo Babić
(1890-1974)
Christ, 1918
oil on canvas, 76×76 cm
MG-4279

Painter and art historian Ljubo Babić (1890-1974) was a key figure in Croatian culture and art. After having graduated from the Transitional Advanced School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, where he was taught by painter and Professor Menci Clement Crnčić, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He also graduated in art history from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. He taught at the Transitional Advanced School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, which was later transformed into the Academy of Fine Arts, and was the director of the National Museum of Modern Art in Zagreb and a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

The square format of Ljubo Babić’s Christ painting from 1918 shows the stylised and geometrised figure of the dead body of Christ laid out diagonally and wrapped in a cloth up to his neck. With his eyes closed, Christ’s head is depicted with a halo, a symbol of holiness. Only one other thing stands out in the plain and empty background – an elongated jug to the right of Christ’s head. Being a symbol of martyrdom, a crown of thorns is placed in the lower part of the painting to the right of Christ’s feet. The painting blends expressionist tendencies with the remnants of Art Nouveau, the latter of which was typical of the monumentalism of the Medulić Association of Croatian Artists. The said parallelism between Expressionism and Art Nouveau marked the first stage of Croatia’s Spring Salon in the period between 1916 and 1919.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Gabriel Jurkić, The Passage to Eternity, 1918

Gabriel Jurkić
(1886-1974)
The Passage to Eternity, 1918
oil on canvas
103.5×200 cm
MG-7358

Painter Gabrijel Jurkić (1886-1974) studied painting in Zagreb (at painters Bela Čikoš Sesija and Menci Clement Crnčić’s private art school, and the College of Arts and Crafts) and in Vienna at the Academy of Fine Arts, and attended Polish painter Kazimierz Pochwalski’s master classes. His early painting oeuvre features the aesthetics of Symbolism and is evidently influenced by the work of the Italian painter Giovanni Segantini, while his later paintings are closer to Realism and plein-air painting bathed in sunshine. He lived and worked in Sarajevo, after which he moved to the Gorica Franciscan Monastery in Livno.
Under a vast starry sky, the night landscape of a flower meadow features a winged angel in white at the foot of a lit stone staircase. All the elements of Gabriel Jurkić’s The Passage to Eternity painting from 1918 validate the programme of European Symbolism: his choice of theme, his divisional technique of elongated brushstrokes, his use of unclear, mixed hues of colour, and his use of a suggestive, dramatic contrast between light and dark.

The purchase of the painting for the Collection of the National Museum of Modern Art was made possible by a donation from the Adris Foundation.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Milan Steiner, View of the Sava Valley, 1918

Milan Steiner
View of the Sava Valley, 1918
oil on canvas 65 x 74.5 cm
MG-1134

Milan Steiner (1894–1918) graduated from the Provisional College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb in 1916, when he exhibited at the final student’s exhibition. Steiner’s small oeuvre was created in less than five years and stands out with its artistic quality. In terms of Croatian visual arts, he drew on the legacy of Miroslav Kraljević, and as far as his international influences, those of Max Liebermann and Max Slevogt are observable. Critics underline the specificity and internal cohesion of Steiner’s painting, which represents the continuation of the painting of the Munich Circle.

Steiner’s View of the Sava Valley from 1918 is a simply composed landscape in grey and muted pastel hues of green and blue. The painting’s significant feature is the summary depiction of the landscape and geometrized forms of modest architecture in its centre. Regular horizontal bands of the sky and river contribute to the minimalism of the whole, indicated by two shades of grey in the upper third part of the painting and the greenish-brown slope of the bare hill in its lower part. Thick impasto layers of paint and a more discreetly visible brush stroke connect this painting with the tradition of the Munich Circle members.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator at 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

Ivan Meštrović, Angel with a Flute, 1918

Ivan Meštrović
(1883 – 1962)
Angel with a Flute, 1918
bronze, 135 x 36 x 14 cm
MG-814

He is the greatest Croatian modern sculptor, educated in the atmosphere of the Vienna Secession and its most prominent representative in the medium of sculpture. The artistic value of Meštrović’s monumental, religious and intimate works is universal. His Secession morphology continues, develops and becomes increasingly more subtle and refined at the end of the second decade of the twentieth century when, in addition to religious subject-matter, he develops musical themes translated into melodic forms of reduced anatomy and subtle linearity, such as the elegant curved figures of women with stringed instruments, which he increasingly minimizes, almost reducing them to a disembodied mass with elegantly entwined hands picking at non-existing instruments.

The sculpture Angel with a Flute, presented as a nude young man with a tender physiognomy, graceful form and relaxed position, belongs to this series of sculptures. The head is in profile, the arms, crossed and bent close in front of the body conjure up a position in which an imaginary flute is held. Above the shoulders the head is shielded by stylized wings. The legs are crossed below the knees, with the bent left leg in front and the right leg firmly resting on the pedestal. The figure is characterised by the Secession linearity and flatness of soft and fluid surfaces. The back of the sculpture is hollow, which contributes to the esoteric perception.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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