Emanuel Vidović, At the City of the Dead, 1919

Emanuel Vidović
At the City of the Dead, 1919
oil on canvas
100 x 137.5 cm
MG-579

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

Vilko Gecan, At the Table (Family), 1919

Vilko Gecan
At the Table (Family), 1919
oil on canvas
113.5 x 98 cm
MG-1075

Friends Vilko Gecan and Milivoj Uzelac started painting at the Banja Luka grammar school. Soon after, they both moved to Zagreb and continued their studies with Tomislav Krizman. Gecan’s successfully started education at the Munich Academy in 1912 was unfortunately interrupted by the war and army conscription in 1914. After spending several years as a prisoner of war in Sicily, he briefly returned home in 1919. He joined his family in Gomirje in Gorski Kotar, and during the few months he spent there he was finally able to fully devote himself to artistic work. Despite his modest previous experience, Gecan conceived and executed in oil his largest and most ambitious composition to date, titled At the Table (Family). In a typically expressionist composition without a solid focal point, the oversized figures are strung around the empty table and threatened by the cramped space. Father, mother, brother and sisters are all absorbed in their own thoughts and do not communicate with each other at all. Instead of a family idyll, Gecan uses divergent angles and pronounced light contrasts to create a scene with strong emotional tension and striking expressivity, as in the ominous frames of Fritz Lang and German New Wave films of the 1920s.
The most important part of Gecan’s oeuvre, created from 1919 to 1933, begins with the paintings from Gomirje, which was particularly influenced by his time spent in Prague with Uzelac. Besides Zagreb, Gecan has later also lived and worked in Berlin, New York and Chicago. As time went by, illness made it increasingly difficult for him to paint, and he created mostly intimate compositions with intense colours. He died in 1973.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, 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

Gabriel Jurkić, A Landscape, 1919

Gabriel Jurkić
A Landscape, 1919
oil on canvas
50×150 cm
MG-3102

Painter Gabriel Jurkić (1886-1974) studied painting in Zagreb (at painters Bela Čikoš Sesija and Menci Clement Crnčić’s private art school, and the High School 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 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 with his wife to the Gorica Franciscan Monastery in Livno, where the two spent the last years of their lives.

The strikingly elongated, panoramic format of Gabriel Jurkić’s painting A Landscape from 1919 potentiates the breadth of the painted landscape. Rich in colour, the evening scene depicts the motif of a meadow with a mountain in the background under a giant sky, a small figure of a shepherd and a flock of sheep. Thanks to Jurkić having used tiny, elongated brush strokes, this symbolist painting is reminiscent of Giovanni Segantini’s Divisionism.

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

Marijan Trepše, At an Inn, 1919

Marijan Trepše
At an Inn, 1919
oil on cardboard
43,7 × 51.7 cm
MG-2161

Marijan Trepše’s earliest works, such as the painting At an Inn from 1919, present him as a powerful expressionist. Trepše developed Paul Cézanne’s postulate of pure painting and Miroslav Kraljević’s fascinating departure from symbolic and figurative painting in accordance with what were then contemporary post-war European artistic trends. He replaced the fine cafes and sleek ladies that Kraljević frequented and painted in Paris as little as a few years earlier with obscure and eerie inns strongly reminiscent of sinister scenes from German expressionist films. Much like in Fritz Lang’s films, everything in Trepše’s composition is suggestive of fear and discomfort. In the post-war period, the young artists of The Prague Four group of artists who just started exhibiting at the Spring Salon in Zagreb admired Trepše for being their closest link to Kraljević’s modern ideas.

Marijan Trepše graduated in painting in Zagreb. During his subsequent training in Prague, he created mainly prints under Professor Max Švabinský, after which he moved to Paris. Trepše painted his best works in the first decade of his career, with his later work characterised by virtuosity of technique. Besides prints, he created stained glass windows, of which his Golgotha mounted in 1935 in the Chapel of the Wounded Jesus in Zagreb’s Ilica Street stands out. Having worked as a stage designer for the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, in the period from 1925 to 1957 he created as many as 129 stage designs.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator 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

Vilko Gecan, Viktorija, 1919

Vilko Gecan
Viktorija, 1919
oil on canvas
73 x 53.8 cm
MG-2616

The expressive drive of Gecan’s Viktorija from 1919 announces the new spirit of the Spring Salon. The young Czech woman who was in love with Uzelac, often posed for both friends (Suburban Venus, In the Bohemian Studio). Gecan paints Viktorija in half-profile with a rich tonal orchestration similar to Kraljević, but with a sliding foreground and a pronounced light halo, he actually creates a completely surreal scene in an unreal ambience.
Vilko Gecan and the three years younger Milivoj Uzelac started painting at the Banja Luka grammar school. In 1912, they both moved to Zagreb and started studying with Tomislav Krizman. Gecan’s successfully started education at the Munich Academy was interrupted by army conscription. After being captured he spent three years as a prisoner of war in Sicily, then volunteered to go to the Macedonian Front, and he eventually joined Uzelac in Prague in 1919. The complementarity of Gecan’s creative discipline and Uzelac’s hastiness was a valuable corrective for them both. Besides Zagreb, Gecan later lived and worked in Berlin, New York and Chicago. Once he returned to Croatia for good in 1932, he painted intimist scenes, portraits, still lifes, landscapes and cityscapes featuring a strong colour palette. He died in 1973.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator at National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022

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