Milivoj Uzelac, Suburban Venus, 1920

Milivoj Uzelac
Suburban Venus, 1920
oil on canvas
96.5 x 127 cm

In the painting Suburban Venus, Milivoj Uzelac sublimates Cézanne’s and Kraljević’s painterly interpretations into a disturbing scene full of expressionist menace. The gaze and attitude of Uzelac’s Venus, a model from Paris who moved to Zagreb because of him, is full of disdain. She appears resigned wearing torn stockings in a dilapidated studio, surrounded by the inventory of bourgeois pastime such as the Manet-like ribbon around her neck, the mirror, flowers and a book. The hypocrisy and pretence of daily life is additionally emphasized with an emblematic circus or fair scene that is visible through the window. In their aesthetics of the ugly, Uzelac’s engaged and provocative theme, unstable composition, accentuated deformations, juxtapositions of light and dark, are close to the Expressionism of his German and Austrian contemporaries.

Uzelac was educated in Banja Luka, Zagreb and Prague. From a young age, he was very close to Vilko Gecan, both privately and professionally. Although he has lived in France since 1923, he has had a lasting and significant influence on the Croatian art scene, particularly in the interwar period. Despite Uzelac’s fascination with Paris, his youthful obsession with the anxiety of the contemporary moment and especially his ‘collage-like’ fragments connect him to Georg Grosz and the contemporary German Dadaism and the circle around Micić’s avant-garde magazine Zenit. Uzelac’s later paintings are characterized by a ‘return to order’ and an eternal search for harmony and balance.

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

Iva Simonović, An Old Woman, 1920


Iva Simonović
(1890 – 1961)
An Old Woman, 1920
dia=108 mm

As the youngest student of professors Robert Frangeš-Mihanović and Rudolf Valdec at the newly established Provisional College of Arts and Fine Crafts in 1907, she has shown her work with Ljubo Babić in the prestigious Ulrich Salon as early as 1910. In 1914, she had a successful showing at the Salon des artistes francais in Paris. The committee was chaired by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. This is when the City of Paris bought her plaque for the Luxembourg Museum, which confirmed the quality of her work at the European level. Following her study visits to Munich (1911) and Paris (1914), her sculptural oeuvre will be dominated by medal making. She earned professional recognition in Zagreb in 1916, when she exhibited with painter Zdenka Pexider at the Second Exhibition of the Croatian Spring Salon, titled Intimate Exhibition. She exhibited fourteen busts and thirteen medal works dominated by children’s portraits. The National Museum of Modern Art has six of her portraits of boys and girls from this period in its collection. On one-sided medals, the artist skilfully brought to life a series of youthful personalities.

Skilful design with a direct understanding of the model is best achieved in portraits of the elderly and persons of character, whether she executes them as sculptures in the round or relief. The medal of An Old Woman shows a low bust of an older woman in profile to the left with a gentle smile on her face. She has a pleated collar around her neck with an ornate bow, and her combed hair is curled at the nape of her neck. Delicate wrinkles on her face are achieved with fine chiselling, creating a vibrant play of light on the surface. The medallist achieved a dynamic modelling with filigree treatment of the surface, revealing sensitivity towards the model. With fine interplay of light and shadow and application of impressionist procedures, she adds liveliness and dignified energy to the portrayed persons.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, Museum advisor 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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