Ivan Meštrović, Don Frane Bulić, 1929

Ivan Meštrović
Don Frane Bulić, 1929
bronze / casting
53 x 43.5 x 31 cm
MG-808

Born in the Dalmatian hinterland, and after a period of self-taught work and apprenticeship in the stonemasonry workshop of Pavle Bilinić in Split, Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962) went to Vienna for further education, where he studied under renowned architect Otto Wagner, among others. His sculptural work is characterized by the influences of the Vienna Secession (at whose exhibition in 1903 he exhibited his works publicly for the first time), Auguste Rodin, and a fascination with ancient Egyptian and Assyrian sculpture. As part of Meštrović’s strong political engagement, his time in the Medulić Association of Croatian Artists, where he acted as an ideologist and initiator of this national-romantic artistic group, holds significant importance. On the eve of World War I, he turned his attention to religious themes, which increasingly gained significance in his life and work. He was one of the few Croatian sculptors to receive international recognition during his lifetime, notably, his public sculptures of the Indians (The Bowman and The Spearman) which were installed in Chicago in 1928. He also engaged in teaching work in the United States, in Syracuse and South Bend.
The Bust of Don Frane Bulić from 1929 was created during Meštrović’s artistically prolific period when he returned to his homeland after World War I and served as the rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb from 1923 to 1942. The 1920s were a decade when Meštrović turned more strongly towards the classical component in his artistic expression. Through the realistically depicted portrait of this Catholic intellectual, Meštrović pays tribute to the pioneer of Croatian archaeological science, particularly notable for his studies of early Christian and early Croatian history on Dalmatian soil.

Text: Ph.D. Ivana Rončević Elezović, 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

Juraj Plančić, Return from Fishing I (Sailors), 1929

Juraj Plančić
Return from Fishing I (Sailors), 1929
oil on canvas
60 x 73 cm
MG-1705

Juraj Plančić was born in 1899 in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar. His art education started in Split, but continued at the Advanced School of Arts and Fine Crafts in Zagreb, where he was influenced by Vladimir Becić and Jozo Kljaković. In 1926, he went to Paris as a French government scholarship holder to continue his training, where he learned the most important lessons by frequenting museums and galleries and studying the work of such masters as Manet and Derain. Despite poverty and illness constantly preventing him from painting, Plančić’s first showing at the Salon d'Automne in 1927 won critical acclaim and the exhibited painting was immediately sold. Plančić’s figurative scenes bathed in golden light achieved a similar success at the Salon d’Automne in 1928, the Salon des Indépendants in 1929 and 1930, as well as the solo exhibition at the Galerie de Seine in 1929. Within the period of as little as twenty months prior to his death from tuberculosis in the summer of 1930, Plančić managed to evoke the world of Mediterranean gaiety in about seventy fascinating Arcadian compositions, still lifes and nudes. Return from Fishing I is rendered with specific flat modelling and flickering translucent layers of paint, so in terms of style and subject matter, it is representative of an entire series of fairy-tale, idyllic scenes in which Plančić connects memories of a simple life on the island of Hvar with scenes from French contemporary life.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, Senior Curator at 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

Juraj Plančić, Fishermen (Fishermen from Brittany; Fishing), 1929

Juraj Plančić
Fishermen (Fishermen from Brittany; Fishing), 1929
oil on canvas
60×73 cm
MG-1708

Fishermen, Juraj Plančić’s painting from 1929, represents his imaginary world of vivacity, as well as his stylistically singular and consistent oeuvre. He painted his pastoral, processional and fishing scenes by modelling their surface and by translucently applying paint of characteristic hues. His work displays a special graphism, which he achieved via light, melodic drawing and by scratching lines into paint. As far as his colouristic intimism is concerned, Plančić’s oeuvre contributes anthologically to the development of Croatian Modernism.

Juraj Plančić was born in Stari Grad on the Island of Hvar. After having finished the High School of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and after having been encouraged by painters Vladimir Becić and Jozo Kljaković, Plančić went to Paris with his colleague Krsto Hegedušić in 1926 as a French government scholarship holder. Despite having to work hard to eke out a living, Plančić frequented the museums of Paris and painted inspired especially by Manet and Derain. The first time that he exhibited his work was at the Autumn Salon in 1927. Although he moved to Rosny-sous-Bois with his family due to destitution, it was in this small town that Plančić painted his idyllic figurative compositions of a golden glow which brought him his first success at the Autumn Salon in 1928. His solo exhibition at the Galerie de Seine in 1929 and group exhibitions at the Salon of Independent Artists held at the Grand Palais in 1929 and 1930 also won critical acclaim and sold his works. Within the period of as little as some twenty months prior to his death from tuberculosis in the summer of 1930, Plančić painted seventy fascinating Arcadian landscapes. By sublimating all French styles of painting from Rococo, Watteau and Fragonard to Impressionism, Fauvism, but also his contemporaries such as Maurice Utrillo, Plančić created a novel and an entirely personal aesthetics of European breadth.

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

Oton Postružnik, Klek Mountain, 1929

Oton Postružnik
(1900-1978)
Klek Mountain, 1929
oil on canvas
83.8×66.3 cm
MG-7089

Exhibited at the first exhibitions of the Earth Association of Artists, Oton Postružnik’s Klek Mountain painting from 1929 introduced a sense of calm in terms of theme and style into the association’s otherwise socially charged and activist agenda. He departed from depictions of the hardships of everyday life and turned to a classically calm composition of a landscape featuring a bridge, a landscape that develops harmoniously with the help of a rhythmical sequencing of motifs which he unified using a cold register of colours. With this painting Postružnik departed from the aesthetics of the Earth Association of Artists and neared the aesthetics of Magical Realism, which is indicated by his idealised approach to the composition (details are minimised and shapes reduced to geometric forms), coupled with an absence of locally inspired colours, and socially engaged and folklore elements.

Oton Postružnik studied painting in Zagreb and Prague. He also studied in Paris under painters André Lhote and Moïse Kisling. After he returned to Zagreb, he participated in the Graphic Exhibition and started preparing The Grotesques exhibition together with painter Ivan Tabaković. Both exhibitions were held in 1926 and highlighted Postružnik’s not only personal, but also generational departure from well-established aesthetic (particularly expressionist) norms, presenting him as an already mature Avant-Garde artist. In 1927, Postružnik graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the class of Professor Ljubo Babić. Having been socially aware and committed to the truth, in 1929 he partook in the founding of the Earth Association of Artists, whom he regularly exhibited with until he left the association in 1933. During his second scholarship to Paris in 1935, he enriched his style with colour, which had until then been based on simple drawing and form. Having started out as a poetic intimist, his Dalmatian motifs from the 1950s synthesise form and colour uniquely. Having been inspired by nature, he later painted in the vein of Lyrical Abstraction. He also produced prints and ceramics, and taught painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970.

Text: Zlatko Tot, curator intern 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

Jerolim Miše, An Orphan (A Portrait of a Girl), 1929

Jerolim Miše
(1890-1970)
An Orphan (A Portrait of a Girl), 1929
oil on canvas
64.8×49.8 cm
MG-1163

Jerolim Miše’s portrait of An Orphan from 1929 features all the fundamental formal, style- and theme-related strivings of his. He expressed the sadness of the portrayed child with the help of a realistically modelled volume, and the scene is lent a certain dramatic quality with the help of his choice of colour and contrast lighting of supernatural intensity. Without having made avant-garde breakthroughs, Miše strove after forming a ‘direct relationship with the object’ and created a notable portrait oeuvre featuring realistic settings, Cézannesque construction and Renoiresque colours. In the later 1930s, Miše replaced his tonal three-dimensional shaping with obvious colour flatness, akin to the then contemporary expression of painter Petar Dobrović.

In 1911 Jerolim Miše published such a severe piece of criticism of the work of his Professor Menci Clement Crnčić that he got expelled from the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb. He then studied painting in Rome and Florence, and later taught at the academies of fine art in Belgrade and Zagreb. Having been an active participant in all significant arts events in Croatia in the first half of the 20th century, he wrote art criticism and theoretical discussions, poems and short stories, and also did graphic design. Thanks to sculptor Ivan Meštrović, Miše’s early painting was influenced by the linear Art Nouveau style. Under the influence of French painting and contemporary German Expressionism, in the late 1920s Miše geometrised forms pronouncedly in the spirit of New Modernism and Magical Expressionism. Having been a member of The Group of Three, he participated in the formulation of “our expression”. After having used intense colours and after having liberated his gesture in the 1930s, he painted mostly intimist still lifes and landscapes in deep colours. He did not find his way round the artistic currents of Socialist Realism, and in the last decades of his life he painted realistically.

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

Juraj Plančić, Flowers with a Sailor’s Picture, 1929

Juraj Plančić
Flowers with a Sailor’s Picture, 1929
oil on canvas; 55 x 46 cm
MG-1704

Juraj Plančić was born in 1899 in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar in a fishing family. Even though he started his art education in 1918 in Split as a sculptor, in 1925 he obtained a degree in painting from the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts in the class of Vladimir Becić. In 1926, as a French government scholarship holder, Plančić went to Paris with his colleague Krsto Hegedušić, and as early as 1927 he had his first successful showing at the Autumn Salon. He won critical acclaim and his work was immediately sold. This was followed by engagements at the Salon of Independent Artists (1928 and 1929), and a solo exhibition at the Galerie de Seine in 1929. He suffered from tuberculosis, and eventually succumbed to it in Paris in 1930. Despite being seriously ill, Juraj Plančić left behind about 70 works, most of which were painted between 1928 and 1930. His oeuvre is characterised by melodious drawing and thin, vibrant layers of paint. Thematically, the simplified compositions most often transport us to an idealized world by the sea. As an amalgam of his native region, Parisian suburbs and an Arcadian setting, Plančić creates a gleeful world from Dalmatian postcards, fishermen returning from the sea bathed in gold, sardines in boxes and fish traps, summer parties with wine, guitars and women, flowers and fruit on the table. The idyllic world of his canvases gives no inkling of the poverty, illness and difficulties he was facing in real life. Plančić’s unique interweaving of Hvar folk scenes and Parisian modernity is revealed only in details of the painting “Flowers with a Sailor’s Picture”, such as the sailor’s modern haircut, moustache or Breton-stripes.

Text: Marta Radman, curator intern of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022

Georges Papazoff, Light Bearers – Lucifers, 1929

Georges Papazoff (1894 -1972)
Light Bearers – Lucifers, 1929
oil on canvas, 162.2x129.8cm
MG-1256

At the time of his creative peak (from the mid 1920s to the late 1930s) Georges Papazoff was known as one of the most important modernists on a European scale. He has lived and worked in several European centres; in Prague, Munich, Vienna, Berlin and Paris. He studied painting in Hans Hoffmann’s studio in Munich, where he was introduced to the painting of Hans Reichel. After a short stay in Vienna he went to Berlin, where in 1923 he participated at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition in the section of expressionist painters Novembergruppe. In 1924 he moved to Paris where he met Jules Pascin and André Derain. He also participated in group exhibitions with Juan Miró, Max Ernst, Jean Arp, and then in 1926 he exhibited with Derain, Braque, Picasso and other artists in the Vavin-Raspail Gallery. Papazoff’s break with traditional Bulgarian painting was abrupt and dramatic, with no transitional phases. Surrealism was closest to his pictorial concept, as a movement that rose up against one-sided positivism and rationalism. Although he never formally belonged to the Surrealist movement, his contemporaries recognized him as a Surrealist before Surrealism (Jean-Paul Crespelle). Between 1925 and 1929, he worked on a series of paintings titled Light Bearers – Lucifers (original title Les Eclaireurs). These are images of identical beings who march relentlessly with cold metallic footsteps and send subconscious messages of discomfort, menace, insecurity and fear. The deep perspective and large dimensions of the beings in the foreground emphasise the drama of the scene of isolation, solitude – frequent themes of Parisian Surrealists. The three beings-machines march through an empty monochrome landscape with a low horizon. Apart from them, there are no other beings or objects in the painting. Who knows what to expect from these ominous robots, with their small horizontal eye slits! It is the same fear we encounter in the dehumanised, eerie world of Fritz Lang in the film Metropolis (1927).

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, 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

Frans Masereel, Port de Boulogne, 1929

 

Frans Masereel (1889 -1972)
Port de Boulogne, 1929
oil on canvas, 73x60cm
MG-1241

Frans Masereel’s painting belongs to the socially engaged artistic current. He began his education in 1907 at the École des Beaux-Arts in Ghent, and as early as 1908 and 1909 he visited England and Germany where he came into contact with Expressionism. Soon after, in 1911, he moved to Paris. The most important works from his first period are related to his stay in Switzerland where he worked as a graphic arts magazine editor, where he also met Stefan Zweig, Romain Roland and a group of pacifists, which is going to greatly influence his views. This is also when he created his wordless novel. Between 1921 and 1925, he lived in Paris and Berlin and in 1925 he eventually settled in Boulogne-sur-Mar. This was the period marked by creativity in the framework of the Neue Sachlichkeit. He was a close friend of Georg Grosz.

Masereel is a chronicler of urban districts that people tend to avoid – dark side of the streets, dingy cafés, port workers one looks away from because of discomfort their hard work and life provoke, women exhausted from working day and night and those who wander alone at night and wait, because the only thing they have left is their own body.

The painting Port de Boulogne is a fragment of a gloomy cityscape dominated by the monumental bows of large cargo ships. The ships’ funnels and masts rise in the background. Dark clouds hover over the condensed scene stifled by the large heavy iron masses of ships. The cold, massive surfaces of ships’ bows with hawseholes and a sharp edge down the middle, as fearsome as some monstruous machines, are staring at the observer, the human being looking at the image. In the right corner of the painting, at the base of the pyramidal composition, are two small figures of sailors. The entire scene is a textbook example of the reverse perspective: the large is important, the small is less important or even unimportant! The grey-brown colourway closes the circle of hopelessness and insignificant existence of these people in relation to things. Masareel’s visual language is simple: the colouristically gloomy planes are clearly arranged one behind the other, establishing an artistically and metaphorically unjust order that is difficult to disturb.

Tekst: Dajana Vlaisavljević, Museum Advisor at the National Museum of Moder Art ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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