Ljubo Babić, Olive Grove (Smokvice near Viganj), 1930

Ljubo Babić
Olive Grove (Smokvice near Viganj), 1930
oil on canvas
60 x 50 cm

In 1929, Ljubo Babić brought together the Group of Three around the idea of our original artistic expression. With Jerolim Miše and Vladimir Becić, he focused tremendous effort, talent and high technical skill to understanding the reality of our region and finding an adequate expression for it. Having been influenced by French contemporary painting after 1930, he began to construct that reality with colour. Olive Grove, an enchanting scene from Smokvice Bay on the peninsula of Pelješac is characteristic of the series of landscapes from the south of Dalmatia conceived in this way. In this simultaneously real and dreamy scene with Mediterranean vegetation, drystone wall and stairs, Babić epitomises the heat of the sun and the vivid grey of the Dalmatian karst, and reduces the minuscule human figure deep in the scene to a colouristic accent irrelevant to the content.
Ljubo Babić (1890 – 1974) started his art education in Zagreb, and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He continued his studies in Paris, and in 1932 he obtained a degree in art history in Zagreb. As a painter, set and costume designer, graphic artist, art pedagogue and critic, art historian, museologist, writer and editor, he became an epochal figure in the 20th century Croatian culture and art. He participated in the foundation of the Croatian Spring Salon, the Independent Group of Artists, Group of Four, Group of Three, Group of Croatian Artists and Croatian Artists. As the first curator of the Modern Gallery (today the National Museum of Modern Art), he was the author of its first permanent display in 1920. He created more than 200 innovative theatre stage sets. He illustrated numerous books and designed many posters.

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

Vjekoslav Parać, At the Park, 1930

Vjekoslav Parać
At the Park, 1930
watercolour on paper

In a letter to a friend in Croatia from Paris, Vjekoslav Parać writes that “Sometimes my passion stirs me to work, but it all ends when I get out into the boulevard. And then cars, electricity, girls, all that life, the hustle and bustle dispel the thought of painting.” Moving to Paris was an exceptional episode in the lives of many European artists, at least until the second half of the 20th century, and particularly for artists from the periphery of Europe. Vjekoslav Parać was one such artist. He was born in 1904 in the town of Solin in Dalmatia. He enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1922, and in 1929 he moved – as a scholarship holder of the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes – to Paris, where he stayed for two years.

In trying to somehow “catch” or show the motives that fascinated him so much – streets, squares, nightclubs, acquaintances; in a word, metropolitan life – Vjekoslav Parać started to produce an increasing number of drawings and watercolours. When the theme that he painted was traditional such as a still life, Parać would stage it in front of a window overlooking the city. His At the Park watercolour from 1930 indicates perhaps best what Parać was preoccupied with at the time – how to depict by means of painting the everyday experiences of the residents of a metropolis? Everything in this painting is subordinated to a passing moment – Parać first sketched the scene in ink defining it only roughly, a priest, a man walking a dog, people sitting on a bench, trees, after which he finished it by applying colour, the sole purpose of which was to highlight what he quickly sketched in ink. Ink and watercolour, and the way in which Parać used them, correspond perfectly with the impression of movement, more precisely with the moment when the figures of the priest and the man walking a dog walk past each other. To depict this everyday and typically urban scene, Parać had to reject the rule of foreshortening – although closer to the viewer, the priest is considerably shorter than the man walking a dog behind him. However, the sense of movement is still there, with one insignificant moment in the life of the city having been recorded.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić,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, In the Armchair, 1930

Juraj Plančić
In the Armchair, 1930
oil on canvas
61 x 50 cm

Born in 1899 in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar, Juraj Plančić started his art education at the Arts and Crafts School in Split in 1918, as a sculptor. In 1925, he obtained a degree in painting from the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts in the class of Vladimir Becić, and in 1926, as a French government scholarship holder, he completed one-year specialist training in Paris, together with his colleague and friend Krsto Hegedušić. His first presentation to the Paris audience at the Autumn Salon in 1927 was a success, he won critical acclaim and sold his work immediately. Encouraged, he started showing his work more often in Paris, at the Salon of Independent Artists (1928 and 1929), and he staged a solo exhibition at the Galerie de Seine in 1929. Professional success did not follow in his private life, and poverty, illness and longing for his native land characterised his regrettably short life, which he spent in Paris and Rosny sous Bois. He died in 1930 after a lifelong battle with tuberculosis.
Despite his short life, Plančić was a prolific and active painter, leaving behind more than 70 works of characteristic expression. He created thematically similar compositions where idealised life by the sea, fishermen, Parisian fashion, sardines and French newspapers intertwine with the esoteric Arcadian world. Running through the colouristic works are a specific golden-yellow haze and dynamic layers of paint. Plančić’s idealised and depersonalised woman sits almost nude in a sumptuous armchair. She evokes a sensuous Rubenesque woman, with a lethargic and pensive expression in the fictional modest room with a bed and a golden armchair.

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

Željko Hegedušić, Dance, Paris, 1930

Željko Hegedušić
(1906 – 2004)
Dance, Paris, 1930
ink on paper, 265 x 178 mm

Hegedušić was born in 1906 in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the artistic environment of Zagreb and later Paris will play a crucial role in his artistic development. In 1931, Hegedušić moved to Paris to continue his specialised education. Before devoting himself fully to working under the strong influence of Surrealism, in the period from 1930 to 1941 Hegedušić created several anthological works, which can be connected to New Objectivity, an artistic movement that used grotesque to express criticism of European society between the two world wars.

The drawing “Dance, Paris” would have had all the features of an urban, hedonistic life typical of art at the turn of the century, had Hegedušić not been influenced by the artistic avant-garde and used the montage technique, on the one hand, and expanded the scene with new content, on the other. The representation of two central figures in the drawing – a dancer (a prostitute?) and an upper-class citizen – has all the hallmarks of Secession: a precise and continuous line that emphasises elegance so much that even the corpulent male figure appears light and graceful. Hegedušić, however, disrupts this Secession thread by adding three spatially and temporally completely unrelated motifs to the scene: a group of musicians in the upper part of the drawing, a group of protesters and a line of cars in the lower half of the drawing. Although all the depicted motifs are part of city life, Hegedušić avoids drawing an allegory of urban life by rendering the said motifs in different sizes, and by their arrangement on the surface. Because what Hegedušić conveys is not a story, but the critique of society. In line with the Zemlja Association of Artists, that he will exhibit with upon his return from Paris, and in line with New Objectivity, Hegedušić unequivocally points to the world of vast social differences, the easy life of some (high bourgeoisie) and the hard life of others (workers, prostitutes) in the cacophony of a metropolis such as Paris.

Klaudio Štefančić, 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

Skip to content