Ivo Režek, Tavern in Zagorje, 1932

Ivo Režek
(1898 – 1979)
Tavern in Zagorje, 1932
oil on canvas
59.5 x 80 cm

In one of his major works titled Tavern in Zagorje (1932), Ivo Režek depicts the reality of life in his native region of Zagorje with a figurative representation of a woman in a tavern. The image of a woman dozing at the table stands out against the dark background with is white accents, while traces of the ambiance, clothes and accompanying objects refer to everyday life in Zagorje. An entire series of Režek’s intimist works from the 1930s, with their expressiveness and purity of conception, is ranked the among the best works of Croatian figurative painting between the two world wars.
In 1915, Režek moved to Zagreb from his native Varaždin, to attend the Advanced School of Art and Fine Crafts. His education was interrupted by military conscription in 1916. After the war, he moved to Prague where he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1918, and soon became one of the best students in the class of Vlaho Bukovac. After his first solo exhibition held in Varaždin in 1923, he moved to Paris in 1924 as an already formed painter, where he specialised in the technique of fresco painting under Lenoir at the Sorbonne. He returned to Zagreb in 1931. As an art editor of the Koprive magazine from 1934 to 1938, he often published his own caricatures critical of fascism and the current socio-political situation. From 1947 until his retirement, he taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. He often painted religious themes and church frescoes such as those in Trsat and Mihaljevci near Požega. Ivo Režek died in 1979 in Zagreb.

Text: Lorena Šimić, trainee curator 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.

Vjekoslav Parać, Mullet on a Plate, 1932

Vjekoslav Parać
Mullet on a Plate, 1932
oil on canvas
27.2 x 34.5 cm

As a “student of the French School” (Ecole de Paris), Vjekoslav Parać has obviously been influenced by the impressionist and post-impressionist aesthetic code. His work Mullet on a Plate represents an anachronism of sorts within European painting of the 1930s, but it corresponds to the pictorial tendencies within the Croatian cultural circle. After having finished the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1926 (class of Ljubo Babić), Parać went to Paris to undergo specialist training (1929-31) with the renowned teacher and cubist painter André Lhote. Cubist tendencies had minimal impact on the young and talented painter, who embodied his modus operandi in the manner of the great French painters of the late 19th c. (Claude Monet, Pierre Renoir).
Upon his return to his native Solin, Parać replaced the sights of Parisian metropolitan life with Dalmatian landscapes, still lifes and scenes from fishing life. Mullet on a Plate is a distinctly local theme, but its execution reflects French training. The fish on a plate is positioned in the centre of the composition and represents the only focal point of the painting. A thick impasto layer of paint, complemented by the gradation of cold hues in the background of the composition, additionally isolate the motif of the fish on a plate from the rest of the composition. The scene is static, it is, after all, a still life, but the learned post-impressionist precepts contribute to a vibrant note of the overall impression.
In 1935, Parać went to Rome to learn the basics of fresco painting at the Academia di Belle Arti. Having finished his training in Rome, he returned to his native land where he painted frescoes in the churches in Klis and Solin. He substituted the life of a Dalmatian farm labourer with monumental and “epic” frescoes with biblical themes. He worked as a professor at the Academy in Zagreb from 1950 to 1972. He became a full member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (today, the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts) in 1973. In addition to being a painter, he was also a graphic artist and a set designer. He received the “Vladimir Nazor” Lifetime Achievement Award in 1975.

Text: Zlatko Tot,  intern 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

Vladimir Becić, Fisherman, 1932

Vladimir Becić
Fisherman, 1932
oil on canvas
142 x 89 cm
unit with frame: 158 x 104 cm

Vladimir Becić is a painter who, along with M. Kraljević and J. Račić, belongs to the first generation of artists who are responsible for placing the prefix modern in front of the early 20th century Croatian painting. Born in Slavonski Brod in 1886, Becić started his art education at the private school of M. C. Crnčić and B. Č. Sesija in Zagreb. In 1905, he went to Munich where he met the aforementioned colleagues, and their socializing will later result in the formation of the so-called Munich Circle (according to some sources, O. Herman also belonged to this circle) that will become the cornerstone of the modern movement in Croatian painting. In 1909, Becić moved to Paris and enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière where he continued his art education. From 1916 to 1918, he worked for the Paris magazine L’Illustration as a war painter and correspondent from the battlefields of World War I. He returned to Zagreb in 1924 and started working as a professor at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts. Thematically speaking, portraits are not an unknown aspect in the painter’s oeuvre, but they represent a continuity that Becić developed in parallel with other themes (landscapes, nudes). In this case, however, the painting Fisherman represents a group of figural motifs that Becić uses to introduce a lighter colour palette and achieve more pronounced colour contrasts. In the formation of figural motifs, the artist uses wide layers of paint, thus achieving greater voluminosity of elements. The background of the scene becomes “neutral” i.e., “hazy” and takes on the role of a backdrop for the motif in the foreground of the scene. The subject matter, in this case a fisherman, is shown in the middle of the process of knitting his net. Although shown in the middle of work, Becić portrays his protagonist as somewhat absent-minded. The fisherman is present in the painting only physically, while he is mentally removed and immersed in his own contemplation. Vladimir Becić remained a professor at the Academy in Zagreb until 1947. He died in 1954 in Zagreb. As early as 1905, he has shown his work at the exhibition of the Croatian Art Society, and in the course of his lifetime has had exhibitions in Paris, Zagreb, Osijek and the 21st Venice Biennale.

Text: Zlatko Tot, trainee curator at the National Museum of Modern Art ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: From the photo-archive of the National Museum of Modern Art ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Vilko Gecan, House in New York, 1932

Vilko Gecan
House in New York, 1932
51,5 x 40 cm

Along with Milivoj Uzelac, Vilko Gecan represents a kind of ‘second wave’ of modernist painting in Croatia, the period which coincides with the duration of World War I, that is, the period between the two world wars. This is due to the exceptional quality of his painting, but also the fact that the most prominent modernist painters in Croatia, Josip Račić and Miroslav Kraljević, died young, not even thirty years old. Further deepening of the aesthetics of modern painting in the works of Gecan and Uzelac is most visible through the influence of Expressionism, and later partly also the increasing presence of advertising iconography in their works. All four painters have had almost identical beginnings: they moved from Zagreb to Munich to attend the Academy or another painting school, and then to Paris.

“House in New York” belongs to Gecan’s American episode when he lived in Chicago and New York from 1928 to 1932, hoping to achieve success in a new market, still unaffected by the crisis. The painting deviates from the usual depiction of the metropolis. Not managing to fully adapt to the American environment, Gecan does not portray New York as a city of skyscrapers, but a city where buildings are in traditional proportion to man. He often goes to the banks of the Hudson River where he paints unurbanized or industrial areas, trees, one-storey buildings, anything that reminds him in some way of the suburbs of Paris or Zagreb. When he is not out painting in plein air, he stays home and paints still lifes and portraits. “House in New York” is a descriptive watercolour. Gecan depicts a type of New York building without stylization; the forms are clearly delineated, the surfaces are filled with colours that correspond to the actual scene. Gecan has never officially belonged to New Objectivity, a European art movement from the period between the two world wars that insisted on realism and the social engagement of art, but he was never closer to it than in the American phase of his work.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Foto: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022

Jerolim Miše, A Girl, 1932

Jerolim Miše
A Girl, 1932
oil on canvas
60 x 46 cm
National Museum of Modern Art

Jerolim Miše’s portrait painting from the 1930s met all the expectations of the contemporary bourgeois audience and critics. Within the topical socio-political theme, Miše selects characters from the bottom of the social ladder, but he actually paints them only as clichés of misery and squalor. Poor children, women and the elderly with lowered and dimmed eyes, in Miše’s interpretations, are devoid of personality and are in fact only symbols of those ‘others’, the afflicted, helpless and uneducated.

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 Fine Crafts in Zagreb, so he later studied in Rome and Florence. Having been influenced by Ivan Meštrović, Miše’s early painting was close to the linear Art Nouveau style. In the late 1920s, Miše is influenced by French painting and contemporary German Expressionism and he paints pronouncedly geometrised forms in the spirit of New Modernism and Magical Expressionism. As a member of the Group of Three, he participated in the formulation of “our expression”, and after having used the intense colours and liberated gesture in the 1930s, he later paints mostly intimist still lifes and landscapes in deep colours. In the last decades of his life, he painted realistically. Miše taught at the academies of fine art in Belgrade and Zagreb. He wrote art criticism and theoretical discussions, poems and short stories, and he also worked as a graphic designer. He was a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Tekst: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Foto: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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