Željko Hegedušić, Motif from Sremska Mitrovica, 1934

Željko Hegedušić
Motif from Sremska Mitrovica, 1934
tempera on glass
36 x 52 cm

Željko Hegedušić created Motif from Sremska Mitrovica while he was working in the local grammar school. Although he has regularly exhibited, as a guest artist, with the Earth Association of Artists, the founding of which was initiated by his older brother Krsto, Željko did not share the Earth Group’s commitment to realistic description. The focal point of the composition is a group of prisoners walking through the city in the company of guards. The motif of the “prisoner parade” stems from the interest of the Earth Group members in people and scenes that are on the margins of society, which the artist therefore paints with simplified flat forms of colour. The scene is set in the ambience of the urban periphery, which appears, with its emphasised drawing and flat execution, like a theatre stage, whereby Hegedušić highlights emptiness, that is, the “metaphorical desolation” (op. cit. Bužančić) in the foreground.
After having graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Hegedušić trained in Paris where he came into contact with Purism and metaphysical-surrealist painting. From the 1950s onwards, he engages in printmaking and often combines painting techniques as well as surrealist, ludic motifs in a wide range of experiences from the tragic to the lyrical. Besides the broadly understood basic conceptual and ideological tenets of the Earth Association of Artists, Željko Hegedušić strives for a surrealist expression inspired by the totality of European modernist heritage. He worked as a teacher at the grammar schools in Zagreb and Srijemska Mitrovica, and at the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb. In his career, he created wall paintings, frescoes, applied graphic art, he designed and illustrated books.

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

Edo Kovačević, Kožarska Street, 1934

Edo Kovačević
Kožarska Street, 1934
oil, tempera on canvas
53.8 x 42.7 cm

The suburbs and slums of Zagreb are the central motif in the oeuvre of Edo Kovačević, a former member of the Earth Association of Artists. He most often depicts desolate spaces, scenes devoid of people that are staged, metaphorically, in the Renaissance idea of the “ideal city” (op. cit. Ivančević). An interest in the socially neglected world is manifested in urban scenes without monumental historicist palaces and luxurious villas. Even when he paints a street in the city centre (Kožarska Street), he turns his back on representative façades and puts the rear façades, the “obverses” which are not to everyone’s taste, in the foreground. Kovačević approaches the design of the scene in a planimetric manner, colour becomes an important element in image structuring, while the poetics of the surface takes precedence over the formal volume.
After having graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, in the class of Prof. Vladimir Becić, Edo Kovačević (1906-1993) showed his works for the first time in 1932 with the Earth Association of Artists, as its member, and he continued to exhibit with them until 1935, that is, until they were banned by the police. On the eve of World War II, he took study trips to Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, etc. As an associate of the City Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, he staged the visual display of numerous exhibitions. He is also responsible for setting up the displays of many museum collections; Ethnographic Museum in Zagreb, Museum of Brodsko Posavlje, Museum of Peasant Revolts in Gornja Stubica, Meštrović Atelier, etc. For his work, he was the recipient of the Zagreb City Award, and the “Vladimir Nazor” Lifetime Achievement Award in 1982. In 1986, he became a full member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Text: Zlatko Tot, curator intern © National Museum of Modern Art, 2022
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Foto: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, 2022

Sonja Kovačić – Tajčević, A Study of a Female Nude, 1934

Sonja Kovačić - Tajčević
A Study of a Female Nude, 1934
charcoal on paper
560 x 440 mm

Besides Slava Raškaj and Nasta Rojc, Sonja Kovačić-Tajčević was one of the first female artists in Croatia to have received an education at an art academy and to have introduced into the patriarchal culture of art not only a certain manner and style characteristic of every creative individual, but also a certain experience which we can call feminine. Most of her oeuvre is associated with inter-war art movements (Post-Cubism in particular), which is why it is difficult to distinguish the scenes in her paintings from the scenes painted by her male colleagues. A number of her drawings kept in the holdings of the National Museum of Modern Art offer the chance of a different interpretation. Sonja Kovačić-Tajčević’s A Study of a Female Nude from 1934 is just another study in pen, just another portrayal of the naked female body, a motif favoured by male artists. Yet, something in it seems to stand out from similar works drawn by men. The impression is difficult to describe, because the theme is generic and the historical context in which the drawing was created is firmly codified. Does Kovačić-Tajčević’s female perspective hide in the way the model leans, in the pronounced shadow that falls on her right shoulder and the right side of her face, in the light-shadow relationship on the model’s chest and abdomen, in all of this taken together or elsewhere? It is difficult to say, but the interpretation of women’s creativity must be built from somewhere.

Sonja Kovačić-Tajčević (1894-1968) studied painting in Zagreb, Graz and Vienna. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1917, and in 1926 she attended a training course in Paris with painter André Lhote. She stayed in Paris for the second time in the period between 1928 and 1934, which she herself regarded as her artistically most prolific period.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, 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

Antun Motika, Muslim Woman, 1934

Antun Motika
Muslim Woman, 1934
oil on canvas
96 x 70 cm

The painting Muslim Woman from 1934 presents Motika’s poetics of passionate subjectivism. He developed the experiences of French Post-Impressionism with the freer application of standard artistic materials and procedures. Motika accompanied the moment of lyrical beauty with an arabesque of balanced tones. Motika’s subtle poetics develops towards abstraction in this vision of a weightless world in which the figurative is achieved with only a flash of colour.

Antun Motika interrupted the study of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb and decided to study painting instead. He graduated in 1926. He continued his studies with Ljubo Babić. He publishes caricatures in the magazine Koprive (under the pseudonym Lopata) and often experiments with art techniques. From 1929 to 1940, he teaches drawing at the Grammar School in Mostar. After his study trips to Paris in 1930 and 1935, Motika’s Mostar oeuvre became increasingly more abstract. He returned to Zagreb in 1941 and for the next twenty years he taught courses in textile, photography and ceramics, and he systematically experimented with collage, decalcomania, “smoked paper”, photographic prints and organic materials. He exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1942 and 1952. With the drawing series Archaic Surrealism, which he exhibited in Zagreb in 1952, he completely abandoned all ideological dogmas and socialist realist burdens of his contemporary artistic and social moment. In the pursuit of liberation from everything extra-artistic, drawing as an artistic wellspring permeates all phases of Motika’s work. Since 1953, he created a significant number of glass sculptures with colouristic interventions in Rogaška Slatina and Murano. He also designed ceramics and small-scale sculpture (medals and plaques) in iron.

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

Ivan Generalić, The Funeral of Štef Halaček, 1934

Ivan Generalić
The Funeral of Štef Halaček, 1934
oil on canvas
50 x 47 cm

In his painting The Funreal of Štef Halaček from 1934, Ivan Generalić, an autodidact from Hlebine, uses clear drawing, flat composition and pronounced local colours to record the resignation of his fellow villagers to their fate, even death. The proportions of the typified characters are so symbolically deformed they verge on the grotesque, and the site is specified by a traditional ritual procession and a characteristic ambience – Podravina houses and coral willow canopies in a desolate plain under heavy snow. Generalić intertwines what he saw and experienced with dreams and memories, not painting reality but emotions that emerge from reality. The pauper Štef Halaček often visited Generalić. In response to Štefek’s frequent criticism of Generalić’s skill, the painter responded by painting his funeral while he was still alive.

At the historical and critical exhibition 50 Ans d'Art Moderne in Brussels in 1958, The Funreal of Štef Halaček was exhibited alongside Braque, Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky, and international critics emphasized Generalić’s authentic contribution to contemporary international painting.

In 1930 in Hlebine, Krsto Hegedušić recognized and started to encourage Ivan Generalić’s fascinating innate talent. From 1931, Generalić started to exhibit as a guest artist in exhibitions of the Association Zemlja. He initially critically painted images of village life in watercolours, and later often in oil and tempera on glass. After World War II he became the central figure of the so-called Hlebine Peasant Art School, and his rural scenes approached lyrical idealization, metaphor and phantasy. In the 1970s, he devoted himself to symbolic and existential themes. He received international acclaim and held around seventy solo exhibitions in Croatia and abroad.

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

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