Ivan Meštrović, Portrait of Mrs. P. (Ada Pavičić), 1935

Ivan Meštrović
(1883 – 1962)
Portrait of Mrs. P. (Ada Pavičić), 1935
casting, bronze
57 x 31 x 30 cm

Ivan Meštrović is the most prominent Croatian sculptor of the first half of the 20th century who has, during his lifetime, achieved worldwide fame and acclaim. He studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna from 1901 to 1905, and during his formative years he was influenced by the prevailing atmosphere of the Vienna Secession, having himself become its most prominent representative in the medium of sculpture. His artistic, professional and public work exerted significant influence on his coevals, the younger generation of sculptors and the birth of Modernism in Croatia.
After the representative national cycle, Meštrović became increasingly preoccupied with religious and intimate themes, especially female figures and portraits executed with elegant Art Nouveau gesture, such as the portrait of his then wife Ruža Meštrović from 1915, a masterpiece of his portrait sculpture. He models the portrait busts of young de Spalatin sisters, Carmen (1914) and Ada (1915), in a similar manner.
Ada is sculpted in bronze two decades later, and the previous melodious gesture and Art Nouveau stylisation is now juxtaposed with a realistic portrait of a woman, with a narrowly cut and freely modelled bust and dynamic wavy hair. Ada Pavičić’s physiognomy is recognisable. Her face is modelled delicately and softly, with accentuated details and a pensive, yet resolute facial expression and downcast gaze, a prominent nose, a fuller round chin and high forehead. The locks of her combed hair are styled at the nape in a low, voluminous bun.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, 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

Željko Hegedušić, The Grain Market in Mitrovica, 1935


Željko Hegedušić
The Grain Market in Mitrovica, 1935
oil on canvas
61, 5 × 47 cm
on the reverse: A Composition, circa 1935
61,5 × 46.5 cm

Željko Hegedušić’s The Grain Market in Mitrovica from 1935 indicates that his position within the context of Croatia’s interwar painting was divergent. Although in 1932 he started exhibiting regularly as a guest with the Earth Association of Artists, which was founded by his older brother Krsto, Željko did not share the association’s fundamental commitment to descriptiveness or their pursuit of social criticism. He followed the association’s fundamental concept of form and ideology in general, but what he strove for was a surrealist aesthetics inspired by the overall European legacy of Modernism. Although the grain market in Mitrovica was indeed a typical motif of the association, Željko Hegedušić painted it with a complex network of smeary brushstrokes rather than by using the association’s trademark style of simplified flat forms of local colours. The scene of the vibrant marketplace ends with bleak architecture. The surrealist inventory that Hegedušić only hinted at in his The Grain Market in Mitrovica completely takes over his A Composition on the reverse, which is an imaginary construction of body parts and machines, architecture, musical instruments and symbols.

After having graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Željko Hegedušić studied in Paris, where he came into contact with Purism and metaphysical Surrealism. In the 1950s he started working on graphic art projects and mixed painting techniques. His imagination was becoming increasingly wide and brought to life surreal, playful motifs depicting a wide array of experiences ranging from tragic to lyrical. He taught at high schools in Zagreb and Srijemska Mitrovica, and at the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb. He also did wall paintings, applied print techniques, design and book illustration, and copied frescoes.

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

Marijan Detoni, A Soup Kitchen, 1935

Marijan Detoni
A Soup Kitchen, 1935
oil on plywood
100×83 cm

Marijan Detoni’s A Soup Kitchen painting from 1935 sublimates the iconographic premises advocated by the Earth Association of Artists. The painting depicts the reality of poverty and hunger, insecurity and misfortune. Although social themes were the modus operandi of the members of the Earth Association of Artists, Detoni went a step further by having depicted young people abandoned by society as the protagonists of the painting. The motif of a brick wall, a trademark of sorts typical of the Earth Association of Artists, helps to underscore the impression of alienation in the depiction of human figures crowding as they await solace in the form of a charitable hot meal.

Marijan Detoni graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1928 in the class of Professor Ljubo Babić. His earlier works highlight volumes of a Cézannesque conception, and in 1926 he began to often depict scenes from provincial life into which he introduced elements of humour and the grotesque. While on a scholarship in Paris in 1934, he drew turbulent scenes from the streets of Paris and scenes from the lives of unemployed workers. He was a member of the Earth Association of Artists from 1932 to 1934, so he expressed himself through simple drawings, locally inspired colours and basic modelling in line with the aesthetic agenda of the association. His pre-war paintings feature a powerful colour palette. Having been a forerunner of abstract tendencies in Croatian painting, in 1938 he painted two nearly abstract compositions under the tautological name A Dilapidated Wall Fantasy. While in Paris in 1939, he was inspired by the Modernism of the School of Paris, after which he returned to social themes, but this time round imbued with euphoric experiences of light and colour. He joined the anti-fascist movement in World War II, and in the post-war years featuring the dictated aesthetics of Socialist Realism he centred on partisan war themes. Later he turned to inspiring, fantastic and phantasmagorical compositions, and fully abstract painting.

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

Ignjat Job, Wine (Wine Pressing), 1935

Ignjat Job
Wine (Wine Pressing), 1935
oil on canvas, 100 x 120 cm

The painting Wine (Wine Pressing) is one of Job’s last great works. In the spring of 1935, exhausted by a serious illness, Ignjat Job recalls a wine festival scene that encapsulates the energetic, swirling spirit of the Mediterranean. With a whirlwind of strongly symbolic colours and energetic brushstrokes he achieves a completely free composition of unique emotional intensity. This is what Job said of the painting Wine: “It is large, it is accomplished. I will be attacked because it is frantic and all red.”

Having been expelled from the Zagreb College of Arts and Fine Crafts because of truancy, despite having excellent grades, in 1920 the talented Ignjat Job from Dubrovnik went to Rome, Naples and Capri. He later lived and worked in Zagreb, Belgrade and Kulina (near Aleksinac), but he showed his true painterly prowess only after returning to his Dalmatian homeland. Linked by fate to the Mediterranean, Job created the majority of his oeuvre only after his family had returned to the sea, to Vodice in 1927, and in particular Supetar in 1928. He had been suffering from tuberculosis since 1925 and died in 1936. Despite being physically, socially and emotionally completely exhausted, in the final seven years of his life he painted more than two hundred vedutas, nudes, portraits and Mediterranean genre-scenes with strong colours and accentuated free expression. Ignjat Job has only had two solo exhibitions during his lifetime (Split, 1929 and 1930) and his work was showcased at about two dozen group exhibitions.

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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