Antun Masle, Orašac, 1950

Antun Masle
Orašac, 1950

Orašac is a village near Dubrovnik and the birthplace of Antun Masle, a painter who was born in 1919 and who obtained a degree in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1942. “I was born in a village that is abundant in foliage and olive trees, where the sea is blue and the sky is clear.”, this is how Masle described his birthplace in 1958. He would later try to convey in each of his paintings this feeling of belonging to a specific Mediterranean location. In Masle’s artistic world, Orašac has the status of a primeval place, a wellspring of all the values this painter holds dear: from family and interpersonal relationships to the relationship between man and nature. “In front of the house, purple islands were visible behind pink cliffs. A rose bush, as red as blood during the month of May, was climbing the side of the house. Black and white lambs jumped around the garden, and I would look at them and feel sad their lifespan was not longer than a month. In February, daffodils turned white and almond trees blossomed – then when I turned 7, they sent me to school.” There is something in this description of Orašac that is not visible in Masle’s paintings, and which in the European cultural tradition is denoted by the Latin phrase Et in arcadia ego – Even in Arcadia, there I am, whereby the subject of the statement is death, that is, transience in general. In Masle’s Arcadia, in his native Orašac, the death of lambs is the first obstacle standing in the way of the artist’s Arcadian happiness; even going to school represents a vague indication of the end of childhood, but based on the analogy of the culture of transience, also of life itself (the beginning of the end). In the paintings, however, Orašac is depicted without the ancient warning. We see a small village at the foot of the mountain. Although it is devoid of people, the village is shown as a place that is full of life; cypress trees and vegetation connect people to the landscape and nature. We cannot see everyday life, but we can imagine it. Even the swirling ink lines do not spoil the harmony.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator 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

Slavo Striegl, Before the Easel, 1950

Slavo Striegl
Before the Easel, 1950
MG- 6880

Slavoljub Slavo Striegl was born in Sisak in 1919. In 1939, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb to study painting, as the first person from Sisak to do so. He graduated from the Academy in 1944 during the war; after graduation, Professor Krsto Hegedušić sent him, along with several other artists, to paint the frescoes of the shrine in Marija Bistrica. After having traversed the Way of the Cross, Striegl returned to Sisak, and in 1948 he became a professor of art education at the Grammar School in Sisak. Until his death in 2014, he painted and drew far from the eyes of the artistic public, and towards the end of his life he was recognized as one of the most notable painters to have come out of one of the most successful periods of the Academy in Zagreb, specifically, between the two world wars when Ljubo Babić, Ivan Meštrović, Krsto Hegedušić, Marino Tartaglia, Vladimir Becić, etc. were among the professors.

Striegl achieved his particularly striking paintings and drawings by depicting urban vedutas of Sisak, on the one hand, and Posavina motifs with animals, on the other. The watercolour we present here is therefore all the more interesting, not only because it refers to a self-reflection of sorts, a moment in which the artist recognizes himself and his specific work in the context of society and the world, but also because it aptly points to Striegl’s specific approach to watercolour, and his approach to representation in general. “My desire has always been to find character with a few strokes; for example, of the animal I draw. Drawing is my foundation, I enjoy it.” The figure of a painter standing before an easel and mixing colours with a brush on a palette he holds in his hand is “captured” in just a few strokes: it seems as if we could accurately count them. It is the same when it comes to colour: three tones were enough for Striegl to compose the scene and emphasize the most important part: the stature of the painter at work.

In 1997, a retrospective of Striegl’s work was organized in the Home of Croatian Visual Artists in Zagreb, and in 2016, two years after his death, a monument dedicated to him was erected in Sisak, on the banks of the Kupa River.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić©Nacionalni muzej moderne umjetnosti, Zagreb

Zlatko Prica, Zrinjevac in Winter, 1950

Zlatko Prica,
Zrinjevac in Winter, 1950
oil on canvas, 81 x 100 cm

Zlatko Prica (1916 – 2003) is a paragon of Croatian intimate, lyrical and reductive figuration and Abstract art. The latter is almost always correlated with the objective. Prior to the Academy, he received the backing of K. Hegedušić. O. Mujadžić is a great role model and supporter at the Academy in Zagreb, where he graduated in 1940 (Lj. Babić). He painted motifs and vedute of Zagreb in line with the Zagreb School, and he held his first solo exhibition in 1941 in the Art Pavilion. In the same year, he was taken to a concentration camp in Koprivnica where he documents camp scenes with drawings. In 1943, after joining the partisans, together with E. Murtić, he illustrated the print-literary portfolio of I. G. Kovačić’s poem The Pit (1944) with a distinctly expressionist style. In the early 1950s, he travelled to Paris, India and Brazil which broadened his horizons. Indian culture (frescoes from Ajanta) influenced his graphism and the two-dimensional flatness of his compositions which he achieved with striking colours. His stylistic-creative phases are divided in cycles. From the Samobor to the Tar cycle, and the Umbrellas of Opatija cycle, he creates reduced, objective, landscape and figural motifs. This leads him to an abstract synthesis of the structural material rendered with non-mimetic colour scheme. The painting Zrinjevac in Winter (1950) is a view of Zagreb from the window, in line with the so-called other Realisms by which the artist records an impressionist-realistic scene, an idyllic veduta of Zagreb in winter, with a slanted perspective. Since 1957, he has been a member of the Mart Group, and in the late 1960s he was one of the founders of the Forum Gallery. He is the recipient of the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award (1981), and since 1988 a regular member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In 2002, the Zlatko and Zdenka Prica Gallery was opened in Samobor.

Text: Željko Marciuš, 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

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