Danse Macabre, 1985
India ink on paper
In the culture and art of the Western Middle Ages, the so-called Danse Macabre is known as an allegorical genre that conveyed the omnipresence of death. Artistic representations of this genre most often depicted representatives of all social classes, who, accompanied by death – personified as a human skeleton – move in a procession towards their grave. The Pope, king, queen, labourer and child are the most represented figures in the scenes of the dance of death. Over time, the scene expanded to include other representatives of society, such as in Šercar’s drawing in which we recognise a drunkard, an abbess and a friar. The best-known depiction of the Danse Macabre in Croatia was painted in 1474 by Vincent of Kastav, in the Church of St. Mary in Beram. What characterizes it is not only the iconography and colour, but also the composition, which had to be adapted to the architecture of the church and was, therefore, elongated horizontally. Although free to choose his manner of representation, Šercar also used the longitudinal composition in his drawing. A longitudinally composed image is obviously close to modern man: it reminds him of the passage of time and the media, such as film or comic books.
The association to contemporary media is not accidental in the case of Hrvoje Šercar (1936 – 2014). Specifically, in 1967, together with Tomislav Gotovac, a celebrated Croatian film artist, and Ivo Lukas, he was one of the performers of the happening “Happ naš” in Zagreb. This peculiar artist was an autodidact. After having abandoned, just before graduation, the study of law in Zagreb, he devoted himself to art. He started working as an illustrator in one of the best known and largest publishing houses in Yugoslavia (Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography), so his inclination towards drawing and fantasy, as well as his aversion to colour, seems to have come naturally in Šercar’s artistic work.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, 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