A Cow, 1949
oil on canvas
730 × 920 mm
Slavko Kopač (1913-1995) was a leading modernist in Croatia with an international career, who intermixed Art Brut, Surrealism and Art Informel. In his book Art of Another Kind from 1952, Michel Tapié ranks Kopač amongst the greatest painters and pioneers of Art Brut. After having graduated in 1937 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (mentored by Vladimir Becić), he first painted in the spirit of Post-Impressionist Realism and then in the vein of Miroslav Kraljević’s expression and Leo Junek’s colourist facets. During his stay in Italy (1943-1948), he created vistas and watercolours akin to Surrealism. After having rejected Realism and Academicism, Kopač started creating an elementary and primary expression, which is one of the precepts of Art Brut. In 1948, he moved to Paris, where the founder of Art Brut, Jean Dubuffet, appointed him as secretary and curator of the Collection of Art Brut. He was secretary and curator of the said collection until 1975 when it moved to Lausanne. André Breton entrusted Kopač with equipping a limited edition of his 1949 poem Un regard des divinités. In 1950 he participated in the creation of Almanach surréaliste du demi-siècle, an anthology of surrealists, and in 1953 he exhibited at Breton’s gallery l’Étoile scellée. He painted and sculpted using new materials, such as sand, rubber and metal, as well as stone, wood, paper, glass and coal. Attributing to them the features of Luddism and primordial principles, he modelled people, various beings, plants and animals in the manner of Primitivism. Kopač’s A Cow (1949), painted before Dubuffet’s first painting of cow, is an original depiction and synthesis of his childlike and primitive expression presented in a two-dimensional form on a two-dimensional background. A Cow is a rudimentary, archetypal symbol reminiscent of cave art.
Text: Željko Marciuš, museum advisor of the National Museum of Modern art ©N ational Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb