A Forest, s. a.
oil on cardboard
Ivan Zasche was one of the first and most important painters with a formal education in painting who arrived and stayed in Zagreb at the invitation of Archbishop Juraj Haulik (1788-1869), for whom he produced drawings and a lithographic map called Park Jurjaves. Park vedutas featuring picturesque depictions of specific individuals were a peculiarity of landscape painting characteristic of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In his A Forest painting, Zasche used the same method of first drawing plein-air studies of nature, a segment of which he then painted in his studio, to which he added a small human figure. The landscape depicts a withered oak tree surrounded by young trees and a figure of a woman bent while carrying a load, the latter of which reinforces the metaphor of the transience of life and conveys a sense of proportion.
Zasche’s appearance in Zagreb in the mid-1850s and 1860s brought a touch of metropolitan class and introduced Zagreb to the artistic quality of Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts. Thanks to his exceptional talent, Zasche turned the non-existence of an arts scene in Zagreb to his advantage by having gradually freed himself from the strict rules, methods and approach of Academicism, and by having started to paint portraits, landscapes, scenes from everyday life and sacral compositions. Zasche was an exceptional painter of his time in Croatia’s social and cultural milieu – he was the first to have painted landscapes and scenes from everyday life besides portraits and sacral scenes, which were usual motifs at the time. It is very likely that he had been given impetus for this early on by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1793-1865), a free-spirited Biedermeier painter and Professor at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, who encouraged his students to draw plein-air studies of nature, which facilitated their exploration of a more personal visual expression.
Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant 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