Ivan Generalić, A Motif from Paris, 1953

Ivan Generalić
A Motif from Paris, 1953
oil on glass
560×425 mm

Although immensely talented, Croatia’s pioneer and the world’s classic of Naive Art, painter Ivan Generalić (1914-1992), was self-taught. He was discovered at the age of 15 by painter Krsto Hegedušić in 1930 in the village of Hlebine. He exhibited with the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists until 1935 when the group parted ways. His early works (1930-1945) feature flatly and somewhat clumsily painted rural scenes, are socially engaged which was prompted by his membership of the Zemlja (Earth) group of artists (Requisition, 1934) and are orientated towards landscape themes of Poetic Realism bringing romanticised depictions of rural motifs and tonal painting (Cows in the Forest, 1938). Generalić’s oeuvre seems to have been barely touched on by the ideas of Socialist Realism, and this only in a short post-war period; he continued developing his expression which climaxed in the 1950s in the form of allegorical, fairy-tale-like, fantastic nocturnal scenes, still lifes and landscapes (Solar Eclipse, 1961). In 1953, a solo exhibition of his work was set up in Paris, which marked the beginning of his international success. Generalić’s oil on glass A Motif from Paris is from the same year. Being a naive artist, he approached the painting’s urban theme – a theme so atypical of his oeuvre – with cold, objective figuration. The painting is dominated by flatly composed facades of buildings serving as a backdrop. Antennas and chimneys, signs of the city, penetrate the cloudy sky. The name of a ground-floor bistro handwritten on its awning and two female figures, both modelled in a strikingly condensed manner with their backs turned, are the only insignificant sign of human presence in Generalić’s distant and unattached depiction of Paris.

Text: Željko Marciuš, 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

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