Oton Postružnik, A Rotten Stump, 1960

Oton Postružnik
A Rotten Stump, 1960
oil on canvas
98×146 cm

Oton Postružnik (1900-1978) was a socially and critically engaged painter, graphic artist and sculptor in the pre-WWII period and one of the most prominent representatives of Lyrical Abstraction. In 1915 he enrolled in painter Ljubo Babić’s private art school. In 1917 he took part in anti-Hungary protests, when he gave a fiery speech, because of which he was warned by the authorities. In 1920 he left the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and moved to Prague to continue his studies under painter Vlaho Bukovac. After he returned from Prague, he continued his studies at the newly founded Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he graduated under Prof. Ljubo Babić in 1927. Postružnik was one of the first students to work in ceramics under Prof. Hinko Juhn. In the same year, he opened a private painting school together with painter Ivan Tabaković, with whom he exhibited The Grotesques series of drawings akin to the German New Objectivity art movement at the Ullrich Salon. This series of drawings heralded the critical and social agenda of the Earth Association of Artists (1929-1935), which he was a founding member of. He studied in Paris in 1925 and 1926 under painters André Lhote and Moïse Kisling, which may have influenced his monumental painting Klek Mountain from 1929. He often stayed in Dalmatia, where he developed a distinctive Colourism based on bright and open colours, and a powerful and free style. In the 1950s he started reducing his figural templates to flat signs, pure colours and compositional glows of light. Postružnik’s A Rotten Stump painting from 1960 is an example of the way in which Postružnik would reduce his objective motif to its sign at the crossroads of Organic and Lyrical Abstraction on the one hand and softened Art Informel on the other. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970, and won the 1964 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.

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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