Karlo Mijić, Albanian Brigade, 1947

Karlo Mijić, Albanska brigada, 1947.

Karlo Mijić
Albanian Brigade, 1947
watercolour, pencil on paper
352 mm x 472 mm

The immediate aftermath of World War II was a period of reconstruction and construction throughout Europe. It was not therefore uncommon for artists to be actively involved in that process. In societies that adopted the socialist social order after the war the relationship between the artists and the community at large was particularly challenging, and often also problematic. In Croatia, then Yugoslavia, the period of Socialist Realism did not last long. The beginning of its end can be traced back to 1948, when Yugoslavia severed all relations with the Soviet Union. Still, all throughout the early 1950s, the artists – had they not voluntarily participated in the reconstruction – could have been obliged by the authorities to take part. Karlo Mijić, born in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1887, voluntarily joined the reconstruction process immediately after the war, and used his painting skills to make propaganda paintings and posters, and in 1947, he visited the youth work actions on the Bosanski Šamac - Sarajevo railway line. Mijić participates in the railroad construction as a painter, as a kind of visual storyteller of this important event, and not as a worker. In this scenario, the plan was to make study drawings, watercolours, etc. in the field – and to paint large oils on canvas upon his return to the studio. Here, we showcase a drawing depicting the Albanian youth brigade during the construction of the Bosanski Šamac - Sarajevo railway line. If we leave aside social events for a moment and focus on the scenes, we will notice that Mijić, educated at both the imperial and interwar European academies in Vienna, Prague and Munich, used traditional methods to portray a completely new scene, essentially a new social phenomenon. By dividing the scene into planes and showing it from a great distance, Mijić gave an air of importance to these scenes, thus bringing them closer to the genre of history painting.

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

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