Vilko Gecan, Bust of a Youth (Milan), 1919

Vilko Gecan
Bust of a Youth (Milan), 1919
oil on canvas
40.5 x 36 cm

Vilko Gecan started painting at the Banja Luka Grammar School. He was friends with Milivoj Uzelac since childhood, and in 1912 they will both continue to study painting in Zagreb under Tomislav Krizman. Gecan went on to study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, but war and army conscription interrupted his studies in 1914. After having spent three years as a prisoner of war in Sicily, in 1919 he briefly joined his family in the village of Gomirje in Gorski Kotar where he created a number of important paintings in just a few months, such as At the Table (Family), Mills and Bust of a Youth (Milan). In the latter, the young man’s face is intensely lit and stands out from the background which is rendered with thick strokes of paint making it appear almost ornamental. The brushstrokes are firmly, organically fused into facets of different orientations. The portrait of brother Milan rises from the dense network of strokes in which Gecan actually equates the scene and the process of painting. Kraljević’s and Cézanne’s modernity obviously influenced Gecan’s painting even before he joined Uzelac in Prague in 1919. Gecan created the most important part of his oeuvre precisely between 1919 and 1933. Later, due to illness, he found it increasingly difficult to paint, and consequently created mostly intimate scenes, portraits, still lifes, landscapes and cityscapes in strong colours. Besides Zagreb, he also lived and worked in Berlin, New York and Chicago. He died in 1973.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022

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