Emanuel Vidović, At the City of the Dead, 1919

Emanuel Vidović
At the City of the Dead, 1919
oil on canvas
100 x 137.5 cm

The large symbolic composition “At the City of the Dead” is Vidović’s vision of the journey to eternity. Among the many Split harbour scenes from Vidović’s dark phase, which he painted during and immediately after World War I in a dark and empty building of the Croatian National Theatre in Split, this masterpiece stands out with its remarkable power of abstracting the phenomenal world that he uses to describe the indescribable and speak about the unspeakable. The distinct range of green tones unites the sea, land and sky, and the moonlit night reveals a Dantean ship sailing towards the other world. In Vidović’s dream vision, the motif of the city cemetery compounds the artist’s sorrow after the death of his child and the tragedy of war that befell the world.
Emanuel Vidović (Split, 1870 – 1953) is one of the most prominent modernist painters in Croatia. He started his artistic education at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice in 1887, and despite having soon left the Academy, he stayed in Italy. He was learning to paint in the style of Italian Divisionism, painted the canals and lagoons, in the atrium of St. Mark’s Basilica as his first studio. He later lived and exhibited in Milan and Chioggia. At the end of the century, he returned to his native Split, where he worked as a teacher at the School of Crafts and painted intensely. In 1908, he was the initiator of the extremely successful and significant “First Dalmatian Exhibition”, and he participated in the foundation of the Medulić Association of Croatian Artists. It is estimated that in more than half a century of dedicated work, Emanuel Vidović painted several thousand paintings, half of which he had destroyed himself. He painted mostly landscapes with motifs from Italy, Split and Trogir, as well as interiors and still lifes.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, museum consultant 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

Emanuel Vidović, Small World (diptych), 1904

Emanuel Vidović
Small World (diptych), 1904
oil on canvas
75 x 106.5 cm
MG- 6846

In 1892, during his formative period, Emanuel Vidović briefly leaves Venice and Chioggia and moves to a completely different ambience of the industrial metropolis of Milan, which was dominated by modernist progressive tendencies. There, the painter from Split supports himself by doing restoration works and making drawings for the furniture industry. Every evening he would go to the Famiglia Artistica society in Milan to practice painting nudes and costumes. Among the more significant events of Vidović’s Milan period, we should point out his participation in exhibitions Esposizioni Riunite, 1894 and Esposizione Permanente, 1895 where he exhibits paintings depicting the life of Venetian fishermen. As part of the exhibition Esposizioni Riunite, Vidović showcases the painting Venezia peschereccia, as Duško Kečkemet noted, in “a prominent hall, next to two paintings by Segantini”, and alongside paintings of Ettore Tito and Angelo Dall'Oca Bianca. In October 1895, Vidović returned to his native Split, where he assumed the role of a central, unifying figure in Dalmatian art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He distinguished himself with the quality of painting, exhibition activity and organization of a wide variety of cultural events. He remained connected to the Italian milieu throughout his life, with regular visits to the fortuitous Chioggia and the Venice Biennale exhibitions.

The painting Small World from 1904 is in many ways specific and occupies a special and contiguous position in Vidović’s oeuvre, opening the chapter of his peculiar symbolist landscapes. Unlike Vidović’s later “monochromes”, Small World is his only painting that shows an unambiguous connection with Giovanni Segantini’s painting. It was made by applying the divisionism technique literally, with undulating brushstrokes that create a vibrant painting surface.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Foto: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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