Antun Motika, In the Bathroom, c. 1931

Antun Motika
In the Bathroom, C. 1931
gouache on paper

After having graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1926, Antun Motika attended the postgraduate study in painting under Ljubo Babić and drew caricatures for the satirical magazine Koprive at the same time. What will, however, have a decisive influence on his painting is his work as a teacher at the Grammar School in Mostar and his nine-month study trip to Paris in 1930.

“In the Bathroom” is one of several paintings Motika created during his stay in Paris. Student dorm rooms in major European centres were used by Croatian artists as both living and working spaces, which meant that the apartment – usually one-bedroom – was also a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a studio. In several paintings from that period, Motika showed a more detailed layout of that space. For example, “A Room in Paris 2” depicts a bed on the left side with several paintings leaning against the wall; at the foot of the bed is a small wood-burning stove, and on the right side are a small kitchen and a large white bathtub. The white bathtub can also be seen in this painting, as well as the grid of the floor tiling (carpet?). To paint not only what the eye sees, but to convey the experience of seeing, is the task that Motika set for himself. In the painting, the contours of human figures, a woman getting out of the bathtub and a man watching her, dissolve into the atmosphere of steaming hot water; coloured surfaces are inconsistent; the scene is dominated by spots of colour, not forms or figures, and it altogether flickers in an impressionist way and almost disappears from view.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić,curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © 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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