(1897 – 1977)
In the Studio , 1920
oil on canvas
The masterfully painted scene In the Studio of a Bohemian represents a pinnacle in the early phase of Uzelac’s painting, marked by the strong influence of Miroslav Kraljević and Éduard Manet, the latter being a role-model to both. Having returned to Zagreb from Prague after World War I, Uzelac developed his own version of Expressionism, and a series of temperamental compositions, nudes and portraits culminated in the seemingly simple and calm composition of In the Studio. This being the largest painting Uzelac ever created, it is dominated by an illuminated nude female figure with her back turned in the foreground, and the scattered ‘still life’ with clear erotic connotations. The two male figures in the background contribute to the erotic charge of the scene. In the twilight, we recognise Vilko Gecan, whose gestures and elegant attire distance him from his surroundings and the casual Uzelac, a bohemian fully captivated by the sensuality of the model.
Milivoj Uzelac (Mostar, 1897 – Cotignac, 1977) was educated in Banja Luka, Zagreb and Prague. Although he had spent only a few years working and living in Zagreb, between his return from Prague in 1919 until he moved to France in 1923, Uzelac’s new versions of Cézanneism, Expressionism and finally Lhote’s academic Cubism had a particularly decisive influence on the new generation of Croatian painters between the two wars. He had regular exhibitions in his homeland and maintained close contacts with his colleagues, particularly Vilko Gecan, with whom he was very close both privately and professionally since young age. Uzelac’s later painting is devoted to landscapes, vedutas and portraits and it is characterised by strong colourism. He also created drawings (especially erotic), illustrations, wall decorations, tapestry design, posters and theatre stage sets.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023