Milivoj Uzelac, In the Studio , 1920

Milivoj Uzelac
(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

Anka Bestall, In the Studio, 1913

Anka Bestall
In the Studio, 1913
pencil, tempera on paper
63.2 x 52.5 cm

Anka Bestall (1861–1946) studied painting at the School of Crafts in Zagreb and then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, which she attended from 1900 to 1906, as the first of a series of Croatian paintresses. She worked as a drawing teacher at the School of Crafts and the Girls’ College in Zagreb. During her lifetime she staged solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions. The painting In the Studio from 1913 was acquired for the Modern Gallery at the Retrospective Exhibition of Croatian Women Painters 1800–1914, held in Zagreb during 1938.

The extremely successful composition of Anka Bestall’s In the Studio is familiar to the contemporary observer because of the usage of mixed media, predominantly pencil in depicting the studio and tempera in rendering the painter’s full figure in sideview, dressed in work clothes and the window overlooking the exterior in the upper right quarter of the painting. Thus, the colouristic accent of the artist’s figure and the window in pastel tones stand out among the beige and grey tones of the whole, becoming a kind of “composition within a composition” of an abstract motif. The subtle and convincing drawing of the whole is as delicate as a cobweb, revealing such a typical, female style.

Tekst: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum advisor 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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