Ivan Meštrović, Caryatid, 1908, Jesus and Mary Magdalene, 1916

Ivan Meštrović
(1883 – 1962)
Caryatid, 1908
74 x 19 x 13 cm

Jesus and Mary Magdalene, 1916
176 x 133.8 cm

Ivan Meštrović, one of our greatest sculptors, was formed in the early 20th century, in the spirit of his time and Secession as a stylistic trend. In line with the postulates of Modern art, he made use of the archaic form and wood as the material in which he shaped the Caryatid with “constructive architectonics”, depicted as a standing female nude with the pronounced vertical of the linear drapery slung over the forearm of her left arm, which is raised and bent, and her oval head is bowed. Her right arm hangs loosely alongside the body and is crooked backwards at waist height. The stylized lines soften the compact composition. The wood has a polished texture, the contour lines flow fluidly while light delicately accentuates the surface extrusions.

After Ivan Meštrović finished working on his national cycle, the sculptor increasingly turned to universal religious motifs. The series of Christological wooden reliefs includes the scene of Jesus and Mary Magdalene executed in shallow relief with expressive flatness and linearity of Gothic figures and an emphasis on the elongated arms of the main protagonists of the scene. The central scene of the seated Christ and the kneeling Mary Magdalene is punctuated by the horizontal figural composition in the background. The artistry and expressiveness of the composition carved onto a wooden panel was achieved with flawless linear stylisation.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, Museum advisor 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


František Bilek, Jesus and Mary Magdalene,1901 -1902

František Bilek
(1872 – 1941)
Jesus and Mary Magdalene
1901 - 1902
196 x 108 cm

František Bilek was a prominent Czech Art Nouveau sculptor, architect, ceramicist and illustrator who created impressive symbolic works. At the turn of the 20th century, as a member of Catholic Modern Art, a group of Czech intellectuals and artists, he advocated the promotion of integration of traditional Christian values and modern artistic practice, and it is when many of his works with biblical and motifs from the life of Christ were created.
The first of the three artworks acquired in 1905 for the Modern Gallery (today the National Museum of Modern Art) from Art Society was Bilek’s relief in wood Jesus and Mary Magdalene from the Christological cycle. The work conveys a strong symbolic interpretation of Christ’s resurrection. An erect figure of Christ, depicted as a sorrowful man with his head bowed and gently touching the hand of Mary Magdalene, stands above the open tomb, to the right. Mary Magdalene is barely sensing the presence of the risen Christ, while her visionary gaze is directed towards heaven. In a summarily interpreted scene with subtle symbolism, three arms and a cross on the hill of Golgotha are integrated into the landscape. An elegiac poem is engraved along the rectangular frame that interprets this pivotal Christian scene, but also tragic human love, sorrow and pain caused by transience and death, personified in the figures of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
The Czech artist was not unknown to the Croatian public because of the strong intellectual and artistic ties between Prague and Zagreb in that period. Bilek showcased his sculptural works at a notable exhibition by members of the Czech Association of Fine Artists Manes, held at the Art Pavilion in Zagreb in 1904, and his second exhibition was staged at the Salon Ulrich in 1918.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, 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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