Leo Junek, Maternité de Porte Royal, Paris, 1940

Leo Junek
Maternité de Porte Royal, Paris, 1940
oil on canvas
81 x 100 cm
National Museum of Modern Art

Junek’s complete devotion to pure painting culminated on the eve of World War II in urban vedutas of remarkable pictoriality. Junek paints the Maternité de Porte Royal maternity hospital in Paris, where his daughter was born in 1940, with seemingly simple broad surfaces and spots of colour, combining colourism and linear conception. Deviating from the Zemlja-like concept based on the national message, but also from the established tendencies of contemporary French art, Junek builds his own artistic vision on a deep understanding and interpretation of Cézannian modernist premises and on exploring the possibilities of colour as a fundamental element of painterly expression.

After having graduated from the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts in 1925, Leo Junek moved to Paris as a French government scholarship recipient and stayed in France for the rest of his life. Together with Krsto Hegedušić, he initiated the founding of the Zemlja Association of Artists, but consistent with his more personal and urban path towards Modernism, he left the Association as early as the closing of their first exhibition in 1929. Junek’s early work is typified by a series of self-portraits with an increasingly pronounced colour scheme. In addition to the contemporary French art scene and a particular influence of Raoul Dufy with ‘colours of pure life joy’, Junek was also influenced by the French artistic heritage, especially stained glass and fresco painting. He explored the relationship between drawing and coloured spots, and developed his colourism further towards Abstract Art and Tachisme. In 1950, he moved to Orsay and painted in the vein of colour-infused Lyrical Abstraction wherein details are not important and colour is increasingly liberated. Although Junek painted almost his entire oeuvre in France, and he only had four solo exhibitions in Croatia during his lifetime, his work and friendships exerted a significant influence on painting in Croatia. Junek’s support for our painters who came to Paris for training between the two wars was especially important (Krsto Hegedušić, Juraj Plančić, Vjekoslav Parać, Marijan Detoni, Slavko Kopač…).

Text : Lada Bošnjak Velagić, Senior curator of National Museum of Modern Art© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić© © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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