Vlaho Bukovac, My Nest, 1897

Vlaho Bukovac
My Nest, 1897
oil on canvas

Vlaho Bukovac (1855 - 1922) is considered the founder of Croatian Modern art. His curious and adventurous spirit led him to America as a child. Thanks to the panslavist writer Medo Pucić and Bishop Strossmayer, he went to study at the École des beaux-arts in Paris. He initially painted under the influence of Alexandre Cabanel, an eclectic painter of historical and religious compositions in the spirit of official academism. Over time, Bukovac became acquainted with Impressionist painting and Orientalism, developing his own artistic expression by drawing on Realism, Impressionism, and occasionally Symbolism. After having completed his studies in 1880 and thanks to the successes he achieved at the Paris Salons, he set up a studio in Paris. He simultaneously painted in Dalmatia and England, and in 1893, he settled in Zagreb. He is considered one of the initiators of the construction of the Art Pavilion in 1895. In 1897, he founded the Society of Croatian Artists, which opposed Kršnjavi’s Croatian Art Society, established in 1879, inviting artists to paint en plein air and thus providing impetus to Croatian Modern art. Under his influence, painters began using a brighter palette, abandoning the brown hues that dominated galleries at the time, and creating a variant of Croatian realistic painting that became known as the Colorful School of Zagreb. Because of his disagreement with Kršnjavi, Bukovac first moved to Cavtat in 1898 and then to Prague in 1903 as a professor at the local academy.
The museum painting My Nest from 1897 is an intimistic scene of Vlaho Bukovac’s desired life with his family in Zagreb. The title itself suggests the warmth of home. The depiction of the charming family is reduced to figures placed in front of an ornamental drapery, sitting or lying on a couch with a cover. All three figures gaze directly at the painter, their father and husband, thereby closing his nest. Morphologically, Bukovac begins to dissolve the form using small, spotty brushstrokes to gradually eliminate contours through sfumato.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023

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