Menci Klement Crnčić, Old Man Shelling Corn, 1891

Menci Klement Crnčić
Old Man Shelling Corn, 1891
oil on canvas
109x108 cm

Menci Clement Crnčić (1865-1930) was the first Croatian graphic artist and painter of seascapes. He studied painting in Vienna (1882-1884) and in Munich (1889-1891) under Nicolaus Gysis. Thanks to the scholarship awarded to him on Kršnjavi’s recommendation, he underwent specialist training in graphic arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and then in Lovran (1894-1897) under the renowned engraver Wilhelm Unger. In 1896, he was awarded the Füger Gold Medal and in 1897 he received the Vienna Academy Award and nine of his prints became part of the holdings of the Albertina Museum. He was the first Croatian artist to use printmaking as a means of independent artistic expression, equating it with painting and sculpture. From 1897 he lived in Lovran until he moved to Zagreb in 1900. In 1903, together with Csikos, he opened a private painting school, which grew into the College of Arts and Crafts – today’s Academy of Fine Arts. Over the course of his many years of pedagogical work, he educated numerous painters and graphic artists (Tomislav Krizman, Ivan Benković, Ljubo Babić). In 1919, he became a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts, and from 1920 to 1928 he was the director of the Strossmayer Gallery. In 1905, he travelled around Europe with writer Milan Šenoa, in 1907 he visited Italy with painter Oton Iveković, and then in 1908 travelled throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. His painting oeuvre includes many seascapes, landscapes from Istria, the Croatian Littoral and Zagreb vedute painted with vivid bright colourway under the influence of Bukovac’s Colourful School of Zagreb.
The painting Old Man Shelling Corn is one of the earliest paintings Crnčić presented to the Croatian audiences, showing it at the international exhibition of the Art Society in 1891. It is a paradigmatic example of Munich realism – a restrained colour gamut of grey earthen tones with an emphasis on the whiteness of the peasant’s clothes, without unnecessary description. Crnčić does not idealise rural life, but depicts a modest space in which the elderly peasant will be forced to do hard menial work until the end of his days. Bowed head, a serious expression on his face suggests the old man’s meditative mood of sorts, which points to Crnčić’s early ability to depict psychological characteristics.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, 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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