Leaf I, 1961
oil on canvas, 130.5 x 97 cm
Oton Postružnik (1900 – 1978) was a socially and critically engaged painter (graphic artist and sculptor) in the pre-WWII period and one of the most prominent representatives of Lyrical Abstraction in the post-war period. In 1915 he enrolled in painter Ljubo Babić’s private art school. In 1917 he took part in anti-Hungary protests, when he gave a fiery speech, on account of which he was cautioned by the authorities. In 1920 he left the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and moved to Prague to study (under painter Vlaho Bukovac). After he returned from Prague, he continued his studies at the newly founded Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he graduated under Prof. Ljubo Babić (1924). Postružnik was one of the first students to work in ceramics under Prof. Hinko Juhn. In the same year, he opened a private painting school together with painter I. Tabaković, with whom he exhibited The Grotesques series of drawings akin to the German New Objectivity art movement at the Ullrich Salon. This series of drawings heralded the critical and social agenda of the Earth Association of Artists (1929-1935), which he was a founding member of. He studied in Paris in 1925 and 1926 (under painters A. Lhote and M. Kisling), which may have influenced his monumental painting (Klek Mountain, 1929). He often stayed in Dalmatia, where he developed a distinctive Colourism based on bright and open colours, and a powerful and free style. In the 1950s he started reducing his figural templates to flat signs, pure colours and compositional glows of light. The painting Leaf I (1961) is an example of the way in which Postružnik would reduce the landscape, that is, the natural motif to its sign at the crossroads of Organic and Lyrical Abstraction on the one hand and softened Art Informel on the other. It is material lyricism of proportional colouring based on organic surfaces interspersed with linear surfaces, dots and spots. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb between 1958 and 1970, and won the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award in 1964.
Text: Željko Marciuš, National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art , Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb