Painter in the Marshes, c. 1878
oil on canvas
Known as a painter of compositions of the so-called beautified Realism and autonomous studies, Nikola Mašić (1852-1902) started his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1872, but having become dissatisfied with its programme, he decided to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. In Alexander Wagner’s Komponierenklasse he acquires the necessary knowledge to work on large-scale figurative compositions. He had an affinity for the painting of Wilhelm von Liendenschmidt, a painter of historical compositions, whose palette became lighter under the influence of the modern Munich School of painting. He spent the summer of 1874 in and around Rome studying ancient monuments, which was supposed to help him paint his future figurative compositions. However, the sketches and studies he created at that time show a fascination with the atmosphere and light of the south. During his stay in Croatia, he painted in the region of Posavina. In 1878, he attended the Paris World Fair and became acquainted with Japonisme of the painter Marià Fortuny i Marsal. In 1879, as an acclaimed painter, he was given a studio in Munich and he continued to travel around Europe attending fine art events. Due to his deteriorating eyesight, he eventually returned to Zagreb in 1884, where he first worked as a drawing teacher at the School of Crafts, and in 1894 he was appointed as director of the Strossmayer Gallery.
The painting Painter in the Marshes is an example of Mašić’s autonomous study – an auxiliary work that functions as an independent work of art. It was created during his lonely wanderings spent painting around the region of Posavina in the late 1870s. The direct sketchy expression is dominated by short, broken lines in the vein of Fortuny’s Japonisme, by which Mašić came closest to Modernism. On the other hand, as an excellent painter of atmosphere, he shows the romantic melancholy of the marshes in the lowland landscape that the painter himself, with his easel, emerges from. The painting can also be understood as the painter’s mental self-portrait of sorts.
Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, 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