Nikola Mašić, Sunflower, s.a.

Nikola Mašić
(1852 – 1902)
Sunflower, s.a.
oil on canvas
18,8 x 11,8 cm

Known as a painter of compositions of the so-called beautified Realism and autonomous studies, Nikola Mašić 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 brighter 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 the painter Marià Fortuny i Marsal’s Japonisme. In 1879, as an acclaimed painter, he opened a studio in Munich, but 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 Sunflower study is one of Mašić’s numerous studies created during the summer holidays he spent in Croatia. During his time spent wandering and painting around the region of Posavina, he took note of many motifs (animals, plants, pottery, boats), small things that he will later use when painting large figurative compositions. He paints them on canvases bought and prepared for this particular purpose, which he numbers precisely. Painted in plein-air, they display an immediate crispness of expression, while the objectness is maximally reduced to the painterly essence. The intensity of summer light in the Sunflower study is embodied in the bright orange colour of this summer flower, which diagonally occupies the entire frame of the small painting. Nevertheless, Mašić’s inherent meditativeness is visible in the depiction of an already slightly withered flower which reminds us, even in the carefree moments of summer, of eternal transience.

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

Adolf Waldinger, A Slavonian Forest, s. a.

Adolf Waldinger
A Slavonian Forest, s. a.
watercolour, 12×22 cm

Adolf Waldinger (1843-1904) was given his first lessons in painting in his native Osijek by Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf, after which in 1861 he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, which he attended for only two semesters. In the following years, he acquired his knowledge of and skill in art in Vienna’s painting studios and during his travels to Bavaria, Austria and northern Italy. In 1869 he returned to Osijek where he worked as a drawing teacher at a grammar school for some time. His absolute romantic commitment to nature and art was the reason why he was misunderstood by society at large, and why he lived in social isolation and in poverty.

Waldinger’s works feature both romantic qualities – an atmosphere of solitude and a longing for the unattainable – and realistic analyticity in the sense of Gustave Courbet’s idea of painting representing ‘physical characteristics’, according to which paintings are to “be made up of the representation of the things the artist can touch and see”.

Adolf Waldinger drew and painted forests and forest plants almost obsessively during his long retreats to nature. Painted in calm bluish-green hues, Waldinger’s Slavonian watercolour landscapes are airy and light, which is the result of his classic, closed lines of a calm flow. Painted with the tip of his brush, the plants in the foreground expand in the background into a landscape of plains and hills with the help of aerial perspective. Thanks to him having studied real motifs in nature in much detail, Waldinger did not burden his drawings with unnecessary descriptiveness. This makes him close to Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller’s Realism, which – owing to him having painted from direct observation – features credible depictions of landscape fore- and backgrounds, psychological characterisations of figures and refined representations of textures.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum advisor of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Ivan Zasche, A Forest, s. a.

Ivan Zasche
A Forest, s. a.
oil on cardboard
48×38 cm

Ivan Zasche was one of the first and most important painters with a formal education in painting who arrived and stayed in Zagreb at the invitation of Archbishop Juraj Haulik (1788-1869), for whom he produced drawings and a lithographic map called Park Jurjaves. Park vedutas featuring picturesque depictions of specific individuals were a peculiarity of landscape painting characteristic of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In his A Forest painting, Zasche used the same method of first drawing plein-air studies of nature, a segment of which he then painted in his studio, to which he added a small human figure. The landscape depicts a withered oak tree surrounded by young trees and a figure of a woman bent while carrying a load, the latter of which reinforces the metaphor of the transience of life and conveys a sense of proportion.

Zasche’s appearance in Zagreb in the mid-1850s and 1860s brought a touch of metropolitan class and introduced Zagreb to the artistic quality of Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts. Thanks to his exceptional talent, Zasche turned the non-existence of an arts scene in Zagreb to his advantage by having gradually freed himself from the strict rules, methods and approach of Academicism, and by having started to paint portraits, landscapes, scenes from everyday life and sacral compositions. Zasche was an exceptional painter of his time in Croatia’s social and cultural milieu – he was the first to have painted landscapes and scenes from everyday life besides portraits and sacral scenes, which were usual motifs at the time. It is very likely that he had been given impetus for this early on by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1793-1865), a free-spirited Biedermeier painter and Professor at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, who encouraged his students to draw plein-air studies of nature, which facilitated their exploration of a more personal visual expression.

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

Skip to content