Before the Easel, 1950
Slavoljub Slavo Striegl was born in Sisak in 1919. In 1939, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb to study painting, as the first person from Sisak to do so. He graduated from the Academy in 1944 during the war; after graduation, Professor Krsto Hegedušić sent him, along with several other artists, to paint the frescoes of the shrine in Marija Bistrica. After having traversed the Way of the Cross, Striegl returned to Sisak, and in 1948 he became a professor of art education at the Grammar School in Sisak. Until his death in 2014, he painted and drew far from the eyes of the artistic public, and towards the end of his life he was recognized as one of the most notable painters to have come out of one of the most successful periods of the Academy in Zagreb, specifically, between the two world wars when Ljubo Babić, Ivan Meštrović, Krsto Hegedušić, Marino Tartaglia, Vladimir Becić, etc. were among the professors.
Striegl achieved his particularly striking paintings and drawings by depicting urban vedutas of Sisak, on the one hand, and Posavina motifs with animals, on the other. The watercolour we present here is therefore all the more interesting, not only because it refers to a self-reflection of sorts, a moment in which the artist recognizes himself and his specific work in the context of society and the world, but also because it aptly points to Striegl’s specific approach to watercolour, and his approach to representation in general. “My desire has always been to find character with a few strokes; for example, of the animal I draw. Drawing is my foundation, I enjoy it.” The figure of a painter standing before an easel and mixing colours with a brush on a palette he holds in his hand is “captured” in just a few strokes: it seems as if we could accurately count them. It is the same when it comes to colour: three tones were enough for Striegl to compose the scene and emphasize the most important part: the stature of the painter at work.
In 1997, a retrospective of Striegl’s work was organized in the Home of Croatian Visual Artists in Zagreb, and in 2016, two years after his death, a monument dedicated to him was erected in Sisak, on the banks of the Kupa River.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić©Nacionalni muzej moderne umjetnosti, Zagreb