Vladimir Becić, Still Life, 1909

Vladimir Becić
Still Life, 1909
oil on canvas
52×65 cm

Vladimir Becić (1886-1954) attended Menci Clement Crnčić and Bela Čikoš Sesija’s private school of painting in Zagreb. After having dropped out of law school, in 1905 he travelled to Munich and attended Heinrich Knirr’s private school of painting. After having enrolled in 1906 in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, he completed Ludwig von Herterich’s drawing course and enrolled in Hugo von Habermann’s painting classes, also attended by Josip Račić, Miroslav Kraljević and Oskar Herman (the Munich Circle) between 1905 and 1910. He moved to Paris in 1909 and enrolled in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and drew for Le Rire, a French humour magazine. In 1910 he started moving about different towns, including Zagreb, Osijek, Belgrade and Bitola. He spent the period between 1916 and 1918 on the Macedonian Front as a war correspondent and painter for the French L’Illustration weekly. After World War I ended, he travelled to Blažuj near Sarajevo, where he set up a studio and painted landscapes, portraits and scenes from everyday life in the countryside in the manner of colourist Realism. During the 1920s, he briefly painted in the vein of Magical Realism as well, but after he joined the Group of Three in 1929, and in his portraits, landscapes and scenes from everyday life returned to colourist Realism. Becić taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb and was a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Painted in the dimmed colours of the Munich School, Becić’s Still Life from 1909 is an excellent example of his application of the postulates of Cezannism. The shapes of the bread, fruit and jug displayed on a round table covered with a simple white tablecloth clearly indicate that Becić used the geometric objects of cylinder and sphere as their templates. The horizontal composition is simple and consists of three main parts: the lower half of the painting is occupied by a representation of the surface of the table, the upper half by a grey background, while the central part is where the motif of still life is arranged on the table.

Ivana Rončević Elezović, 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

Đuro Seder, Still Life, 1977

Đuro Seder
Still Life, 1977
tempera on paper

Đuro Seder belongs to the generation of Croatian artists who were supposed to renew modernist artistic principles after World War II. This expectation was strengthened by the official erasure of Socialist Realism from the state cultural policy, which occurred around the time when young Seder was graduating from the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts (first half of the 1950s). The restoration of artistic modernism proceeded in two directions. In the first, we see the renewal of Bauhaus ideas, while the second follows the principles of Abstract Expressionism and the then current philosophy of Existentialism. After becoming a member of the “Gorgona” Group in 1959, Seder was looking to find his artistic path in abstract and monochromatic paintings, which were content with demonstrating their own materiality: the frame, layers of pigment, canvas and the like. Influenced by Existentialism, and subsequently thanks to the contact of group members with Yves Klein, Seder was known to say that he tried, in the paintings from that period, to show emptiness, not only as a metaphor of human life, but as a concrete personal feeling.

“Still Life” stands somewhere between Seder’s Gorgonian phase and its polar opposite, when he gravitated towards expressive painting with suggestions of the human figure, landscape and the like. Variegated colourway, paint applied in thick impasto layers and strong stylisation of the motif have become the main features of his painting since the early 1980s onwards. Realistic motifs are still not recognisable in this “Still Life”, there are no strong, contrasting colours as of yet, the brush stroke is accentuated, but quieted with large colour surfaces. It is clear the Seder has given up on depicting emptiness, but was still searching for a content to fill it.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator 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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