Robert Auer, Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1917

Robert Auer
Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1917
oil on canvas
205 x 251 cm

Robert Auer (1873–1952) studied painting at the School of Crafts in Zagreb, at the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he moved to in 1895 and exhibited at the Munich Art Nouveau exhibition in 1896. Together with his wife, painter Leopoldina Auer Schmidt, in 1897 he opened a private art school in Zagreb, which was attended by painters Tomislav Krizman and Joso Bužan. He participated in the founding of the Lada Croatian Artists’ Association and the Society of Croatian Artists. He taught at the School of Crafts in Zagreb from 1905 and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb from 1918. In terms of style, Auer painted in the vein of Munich-based Academicism and Jugendstil, and his portraits and nudes in the spirit of idealised Realism were particularly popular among the bourgeoisie of his time.
Auer’s painting Temptation of Saint Anthony from 1917, depicts a frequently portrayed motif from the life of the 4th-century saint, Anthony the Abbot or Anthony the Great, who faced temptations of carnal desires and resisted them through prayer and fasting. Typically, St. Anthony the Abbot is depicted in his old age, leaning on a staff, wearing a hood and a monastic habit symbolizing his role as the father of monasticism. Here, however, he is shown in a whirlwind of nudes symbolizing the swirling vortex of passions against which he struggles, as a young man with a tonsure, a distinctive haircut introduced in Christianity in the 4th century and abolished in 1972. This hairstyle is commonly used to depict St. Anthony of Padua, who lived in the 13th century. The painting is executed in a realistic, academic style.

Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Filip Beusan © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023

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