Ivan Generalić, The Funeral of Štef Halaček, 1934

Ivan Generalić
The Funeral of Štef Halaček, 1934
oil on canvas
50 x 47 cm

In his painting The Funreal of Štef Halaček from 1934, Ivan Generalić, an autodidact from Hlebine, uses clear drawing, flat composition and pronounced local colours to record the resignation of his fellow villagers to their fate, even death. The proportions of the typified characters are so symbolically deformed they verge on the grotesque, and the site is specified by a traditional ritual procession and a characteristic ambience – Podravina houses and coral willow canopies in a desolate plain under heavy snow. Generalić intertwines what he saw and experienced with dreams and memories, not painting reality but emotions that emerge from reality. The pauper Štef Halaček often visited Generalić. In response to Štefek’s frequent criticism of Generalić’s skill, the painter responded by painting his funeral while he was still alive.

At the historical and critical exhibition 50 Ans d'Art Moderne in Brussels in 1958, The Funreal of Štef Halaček was exhibited alongside Braque, Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky, and international critics emphasized Generalić’s authentic contribution to contemporary international painting.

In 1930 in Hlebine, Krsto Hegedušić recognized and started to encourage Ivan Generalić’s fascinating innate talent. From 1931, Generalić started to exhibit as a guest artist in exhibitions of the Association Zemlja. He initially critically painted images of village life in watercolours, and later often in oil and tempera on glass. After World War II he became the central figure of the so-called Hlebine Peasant Art School, and his rural scenes approached lyrical idealization, metaphor and phantasy. In the 1970s, he devoted himself to symbolic and existential themes. He received international acclaim and held around seventy solo exhibitions in Croatia and abroad.

Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, Senior curator 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

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