Valerije Michieli, Target, 1963

Valerije Michieli
(1922 – 1981)
Target, 1963
180 x 205 x 110 cm

Valerije Michieli graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1949 (F. Kršinić), where he worked as a professor between 1962 and 1981. He worked as an associate at V. Radauš’s (1949 –1951) and F. Kršinić’s Master Workshops (1951 –1955).
He realised the concept of full volume in his portraits, after which he explored the possibilities of eroded forms. As an avant-garde sculptor, he worked on elongated expressionist figures close to the Gothic style and related currents in modern sculpture (A. Giacometti). His series of contorted bodies express human drama, particularly those sculptures with themes related to World War II. Executed in a sculptural and painterly manner, the animals in his series of dogs and horses range from extremely expressionist to non-figurative. Michieli created the memorial monuments in Pučišća and Split, and the figure of A Woman from Brač in the town of Bol.
Inspired by the relief characteristics of furrowed, cracked, corroded, jagged and time-worn limestone karst of the Island of Brač, Michieli sculpted a series of bronze sculptures of people and animals, under the common title of karren, featuring pronounced naturalistic deformations. His work is characterised by the heroic expressive male figure, such as in the work Target, anthropomorphised by a distorted crouching male nude with elongated widespread limbs; with extremely thin knobbly arms and oversized fists, and a body of reptilian epidermis that is apocalyptically contracted at the core and on the surface in a violent existentialist scream.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant 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

Valerije Michieli, Mate’s Head, 1953

Valerije Michieli
(1922 – 1981)
Mate’s Head, 1953

In 1949, Valerije Michieli obtained a degree in sculpture under Frano Kršinić at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he himself worked as a professor from 1962 until his death in 1981. He also painted, often depicting dogs in his artworks. From the very beginning, he inclined towards an expressionist style influenced by the heavy and painful experiences of his youth, possibly also influenced by his work in Vanja Radauš's workshop. The empathy towards human and animal destinies is evident in his works featuring contorted, dramatic, and often elongated forms that are open on all sides, and rough surfaces. He is considered the most significant animalistic sculptor after Branislav Dešković, having created cycles of horses (1955-1960) and dogs (1950-1981) that range stylistically from expressionist to non-figurative shapes.
Although a professor at the Zagreb Academy, Michieli remains deeply connected to the stone of Brač and its rough-textured landscapes.
The museum sculpture Mate from 1953 deviates from his typical elongated, contorted, and open forms with its closed form. The elongated oval of the head is devoid of unnecessary description, and with minimal intervention in the basic form, Michieli presents a figurative and suggestive portrait, seemingly of a disgruntled local resident. This demonstrates how he successfully portrays the psychological states of the portrayed individual using minimal expressive means.

Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023

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