tempera on glass
The painting Winter or Villagers Taking Ice to Town from 1936 is a paradigmatic painting of the oeuvre of Franjo Mraz, a self-taught painter from the village of Hlebine. With the active encouragement of painter Krsto Hegedušić, Mraz recorded, together with Ivan Generalić, everyday village life during the 1930s in painting and drawing. Initially in pencil and watercolour, and then in tempera and oil, he painted ploughmen, diggers, reapers and field hands in the fields, as well as cattle, fields and forests, typical motifs and landscapes of the region of Podravina. Mraz painted two-dimensionally and applied soft-toned colours freely without drawing hard outlines. He used the technique of reverse painting on glass (verre églomisé in French, Hinterglasmalerei in German), which he emulated from the mostly sacral paintings on glass that the peasants of Podravina had long been buying from Austrian and Slovenian travelling painters. He was fascinated by the lustre of glass – a perfectly smooth and easily accessible material – that blends with colours. Using a traditional painting technique, Mraz painted scenes of specific lighting featuring a great freedom of colour and a powerful lyrical charge. He later painted the horrors of World War II realistically. He joined the ranks of the Partisans. Mraz’s illustrations for the partisan press were often inspired by his personal experiences and brutally expressive. In 1950 he moved to Belgrade, where in 1955 he became a professional painter. After a war and post-war period steeped in Realism, in the mid-1950s he returned to depictions of everyday village life, idyllic plains and people who reminded him of his beloved home of Podravina.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator 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