Sunday, January 17, 2010

#022 Croatia...Thank Tomislav!

This cover features Croatian Modern Painting 2008 issue:

The 1.65HRK stamp:Two Trees at the Foot of a Hill from 1973 by Oskar Herman.

Oskar Herman (1886 – 1974) was already in the 1920’s ranked by critics among scarce artists «consciously standing aside in an isolated row, however at the same time consecrated». He was also named an artist of «slow pace» and «a recluse». In stormy times, Herman had without even once looking back, from the beginning of 20th century, been pacing as a recluse along his individual path, always toward the same goal – to reach spiritual feeling of the world through a full freedom of painting. This recluse painter of sublimated expression and deep humanity was almost constantly in contradiction with the contemporary world. His symbolism was out of times and the style symbolism, and expressionism was not developed in his time but considerably later. Herman’s
paintings in their consistency (symbolism and expression) uninterruptedly and without any scillations perseveringly grew in the direction of a climax, ripening along with a ticking of his biological clock. In his silent world he painted as was had to, as dictated by his vision of art, without taking any notice of art streams created by new generations. From1904 to1910 Herman was one of the famous four representatives of the (Kraljeviæ, Raèiæ, Beciæ, Herman), Munich Circle. Critics always left him out and wrote favourably about the three other representatives of the Munich Circle. However Herman’s contribution was at least to say, kept secret from the public, although more precisely Herman and Raèiæ were architects of the art norm. They were the basis of Croatian contemporary art from the first half of the twentieth century. After the end of the First World War Herman returned to Munich, where with the exception of short visits to Paris and Berlin
he lived until the escalation of Nazism in 1933, when he returned to Zagreb. During his stay in Munich he regularly displayed, with quite a bit of success, his works at one man exhibitions
as well as participating at exhibitions of Munich Secession Art. In the war years (1941 – 1945), Herman joined partisan forces and was captured and confined in Calabria. After his release he joined the artists colony of Cozzano, a period marked in his life as a stand still in regard to his work as a painter and the actual come back to the artistic scene is possible to recognise in his opus as «a new creation of the world» (G. Gamulin). A painter’s vision, which has already been marked by out of the times suggestiveness, assuming ever stronger expressiveness,
he grew consistently and perseverely. Figurative compositions full to the brim with existential charge, interweaving and dramatically touching human destinies, isolated characters stroll without
any anchorage in a vast frivolousness space. A man and his inner world represent the main motives of Herman’s paintings, and a „Hermaniac“vision of a world unfolds with an unbelievable
grandeur of colours. Colour in his paintings, as Boris Kelemen explained, transfers into a «fluid, living element penetrating into a very marrow of life», and in a newly created world there
exists no chaos, only a deep melancholy, harsh tenderness and tranquillity. Just in tranquillity is the essential solution which in his artist’s vision brings a new dimension of expressionism,
not seen until Oskar Herman came onto the art scene. But also when that expressive hermanian vision unfolds in nature, without the presence of man, as seen in the painting Two Trees at the
Foot of a Hill from 1973, regardless of suppression, this composure strikes us with the force of spiritual radiation spreading from deep and sonorous harmonies of an effective colouristic game.
This small landscape, as interpreted by G. Gamulin, represents a synthetic «conclusion» of Herman’s iconography of a landscape and his deep compassionate, human, expressiveness.

The 1.80HRK stamp:Vrtujak (a scene in a park) from 1953 by Nevenka Dordevic.

Nevenka Ðorðeviæ (1898 – 1975)The creative work of painter and ceramic artist Nevenka Ðorðeviæ
has not sufficiently been recognised for a long time, although
her work has been included in all the anthologies of twentieth
century art, as an unavoidable art link of our environment.
Only the retrospective exhibition in 1999 organised in the Art
Pavilion in Zagreb reconstructed particularities of her visual
art through modernity in a wider span of time, from the end
of 1920 until the mid ‘60’s. She was born in 1899 in Rumanian
Banat, a place called Sannicolaul Mare. She was only sixteen
when in 1915 after graduating from the Girls’ Higher Learning
Academy she departed to Zagreb to study fine arts. She started
her training in the private school of Ljubo Babiæ, and in 1916
she enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts and Crafts. After graduation
in 1921, with her future husband, Ernest Tomaševiæ, she departed
to Berlin. During her two year stay in Berlin she visited numerous
ateliers and private schools, (W. Jackel and A. Archipenko),
and mostly was engaged in painting portraits. Not many portraits
executed during her stay in Berlin relate to primary positioning
that at time are close to the dominant «new reality» style,
solid and plasticized structured form, and that harsh simplicity
from which she began would markedly be incorporated in her later
art of painting After she returned to Zagreb she was more engaged
in executing works of art in ceramic, and learned about the
technique from the sculptor Hinko Juhn. The first exhibition
of her work in ceramics was at the arts and crafts exhibition
organised in 1927. On display were her ceramic sculptures and
pottery plates. Modelled clay and colouring of bounded surfaces
marked her painting, which gravitates towards gloominess, stylized
deformation of a figure with distinct contours; precise colouration
and mild ironic shift toward caricature what actually increases
her expressiveness. Her early works are mostly portraits and
still life of flowers in a vase, what determines her as an artist
of intimisme, however only in regard to the scenes she liked
to paint. Her unrestricted development of a form through broad
vehement strokes and bordered surfaces in glowing and sometimes
gloomy colours, quite early brought to surface her peculiar
and not in the least intimistic modern style. She achieved distinction
with summarines in a series of women portraits, almost regularly
with bizarre bonnets on their heads, as if accentuating concise
characterisation of the person whose portrait she painted. In
1930 she discovered on the island of Braè and in Komiža particularities
of the Dalmatian environment and it will extensively resonate
in her Mediterranean iconography. Images of stone facades of
old Dalmatian churches and palaces achieved with summarinnes,
are stripped of any decorative quality, assume a shape with
allegoric connotations. With broad and splattered spots of reduced
colour palette she developed her concise perception of Southern
towns in a unique impression. In the mentioned concise style
she painted several versions of Carrousel in a leisure park,
(printed on a stamp) from which the version from 1953 on a display
in the Modern Gallery in Zagreb, is the best version. Although
there is nothing left of the Carrousel but the bare construction
firmly centred in the fenced off space, and by its brightness
stands out against the natural environment, and this static
and concise outline of a form creates an impressive illusion
of rotation. In the fifties and sixties of the last century
she developed an original mark by isolating fragments of old
boats, transformed «protégés» fastened on the stems of boats
in an individual icon, like symbol, and by doing it procured
for her a place in a contemporary art.

The 6.50HRK stamp:Still Life from about 1925 by Ivo Rezek.

Ivo Režek (1898 – 1979) is one of the crucial figures in contemporary Croatian
Art, particularly from the first half of the twentieth century.
Thematic stratification of his native region left on his artistic
opus an irreversible mark. However, the basic formation of this
painter took place in the heart of Europe, acquiring classical
experiences and at that time current modernity, in Prague and
Paris, where he continued with his studies. He was one of the
few of our painters gaining precious knowledge of a dominant
style first hand. In direct contact with paintings of Picasso
and Derain he managed through symbiosis to connect experiences
of a prevailing contemporary magical realism with immanent feeling
for classic gesture and human philosophy of life, which gave
birth to one of the most European fine arts contributions from
the 1920’s and 1930’s. Ivo Režek was born on May 28,1898 in
Varaždin where he finished elementary and secondary school.
In 1925 he began his studies of fine art in Zagreb, and after
the war he continued his studies in Prague. He graduated in
1924 and departed to Paris where he lived with short interruptions
until1928. He exhibited with success at the Salon d’Automne
(1925.) and Salon des Tuilleries (1926.), and had one man shows
at the Montparnasse Gallery. He was very close to André Derain,
having painted in his studio, and he knew Picasso personally.
By magisterial form of accentuated plasticizm in his early formation
as an artist, he came as close as possible to this great artist
of contemporary art and his figurative compositions of women
bathers prove it. At the same time he spent a lot of time gaining
precious knowledge of his craft at the Louvre in Paris, copying
old masters, particularly Velázquez a Spanish artist. After
returning to Zagreb in1930’s, Režek simply picked up the thread
of a native tradition of engaged painting. He immersed himself
more deeply in his native milieu, revealing fatal relationships
between people and the environment. Awakened feelings of nationality
in that crucial moment bound him permanently to the motif of
his native Zagorje and hard lives of peasants. This benevolent
observer was skilled and seasoned his vision with original characteristic
humour, but harshness of impartial chronicler of reality. That
bound him to the painters of the Zemlja Group, although he never
formally joined them, he always remained free of any programmes
and ideologies. He differed from the naive narration and criticism
of the Zemlja Group by his commitment bearing his strong personal
stamp of compassionate chronicler. And while the village motif
slipped more and more into Režek’s paintings, at the same time
the lasting parallel characteristic figures of magic realism
saturated ever more the accentuated personality of the artist.
Rich chromaticism coupled with a strong feeling for material
texture were particularly prominent on portraits, landscapes
and still life. Režek’s commitment to regional iconography of
the impoverished ambient of Zagorje and his highly cultivated
style, extremely simple and genuine representation of everyday
poverty of village life or life in urban outskirts are presented
in his lesser known work Still Life. Significantly with a hand
of a true master of brush he painted bare table with two empty
glasses and half full bread basket. Everything presented in
the paintings is classically balanced and almost hipper-realistic.
By restrained art speech and selection of motives he declared
his human relationship toward reality –artistic constant – what
really brought him closer to his personal ideal. Režek’s artistic
observation will be in motion for a long time between his native
Varaždin, Zagreb’s intimate atmosphere and certain cosmopolitanism.

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