One of my favorite things about traveling is the education I get because I am constantly being exposed to history, different cultures, new art and music. I have already shared about the Croatian Naive Art Movement, that I really love, in my Zagreb post.
In Split, we were introduced to the famous Croatian sculpture, Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1962). He had humble beginnings as a young boy. His family were nomadic farmers near Split. Through the kindness of a wealthy family, who saw promise in his drawings and wood carvings that he made as a young boy, he was given proper art training. He studied in Vienna and became a member of the Secession Group….a group of modern artist who broke away from the traditional art academy. There were various Secession Groups throughout Europe beginning in 1890 in France. It is also referred to as the Art Nouveau style.
Vienna Secession group was formed in 1897 and was one of the most best known groups. Gustave Klimt, best known for his works Adele Bloch-Bauer I and The Kiss, was one of the secession members. Others were Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Max Kurzweil, Wilhelm Bernatzik.
Mestrovic lived various European cities such as London, Prague, Paris, Geneva and Rome where he was a prominent member of the art movement. He considered Rodin to be a good friend. Mestrovic’s beloved homeland always had a special place in his heart and after World War I, he moved back to Zagreb where he established a workshop.
Over time, he moved back to Split and built a mansion overlooking the ocean. Today, this lovely mansion, is the art gallery for his several pieces that he created. His time in Split, between the World Wars, was said to be his happiest and most creative. Mastrovic worked in various media of wood, plaster, bronze and marble.
Reading about Mestrovic’s life, he lived through turbulent historical times….World War I, the creation of the first Yugoslavia, World War II, the communist Yugoslavia and the atomic-age of the United States. It was during WW II that Mastrovic, supporter of the ideals of a united Yugoslavia, was imprisoned by the Nazi government of Croatia. Eventually, he was released where he fled to Italy and finally made his way to the United States. While in the US, he lectured at several prominent universities.
After the war, Tito, the communist dictator of Yugoslavia, invited Mastrovic to return to his country. Mastrovic refused for religious reasons. He could not support the atheist government. He spent the rest of his life in the United States and died in South Bend, Indiana.
Personally, I feel that Mestrovic’s artistic gift is the emotions that you feel when looking at his sculptures. The elongated fingers, arms, legs and faces make the viewer feel the agony of Job, the sadness of Mary and Joseph at the death of their son, Jesus, the harsh life of a peasant woman or the love of a mother for her children. His art reflects the emotions that he must have felt while living through such tumultuous events.
This is one of my favorite pieces by Mestrovic. Of all the pietas that I have seen, none have included Joseph or Mary Magdalene. It is as if Joseph is saying, “My son, my son!” I wanted to reach out and comfort Joseph.
A short walk from the art gallery is the Kastelet Chapel (Chapel of the Holy Cross). Mestrovic purchased this 16th century building to display 28 wood reliefs that he had carved of Jesus’ life.
Mestrovic’s Zagreb Home and Workshop
I will leave you with Prince Marko…..I am in love with his horse – Sharac! He is so strong, sturdy and majestic!
If you are ever in the Chicago area and near Grant Park, look for Mestrovic’s sculptures of a pair of larger-than-life, American Indians warriors on horseback. These sculptures are recognized as his most internationally famous pieces of art.
It is my wish that one day, you will be able to view work by Mestrovic and feel the emotions that he so artistically draws out of a piece of stone or wood. Blessings…..