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Around Meštrović – seminar review

October 16, 2017


The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Split (through our Crosculpture project funded by the Croatian Science Foundation), along with the Meštrović Museums, was invited to Krakow by prof. Jacek Purchla, PhD, the director of the International Cultural Center in Krakow. They teamed up to organize a one-day seminar on certain aspects of the artistic work of Ivan Meštrović, as well as the importance and centuries-long use of Diocletian's Palace and the appearance of Meštrović's works in it. The presenters at the seminar were: Maciej Czerwiński, Dalibor Prančević, Ana Šverko and Barbara Vujanović.


We bring you the titles as well as the abstracts of their presentations in the following paragraphs.

Ivan Meštrović and Poland: The Unrealised Project of the Piłsudski Avenue in Warsaw


Maciej Czerwiński, Barbara Vujanović


     In the late 1930s, Meštrović was commissioned to create several monuments abroad – Monument to Ion C. Brătianu, Monument to King Carol I, Monument to King Ferdinand I, all in Bucharest, and Monument to Józef Piłsudski in Warsaw. Had the latter been executed, this would have been one of the most grandiose monuments and interventions into the urban fabric by Meštrović. Meštrović’s solution, with its insistence on excessive size, references to classical sculptural and architectural vocabulary. The sculptor thus joined the dominant interwar references to Antiquity, all for the purpose of proclaiming the strength of the nation and its heroes being commemorated.  The war in Poland in 1939 interrupted this cooperation. Because of the controversial relationship between the Communist governments after the end of World War II, Meštrović’s monument was never realized.

     The presentation in the form of the conversation of the two experts shall describe the context and the course of the competition, the Polish reception of the Meštrović’s project, and the coverage of the Polish media devoted to his stay in Warsaw and Krakow.

The reception of the works of Ivan Meštrović in Great Britain: from acclaim to controversy


Dalibor Prančević, PhD

Assistant Professor

Head of the Art History Department

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Split, Croatia


     The works of Ivan Meštrović have aroused strong reactions from the British public, especially his two large exhibitions which were organized in London in the space of just two years: his solo exhibit in the Victoria & Albert Museum (1915) and the collective exhibition of Meštrović, Rački and Rosandić in the Grafton Galleries (1917). Both exhibitions were held under strong political implications since this was the time of World War I. In addition, campaigns and lobbying for the foundation of the Yugoslav state were extremely vigorous, especially considering London was the headquarters of Allied diplomacy.

     Headlines in the daily news were diverse: a tone of approval and positive textual reviews prevailed, but a strong opposition to Ivan Meštrović’s art also cropped up bearing with it a critical tone regarding his work and his political subtext. Of course, a strong critique came from the ranks of avant-garde artists and their supporters who advocated a completely different type of artistic engagement and creation.

     Furthermore, Ivan Meštrović’s exhibitions in Great Britain during the First World War are also significant because they provide us with the possibility of delving into the truly broad social circle of which Meštrović was a part. Some of the more important protagonists of public social life even commissioned their portraits with Meštrović. All of those works are impregnated with compelling narratives and enable a more precise reconstruction of the broader cultural context in which Ivan Meštrović lived and worked during those years.

     It is precisely all of the aforementioned segments of the appearance and significance of Ivan Meštrović's works in Great Britain during the first half of the twentieth century - and especially during the First World War – that would be the subject of this lecture.

Diocletian’s Palace in Split as a model through history


Ana Šverko, PhD

Senior Research Associate

Institute of Art History – Cvito Fisković Centre, Split, Croatia


     Split is a city that developed out of the Late Antique palace of the Emperor Diocletian. Diocletian’s Palace is a built complex whose architectural structure has, over the course of time, adjusted to urban needs by retaining its classical core – the eternal and the inherited – but without resisting what’s always new and changing. Its eternal form and changing function were inspiration through history in art and architecture. First part of this lecture will be devoted to the Palace as the living monument until present day, while in the second part examples of art and architecture directly influenced by this unique architectural structure will be discussed.

Ivan Meštrović: The French Connections in Croatian Modern Sculpture


Barbara Vujanović

Senior curator

Ivan Meštrović Museums – Meštrović Atelier, Zagreb, Croatia

     The relationship of Ivan Meštrović to his older colleague Auguste Rodin, that is the influence the latter had on Croatian sculptor, and their friendship, is one of the most important in his biography. This paper thus aims to address the similarities and contrasts between the two. It will give an overview of the the sculptors’ meetings and correspondence (1902–14). Furthermore, it will observe Meštrović’s presence in the French artistic circles, starting with his Parisian period of 1908-9, during which he participated with the works he created in his studio at the Montparnasse at the exhibitions Salon d'automne and Salon de la société nationale. Later on he also participated in the political group exhibition Exposition des artistes Yugoslaves in 1919, and was to organize a solo exhibition in Jeu de Paume in 1933, to celebrate his 50th birthday. At this last show Meštrović was recognized by French critics as one of the most eminent European artists, ‘now that Rodin and Bourdelle are dead’.

     From the reception of Rodin’s style and subjects, through Symbolism and Impressionism, to the development of his recognizable archaic, monumental style and Cycle of Vidovdan, to the mature style of his neoclassical return to order of the 1920s and ‘30s, Ivan Meštrović was confirmed as one of the finest representatives of the French school in Central Europe. This being said, we will refer to artistic similarities with the opus of such sculptors as Antoine Bourdelle, Aristide Maillol, etc. This paper will analyse the effect and the meaning of this position from the point of view of Meštrović’s own artistic identity, and his impact on the formation of twentieth-century Croatian sculpture.



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