Croatia is a rather small country and has often been merely an afterthought when it comes to great cultural and artistic movements that had reshaped the cultural landscape of Europe and the world. Although we are abundant in cultural and historic heritage, there have been only a few names that have been able to make an impactful mark in artistic trends and tendencies of their time.
One of those names, and perhaps the biggest national trademark within the visual arts, is certainly Ivan Meštrović. The famed sculptor’s works like the ‘’Monument to Grgory of NIn’’ in Split or the‘’Well of life’’ in Zagreb have become emblematic points of the visual identities of the two of the biggest Croatian cities. His museums and galleries in Split and Zagreb and the tomb of the Meštrović Family near Otavice are important points on the checklists of many travelers visiting Croatia.
The famed sculptor was born in Vrpolje in 1883, but spent his childhood in the tiny village of Otavice in the Dalmatian Hinterland.
At the age of 18 young Meštrović left his family to train to be a stonecutter in a workshop in Split. He left Split the following year to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts in Wiena. During his time in the Austrian capital Meštrović first met Auguste Rodin, the sculptor who will become Meštrović’s greatest influence.
After graduating from the Academy in Meštrović lived and worked in Paris, Belgrade, Cannes, Rome and Zagreb before crossing the pond to teach in the renowned universities of Syarcuse and South Bend. During the ‘’crazy years’’ of the 1920 ‘s Meštrović lived and worked in the famed Parisian neighborhood of Montparnasse among some of the greatest artists of the 20th century like Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and many more.
Meštrović’s works adorn public squares from Zagreb, Split, Belgrade and Bucharest all the way to Washington D.C., Chicago and Ottawa.
Where to see his work
Ivan Meštrović Museums is an institution dedicated to preservation and promotion of the artistic legacy and heritage of Ivan Meštrović in Croatia. There are four locations which form the Ivan Meštrović Museums.These places not only serve as important cultural landmarks but are also attractive destinations for tourists and travelers visiting Croatia.
Atelier Meštrović is located in the historic Upper Town of Zagreb and is an adapted part of the complex Meštrović bought and lived in upon returning to Zagreb as an established artist in the 1920’s. In the authentic ambience of the artist’s home, the atelier displays works created in the first four decades of the artist’s career. The building of the atelier has a monumental character and serves as an exponent in and of itself.
Meštrović Gallery is located in the neighborhood of Meje in the western part of Split. The artist himself participated in the creation of this monumental piece of architecture. The villa served as a holiday home of the Meštrović family. In 1952 Meštrović entrusted the estate along with 132 pieces of artwork to the Croatian people.
The gallery showcases sculptor’s masterpieces done in marble, stone and wood.
Meštrović’s Crikvine Kaštilac is a beautiful seaside estate on the southern slopes of Marjan Hill in Split. Meštrović bought the estate with his brother and remodeled it creating an impressive architectural in an idyllic environment. The name Crikvine (churches in Croatian) originates from the sculptors belief that the estate was built on the remains of old churches. The main exhibition space, the Church of the Holy Cross in the western part of the complex, displays works done in wood.
The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, the final resting place of Ivan Meštrović and his immediate family is an impressive piece of architecture located on Paraćeva glavica, a small hill near Otavice. The inside of the Tomb is adorned with stone sculptures of religious motives done by Meštrović’s students using the sculptor’s plaster models.
if you would like to learn more about Ivan Meštrović, visit mestrovic.hr
Photo Credits: mestrovic.hr