Doktorskim radom cjelovito je obrađen do sada tek djelomično poznat život i umjetnički opus kiparice Mile Wod (Ludmile Wodsedalek) nastao kroz gotovo šezdeset godina djelovanja, od najranijeg studentskog crteža iz 1908. do posljednjih kiparskih djela nastalih godinu dana prije smrti 1967. godine. Prikupljeni su dostupni podatci o sačuvanim radovima, ali i o velikom broju radova danas poznatih tek prema fotografskim zapisima ili reprodukcijama, na temelju kojih je izrađen katalog djela. Kiparičino djelovanje može se podijeliti u dvije faze, prva od početka školovanja u prvoj generaciji kipara Privremene više škole za umjetnost i umjetni obrt 1907., zatim prvih izložbenih nastupa, prvih samostalnih javnih radova, pa do 1933. godine. U toj fazi aktivno sudjeluje u likovnim zbivanjima u Zagrebu, iako u njemu od 1919. ne živi. Od 1933. godine boravi u Karlovcu, započinje razvijati ideju Katoličke umjetničke radionice te svoje djelovanje sve više usmjerava prema sakralnoj umjetnosti i radu za katoličku crkvu. Istraživanjem su utvrđeni novi podaci o njezinom službenom djelovanju u sklopu zagrebačke nadbiskupije od 1943. do 1945. kada je zaposlena u ustanovi Nadasve (Naša draga svetišta) kojoj je svrha bila uređenje hrvatskih svetišta, osobito onog u Mariji Bistrici. Stilski, njezin opus dominantno obuhvaća figurativna, realistično modelirana djela s povremenim priklanjanjem impresionističkoj modelaciji i simbolizmu. U razdoblju kada se posvećuje sakralnoj umjetnosti, njezino kiparstvo postaje konzervativnije i bliže akademizmu u zadanim okvirima katoličke ikonologije. Kiparski radovi Mile Wod obuhvaćaju raspon od spomeničke plastike, komorne intimističke skulpture do medalja, plaketa i predmeta uporabne namjene. Pozicioniralo se ovim istraživanjem Milu Wod i u širu sliku umjetničkih zbivanja i društvenih kontakata s progresivnim ženama te su njezin život i djelo, kao umjetnice koja je proživjela različite povijesne mijene i države od Austro-Ugarske Monarhije do SFRJ-a, poslužili kao svojevrsna paradigma umjetničkog puta i sudbine umjetnice prve polovice 20. stoljeća. Obuhvaćene su tako i teme općeg položaja i mogućnosti umjetničkog školovanja žena, kao i djelovanje Kluba likovnih umjetnica čija je Mila Wod bila članica od samog osnutka. U mnogim je segmentima njezina uloga bila pionirska, kao prve autorice javnog spomenika do činjenice da stoji na početku usporedne i do sad zanemarene »ženske« kiparske povijest kao prva kiparica zagrebačke Privremene više škole za umjetnost i umjetni obrt.
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The sculptress Mila Wod, full name Ludmila Wodsedalek (1888-1968), played an important and pioneering role in the history of Croatian sculpture in the early 20th century. In 1907, she started to study sculpture when she enrolled at the newly opened Temporary High School for Arts and Crafts, predecessor of the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts and thus she became the first sculptress to successfully graduate from this school. By exploring Mila Wod’s oeuvre and artistic activities, a general topic of the position of women in society and their opportunities for education and participation in the artistic life of a city opened. At the end of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century, when women were officially banned from the important European academies of arts (Vienna, Munich) until 1920, the opening of the Temporary High School of Arts and Crafts in 1907 as a higher school at which, even female students were equally allowed to enrol, in theory positions Zagreb as a progressive environment. In practice, this naturally caused different reactions. Mila Wod’s artistic work can be roughly divided into two phases. The first phase lasts from the beginning of her studies in 1907 to 1933, when the second phase began, the beginning of which was marked by the idea of establishing the Catholic Art Workshop and then by entering the Third Order of St. Francis in 1938. From that period, she was almost entirely oriented towards the sacral arts and work for the Catholic Church, and almost entirely retreated from the then-contemporary, in her view, »larpurlartistic« exhibition happenings in Zagreb. The artistic beginnings of Mila Wod were very intense and successful. As early as her student days she realized her first work in a public space, the Vuga relief for the facade of the Children’s Home in Kukuljević Street, and very soon afterwards, as a newly graduated student, she was given the opportunity to make her own original work in an important public institution, then in 1912 the newly constructed Royal University Library and Archive (13 bronze reliefs, 9 putti and 4 philosophers). In doing so, she made her name in Croatian art history as one of the first women artists whose authorial reliefs are found on and in public buildings. This was followed by a months-long scholarship stay in Paris, where she had the opportunity to meet Auguste Rodin in person, although, as it has often been wrongly stated, she was not his student. Nevertheless, her early oeuvre depicts a fascination with the work of this sculptor, especially in the way of material treatment, as well as other Impressionist sculptors. This was especially evident at her large solo exhibition held in Zagreb at the Ullrich Salon in 1918. Due to research into texts in periodicals and until now unknown photographs of the exhibition at the Salon Ullrich, this exhibition is now almost entirely reconstructed, and considered as one of her most important and largest solo exhibitions. No less important was the exhibition with Nasta Rojc in Vienna in 1914 at the Austrian Association of Fine Artists, which had the potential of opening great opportunities, however the beginning of the First World War stalled it. From this exhibition, the plaster models of the putti reliefs of the Zagreb library were purchased for the well-known Viennese family of Wittgenstein. The Vienna Exhibition, in which also women’s textile heritage associations participated, can be considered as the beginning of a women’s association in exhibitions, culminating a decade later in 1927 with the founding of the Women’s Art Club. The sculptress’s membership in Zagreb Club was her continuation of cooperation with Nasta Rojc, but also an association in the pursuit of emancipation and greater visibility of women in the visual arts and in the art market. Through almost 20 years of Club’s activity and eleven exhibitions, Mila Wod would participate in four exhibitions (1928 in Zagreb, 1932 in Osijek, 1937 in Dubrovnik and the Jubilee Exhibition in Zagreb in 1939). This research, thanks to the hitherto unknown documentary material from the bequests of Zofka Kveder and Camille Lucerne, also shed new light on the sculptress’s friendship and artistic connections with the progressive and emancipated women of her time. An important point in the sculptress’s work was her move to Petrinja in 1920, marking the beginning of her educational work, which would last until her retirement. At first in Petrinja she influenced some of the young girls to take up ceramics and they would later on become renowned ceramicists. In the biography of Mila Wod, Petrinja is where she made the turn to new sculptural material – clay, while making ceramics and associating with Petrinja potters with the goal of raising the level of their artistic work, as well as raising the awareness of the city’s population about the values and quality of folk work. In 1929 for Petrinja, she created a monument for the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, Stjepan Radić, pioneering her entry into Croatian art history as the first woman author of a public monument. The second phase of her artistic activity lasted for almost thirty years of her artistic work from 1933 until her death. So far, this phase of the sculptress’s activities has been very poorly known, and her dedication to sacred art has been largely linked to the tragic fate of her younger son Jurica in 1945 at the Jasenovac Concentration Camp. However, as a deeply and sincerely religious person, she decided to put her sculptural skills into the service of the church. The research brought about completely new insights into her involvement with the institution Nadasve (Naša draga svetišta – Our Dear Sanctuaries) with the Archdiocese of Zagreb from 1943 to 1945 and with works found in numerous parish churches that were only partially known until now. This opens the »chapter« of the almost untouched theme of Croatian sacral sculpture in the first half of the 20th century. So far, her sculptural oeuvre has only partially been explored and her artistic activities have largely been limited to a very narrow collection of her sculptural works, mainly from museum institutions. Through the research for this doctoral thesis, available information was also collected on many sculptural works whose fate is unknown today and only photographic records have been preserved. We have gained a new insight into the sculptress’s oeuvre from the earliest student drawing to the last two works created one year before her death. Thanks to new research contributions, her great artistic oeuvre, created over almost sixty years of activity, can now be much more comprehensively considered and stylistically formally analysed. Many of her works were made in bronze and terracotta, and only once did she try her hand at working with wood. In form it spans from medals to monumental sculptures, but her forte were sculptural forms of smaller dimensions. One of the specifics of her oeuvre are numerous portraits of the children, not an easy subject, which she executed with great skill in depicting the child’s psyche. Within the history of Croatian sculpture, we can stylistically position her as a student of Frangeš and Valdec, whose influence is particularly evident at an early stage when she still held on to very classical forms. Under the influence of Frangeš, there was also a shift towards the impressionistic treatment of the epidermis of the sculpture and the presentation and capture of the "moment and impression". This can also be linked with the visit to A. Rodin. Turn to sacral themes and firmly set canons of ecclesiastical art would bring a great stylistic change and, in fact, a return to the »Classical«. The sculptures were modelled in detail, in a posture with minimal movement, of almost ancient stillness. However, within the sacral oeuvre we find examples of works of strong individual style, such as the example of the Six days of Creation candlestick or one of the works from the last decades of life – the Way of the Cross for the Parish Church of Our Lady of Sinj in Sinj. Shaped as relief medallions, each mounted on a Greek cross, on which, with the minimum of expression, only with the position of the head of Christ and facial expression, she was able to display in a very impressive way all 14 stations of the Way of the Cross. The doctoral dissertation brought a series of new insights into the life and work of the sculptress Mila Wod, thus opening up a whole new view of her work, which was so far perceived through a very limited number of works of art, whereas some parts of her artistic work were almost completely unknown. History remembers her first and foremost as a sculptress who took the cast of the death mask of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac. Mila Wod as a woman, an artist who has lived through various historical changes and states from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia- SFRY, is one of the possible paradigmatic examples of the artistic path and career of a woman in the first half of the 20th century. From a very ambitious and promising and emancipated artist at the beginning of her career, who at several points played a pioneering role among sculptresses, eventually she willingly chose a »niche« of church art in which she found the realization of her deep Christian beliefs and ideals. This doctoral dissertation provides an insight into what has so far been only partially known of her oeuvre and life.