|Abstract (english)|| |
In this dissertation the author analyses the sculptures of Croatian artist Vanja Radauš (Vinkovci, 1906 – Zagreb, 1975), a man with a wide field of interests which came to strong expression through artistic creativity, intellectual curiosity and encyclopaedic erudition, combined with social commitment. He was one of the most prolific draughtsmen and most fascinating sculptors in Croatian art, a medallist who changed the traditional contours of the medal, a dedicated teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, head of the Master’s Workshop for sculpture and an Academician, passionate lover of the heritage who with camera in hand wrested from oblivion the traditional architecture of his native Slavonia, poet of published and unpublished verses, scholar, dreamer and idealist, forceful polemicist. He obsessively gave himself to work and life, never making a difference between them. This resulted in vast bodies of work, especially drawings and sculptures, which are scattered throughout museum and private collections like parts of a huge mosaic. Radauš was, without any doubt, the most productive Croatian twentieth-century visual artist, moreover, it is difficult to find as prolific an artist even in European proportions. Four digits are needed to count his oeuvre: there are public monuments and objects d’art in plaster and stone, wax and bronze, drawings in pencil, indian ink and sepia, gouaches, watercolours and linocuts, forged and cast medals ... If we add to all this his photographs (two photo monographs) and published literary works (a novel and four collections of poems), we get a clear view of the magnitude of his work. The dissertation is a synthesis of many years of research into Radauš’s life and work. It is based on the study of professional literature, newspapers, archival and museum material, on conversations with Radauš’s family members, associates, students and contemporaries, and on field research. Interpreting the data collected, the author interweaves Radauš’s life and sculpture in the context of Croatian and partly of European twentieth-century art. The introduction illuminates the difficulties in interpreting this vast and complex opus, and defines the major points that stretch from the first retrospective monograph in 1963 to the evident growth of interest in Radauš’s work in the 2000s. The dissertation as a whole analysis the life and work of Vanja Radauš through a chronological interpretation that links his life and sculpture through eight chapters (From Vinkovci to Zagreb, The 1930s, Times of War, The Post-war Period, Sculptural Cycles, Sculptures out of the Cycles, Last Years: Dedication to Slavonia and Childhood, Radauš after Radauš). It notes that his art talent manifested itself very early: his high-school works in clay from the banks of the river Bosut in Vinkovci show an extraordinary sense for modelling and a love of expressive figuration. Radauš did a lot of reading in the period before he enrolled at the art academy in Zagreb and attended lectures by Dragan Aleksić from Vinkovci about the Russian avant-garde, so he was well-informed about current art life. His sculptural talent was confirmed when he was accepted at the Royal Academy of Arts and Artist Crafts in Zagreb although he did not have a high-school degree. At the Academy he studied under Robert Frangeš Mihanović and Rudolf Valdec, and later under Ivan Meštrović, whose influence is evident in the move away from the decorative and in the stylisation visible in some of his student works. He stayed in Paris in 1928 and 1930, where he spent most of his free time in the Louvre and opened a door into the sculptural worlds of Auguste Rodin and Antoine Bourdelle and of the Rococo painter Antoine Watteau. Rodin’s influence is seen in the shift from academism and in exploring new possibilities of expression (The Walking Man, The Burghers of Calais), and Bourdelle’s primarily in the teachings of monumentalism and the dynamics of mass in motion. Fascination with Watteau related to the painting The Embarkation for Cythera (1717) because of the specific symbiosis of Eros and the Thanatos, which was to be a permanent feature of Radauš’s artistic expression throughout his life. After returning to his homeland, Radauš created numerous sculptures (the Meštrović Family Mausoleum in Otavice, 1931), executed commissions (the altar in the chapel of Our Lady of Sljeme on Sljeme mountain above Zagreb in 1933) and sought for his own artistic expression. Certainly his most important social activity, which also left a mark on his sculpture, was joining The Earth Group, an association of artists and intellectuals. The book analyses his role in The Earth Group and corrects inaccuracies in earlier literature. It defines the context of what is known as the »clash on the literary left« and Radauš leaving the group in 1933. In the 1930s, Radauš showed his sculptures at group exhibitions and contemporary critics recognized Rodin’s influence in his work. In his bid to free himself from the influence of Rodin and Meštrović, Radauš searched for an authentic manner of showing movement and affinity for dramatic gesture. His trip to Italy in 1937 played a particularly important role in this, which has so far not been recognised. On that occasion Radauš saw the work of Michelangelo and articulated his passion for movement and drama, which was to become a permanent feature of his sculpture. In the same year he created his decalcomanias, visual testimonies of gestuality that corresponded with the works of the current Surrealists, primarily the Spanish painter Óscar Domínguez. The book pays particular attention to Radauš’s works made for the Zagreb cemetery Mirogoj, and in this context his most monumental memorial in those years, the composition Pietà from 1938– 1939 executed as the Monument to Soldiers Killed in the First World War. In addition to this, in 1937 he sculpted the figure of Ivan Peštaj for his grave in Mirogoj, which is a morphologically and semantically paradigmatic sculpture showing Radauš’s sculptural and human, as well as political beliefs at that time. An affinity for socially-sensitive content made Radauš seek for art motifs on the margins of contemporary society. In his first solo exhibition at the Ullrich Salon in Zagreb in 1939 he exhibited figures of beggars, prostitutes and convicts. This exhibition pigeonholed Radauš in Croatian sculpture history as a sculptor of outstanding observation and precise sculptural execution, with a strong tendency for showing subjects from the margins of society. As a counterpoint to motifs of this kind the exhibition also showed nudes and portraits, some of which caused consternation due to their expressiveness (Portrait of Beethoven, 1939) or because they were coloured (Portrait of Miss Lederer, 1939). Correspondence the author found while preparing this book evidences the great and previously unknown influence of the writer Miroslav Krleža in the creation of these works by Radauš. The dissertation devotes special attention to the cycle Petrica and the Hanged Men, which brings together all Radauš’s thematic, morphological and semantic guiding forces from the 1940s. The author defines this cycle as the sculptural link that strongly connects Radauš’s prewar work with his post-war oeuvre and is an indication of Radauš’s latent love of the macabre, which especially developed and progressed during the Partisan warfare in which he participated from 1943 to 1945. The deep mark left by the horrors he had experienced remained imprinted in Radauš’s memory and became an inexhaustible source of later inspiration. The chapter on the post-war period follows Radauš’s career as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, as a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts and as a proclaimed master sculptor. It describes the establishment of his Master’s Workshop on Zmajevac in Zagreb, and through numerous testimonies by still-living associates it describes the work and atmosphere in the workshop. It demonstrates Radauš’s position as one of the champions of the post-war aesthetic of socialist realism, full of enthusiasm and the desire to create the new society for which he had actively fought. He expressed this view theoretically, writing about Lenin’s understanding of art, and in sculptural monuments which he executed as justification for the National Liberation Struggle. The short-lived post-war memorial work devoted to this struggle was a qualitative hiatus in Radauš’s artistic development and was not a happy episode in his sculptural oeuvre. The dissertation extensively analyses the most important examples of his post-war memorial sculpture, especially on the basis of newly-found documents dealing with the transformations of Radauš’s monuments (Villefranche – Pula, Karlovac – Trilj) and the recycling of some of their elements (Srb, Karlovac, Gospić, Prkovci). Comparison between Radauš’s pre-war, socially-engaged art and his socialist-realist works shows clear dualism: a variety of social themes versus thematic uniformity; representation of true suffering versus optimistic pathos; expressiveness versus strong but academically expressed gesture. The author also points to Radauš’s need to ensure an architectural framework for his figures and affirms that this sometimes gave rise to a happy solution (Monument to Marko Orešković, 1948–1952), but at other times this wish led him to megalomania, as for example in the unexecuted project for Sarajevo. Emphasis is laid on two inventions in Radauš’s post-war memorial work: the invention of composition, in which the front and the back of a monument are shown one as heroic and public and the other as intimistic (the monument in Pula), and the use of water to broaden the monument’s function from the exclusively representational and commemorative to sociological, giving it a role in bringing people together in the everyday life of the community (the monument in Karlovac). The dissertation continues to describe Radauš’s life and work asserting that Radauš did not long uphold the ideology that had given birth to post-war socialist realism and that his personal and artistic outlook soon began to depart from the official ideology of the newly-created state. It mentions Ivan Supek, in whose view a difference could already be seen in 1944, at the session of ZAVNOH in Topusko, between Croatian antifascists organized in ZAVNOH (to which Radauš also belonged), who supported the line of Radić and democracy, and the future leaders of the communist Bolshevik current gathered around Tito, E. Kardelj, M. Đilas and A. Ranković. The immediate post-war events (confrontation between the communist regime and the opposition, the brutal removal of yesterday’s unquestionable colleagues such as A. Hebrang and B. Magovac, culturcide seen in the demolition of the Bajamonti Fountain in Split and the removal of Ban Jelačić’s statue in Zagreb in 1947, »re-education« practiced on Goli otok island ...) certainly convinced Radauš, nationally highly articulate and a fierce idealist, that the war ideals were not being fulfilled. Radauš’s enthusiasm for serving post-war, ideologically-governed art lasted no longer than his belief in the credibility of the ruling ideology. The first disappointment that he felt on his own skin (though only in sculpture) was connected to the monument in Villefranche, which was not positioned in the place and in the way that he wanted it to be. The dissertation notes that Radauš lived through latent conflicts, both with contemporaries and with the past. He was often offensively harsh in polemics, insufficiently tactical in criticism. The author considers it is wrong, which frequently happens, to label Radauš exclusively as belonging to the then ruling establishment, especially after the mid-1950s. Although he was one of Yugoslavia’s representatives at the Venice Biennale in 1950, it was already evident that his path had separated from that of the revolutionary leaders (sculptor Antun Augustinčić, for example): instead, Radauš turned to the sculptural expression of his deep-seated war traumas. The author finds it most appropriate to look on him as a dissident from the ruling establishment of which he was a member, noting that this rejection was significantly fuelled by disappointment in post-war social development and dissatisfaction with the approach to the national question. Apart from estrangement on the ideological level, in the mid-1950s Radauš was also seen to depart from the new, current tendencies in art and from the new spirit of abandoning the previously dominant figuration and the search for new means of expression. His changed position in social influence and power is evident on the example of the Jasenovac Monument, which was not commissioned from Radauš with his portrayal of suffering but from Bogdan Bogdanović, who showed a completely different, new poetics. The sculpture cycle Typhus Patients (1956– 1958) was a watershed moment: not only was it a definitive separation from the pathos-filled glorification of the Partisan struggle, it was also a kind of examination by Radauš of his inner self and stubborn insistence on sculpturally expounding his own obsessions. It was a mark of Radauš’s separation: both from socialist realism, but also from accepting Western influence. This is supported by his later declaration that he respects Western culture, but is in love with his country; he said that Rodin and every detail of the Chartres or Reims Cathedrals would always delight him, but this did not made him feel at a disadvantage and he was more deeply influenced by the land he lived in and memories of war suffering. This statement firmly proves that Radauš was steadfast about finding an authentic visual expression, as he had articulated in 1929 in the ideological foundation for The Earth association of artists. After Typhus Patients, a defining moment in his body of sculpture, Radauš passionately and unrestrainedly focused on expressing his own worlds in his art. In his post-war sculpture, Radauš worked in cycles. In past interpretations of Radauš’s art there has been no analysis of the reasons for his specific sculptural production that developed through cycles. In this book the author argues that Radauš had addressed subjects through cycles of sculptures from the mid-1930s, when he focused on the figure of Orpheus, and after that in the cycle of sculptures featuring Petrica Kerempuh. Working in cycles was inherent to Radauš’s temperament and his tendency to completely engross himself in a theme and vary it through a series of sculptures and drawings. He obsessively varied the subject that was occupying him, working on it very studiously and thoroughly until he exhausted it, which usually took several years. Along with completed cycles (Typhus Patients, Panopticum croaticum, Man and Karst, Bloody Carnival, Abstract Forms, Prisons and Camps), in his last years Radauš worked on cycles that remained unfinished: Portrait of Our Man, Pillars of Croatian Culture and Slavonia. His most important cycle of sculptures is Panopticum croaticum created between 1959 and 1961, just after Typhus Patients, and it represents the peak of Radauš’s opus, as well as being a particularly specific feature in Croatian sculpture in those years. The author considers Panopticum croaticum very important in the history of Croatian sculpture, but this was not adequately recognised at the time of its creation because young critics looked on Radauš as an out-of-date traditionalist. Panopticum croaticum is shown to stand quite apart from the current controversies, such as figurative vs. abstract and traditional vs. modern, and was apart from the art dichotomies of the time (and place). Conceived and developed solely through Radauš’s inner compulsion, through his human and artistic inclinations, it is the most singular, most individual and most expressive sculptural cycle in Croatian art. The masterly interpretation of prominent but tragic figures from Croatian history is rooted in resistance to shallow national pathos, as Radauš himself confirmed saying that he had chosen to portray people who do not have their monument in Croatia. In this sense he was defiantly correcting historical social injustice. The visual interpretation based on the theme of death is undoubtedly a Radauš characteristic par excellence, which expresses the Krležean thought that tragedy was a constant travelling-companion in Croatian history. This can be seen as the beginning of Radauš’s stronger engagement on the national question: in coming years he increasingly focused on the current political situation and in the early 1970s, with the advent of the »Croatian Spring« movement, he reached the highest level of bitterness. In that sense the Panopticum croaticum sculptures may be regarded as a truly ill-fated beginning of Radauš’s thoughts and attitudes that would ultimately place him, too, in the imaginary museum of tragic characters in Croatian history. Looked on from the viewpoint of art, Panopticum croaticum shows unusual consistency of expression: all the figures in the cycle are shown with extreme expressiveness, surreal, grotesque and hallucinatory, and the tissue of the sculptures is in a pronounced art-enformel style with furious coloration that emphasizes dramatic forms, all for the purpose of triggering emotionally-engaged historiographic revaluation. It is also especially important to note new insights about the influence of the writer Miroslav Krleža on the appearance of the Panopticum croaticum cycle, which was discovered in previously unknown correspondence. Also new is the knowledge that Radauš was until his death working on a kind of continuation of that cycle highlighting new protagonists, which he called New Panopticum. The cycle Man and Karst (1961–1964) was inspired by karst formations, primarily on Mount Velebit, which was for him an enduring, wondrous, mighty and magically alluring place. Through his sculptures he metamorphosed these features into demonic apparitions and anthropomorphic figures, often of gigantic proportions. Inspired by karst forms, Radauš created a cycle of colossal proportions that represents the symbiosis of man and stone, referring equally to the artistic and to the spiritual aspect of this symbiosis. He transmuted his admiration for karst and the people who live on it into a sculptural apotheosis of stamina and strength. The imprint of art enformel, already present in Panopticum, became predominant in the Man and Karst cycle. On the other hand, Bloody Carnival (1966) is Radauš’s surrealist sculptural cycle. Grotesque bird-like women with hypertrophied hips and various morbidly-erotic props (dead fish, insects, candles ...) are Radauš’s carefully executed dream of a procession following a poet’s coffin, with a strong semantic accent on a critical view of society. Radauš’s tendency for experimentation was particularly pronounced in this cycle: he modelled the figures in coloured wax, which is one of the reasons for their fascinating expressiveness. Although an example of experimentation and innovation typical of Radauš, this is also a major problem for storage and conservation. The author notes that Bloody Carnival is the purest surrealist cycle in twentieth-century Croatian sculpture. The cycle Abstract Forms (1966–1968) is part of the sculptor’s research correlating the visual with scientific disciplines such as mineralogy, geometry and mathematics, which was previously not substantiated. New evidence shows that Radauš’s abstract forms, plotted using geometric and geodetic networks, were created as a development of sculptural thought inspired by mathematical models from the Henri Poincaré Institute in Paris, as formal experiments in two and three dimensions. In his last completed and rounded cycle Prisons and Camps (1969) Radauš returned to his favoured theme of death. The incomplete cycle Slavonia reflects an ambivalent point in Radauš’s life and work: on the one hand, this was the period when Radauš was the most embittered by conditions in Slavonia and Vinkovci. Newly-discovered correspondence shows differences with contemporaries, resentment because of many omissions and neglect, resigning from numerous associations of which he was a member. On the other hand, in his sculptures he compensated this by bringing back subjects and motifs from the former Slavonia, life of abundance, reminiscences of childhood, and, of course, a great deal of idealising. The disertation also analyses Radauš’s post-war sculpture created outside cycles, especially the numerous memorial portraits throughout Croatia and in Perast in Montenegro. This part of the book also describes his work in portraits and medals. Portraits executed in stone and portraits exhibited in public places are analysed with particular attention. It is also noted that in his drawings portraits often show traits of caricature. Radauš’s significant role in Croatian medal-making is emphasised. His medals are analysed and his extraordinary interpretation of the meaning of medals is recognized. The chapters about the sculptor’s last years show that Radauš’s retirement as a professor at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts resulted in an expansion of his art production in his last year, and apart from sculpture (the unfinished cycles Portrait of Our Man and Pillars of Croatian Culture, both 1970–1975) he created numerous drawings, photographed the Slavonian architectural heritage and published literary works. The concurrence of Radauš’s work on sculpture, drawing, literature and photography in the 1970s is symptomatic. One gets the impression that he lacked the means of expression to convey all the ideas that flooded him. Radauš’s suicide in 1975, the circumstances around which have not been fully clarified, was a factor in his oeuvre being seen as the work of a romantic rebel; because of this his work was sometimes superficially approached and loosely evaluated. Furthermore, in his time (and place) people often found his eight marriages more interesting than his artistic achievements. But this is a problem reflecting the abilities for reception in a time and a milieu of mixed (and even inappropriate) value criteria. In the chapter about the time after Radauš’s death, the dissertation describes the fate of his Master’s Workshop for sculpture on Zmajevac, which was in 1984 converted for the needs of the Art Restoration Institute (today the Croatian Conservation Institute). It notes that Radauš’s works, in keeping with the new needs, were removed from the building and placed in an improvised shelter at the same location, and only his study remained as it had been – The Vanja Radauš Memorial Room. The dissertation touches on how the body of his sculptures was distributed among his heirs and defines which of them became state property. It reminds that Radauš was still during his lifetime to have been given a gallery in his native Vinkovci where he was to have exhibited his works. Unfortunately, for various reasons this idea was never brought to fruition, so his works remain scattered in various cultural institutions and private collections all over Croatia and abroad. It notes that in number this is the greatest oeuvre in Croatia, which has despite its value so far remained unexplored and incompletely published. The dissertation suggests that the best solution for preserving Vanja Radauš’s sculptures would be to found a museum to care for them. This method of caring for artwork has already been tested (Ivan Meštrović Foundation in Split and Zagreb, Antun Augustinčić Gallery in Klanjec, Gallery of Ivan Sabolić’s Sculptures in Peteranec near Koprivnica, Ružić Gallery in Slavonski Brod, Branislav Dešković Art Gallery in Bol on Brač, Studin Gallery in Kaštel Novi, Memorial Studio of Zvonko Car in Crikvenica). The Radauš Gallery project, if not in Vinkovci, should be realised somewhere else, as this is the only way to keep these sculptures for future generations. In the chapter “Accents and Discourses” the dissertation discusses the typological classification, stylistic pluralism, and characteristic features of Radauš’s sculptures. His multimedia and transmedia approach to his themes is recognized. Elements of evolution of his monuments are stated, such as architectonic contextualisation, the use of water, movement and sound, and cooperation with renowned Croatian architects. Radauš’s life and works are analysed in multiple discourses: social, psychological, ideological, political, and national, all corroborated by his correspondence with his contemporaries. The chapter “Kindred Spirits and Reverberations” makes a comparison with the work of other artists in Croatia and the world who may be called his artistic cousins, and points to possible echoes of Radauš’s sculptures in contemporary Croatian sculpture. In conclusion, besides its cross-section through Radauš’s life and work, the dissertation singles out the characteristic points of his sculptures. It argues that Vanja Radauš’s intellectual curiosity and wide-ranging interests, ambivalence of subjects and visual approach, experiment as the basis of artistic procedure, and the macabre as an iconographic obsession, are unique among artists of the twentieth century, and his sculptures, in some segments, belong to the most important achievements of sculpture in Croatian art history. Besides the interpretative portion mentioned above, this dissertation is the first to publish the catalogues of Radauš’s sculptures: catalogue of sculptures, catalogue of public sculptures and catalogue of medals. The catalogue of sculptures is a photographic and textual record of all Radauš’s available sculptures, either as objects with a known location or as works that are only photographically documented. The catalogue of public sculptures includes all Radauš’s works placed in public places and contains photographs of the time and the circumstances under which some of them had been relocated, removed or destroyed. The catalogue of medals is a photographic and textual record of all Radauš’s available medals. In addition, it includes complete supporting lists: of Radauš’s solo and group exhibitions, bibliography of his published literary works, a list of his exhibitions of photographs and photo monographs, the awards and decorations he received, documentary films made about him or his work, the list of sources used in the book, and a complete, chronological list of references mentioning Radauš and/or his work.