The Philosopher in the Grip of Inspiration
Ivan Meštrović

Ivan Meštrović

1883 - 1962

Ivan Meštrović was a Croatian sculptor, architect, and writer. He was the most prominent modern Croatian sculptor and a leading artistic personality in contemporary Zagreb. He studied at Pavle Bilinić's Stone Workshop in Split and at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, where he was formed under the influence of the Secession. He traveled throughout Europe and studied the works of ancient and Renaissance masters, especially Michelangelo, and French sculptors Auguste Rodin, Antoine Bourdelle and Aristide Maillol. He was the initiator of the national-romantic group Medulić (he advocated the creation of art of national features inspired by the heroic folk songs). During the First World War, he lived in emigration. After the war, he returned to Croatia and began a long and fruitful period of sculpture and pedagogical work. In 1942 he emigrated to Italy, in 1943 to Switzerland and in 1947 to the United States. He was a professor of sculpture at the Syracuse University and from 1955 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

Most of his early works of symbolic themes were formed in the spirit of the Secession, some of which, like the Well of Life, show impressionist restless surfaces created under the influence of Rodin's naturalism, and the second, reviving national myth, become stylized monumental plastics (Kosovo cycle, 1908-1910). Before the First World War, he left pathetic epic stylization, expressing increasingly emotional states, as evidenced by the wooden reliefs of biblical themes made in a combination of Archaic, Gothic, Secessionist and Expressionist styles. During the 1920s and 1930s, the classical component prevailed in his works. In this period, he created a number of public monuments of strong plastic expression, pronounced and legible shapes (Grgur Ninski and Marko Marulić in Split, Andrija Medulić, Andrija Kačić-Miošić and Josip Juraj Strossmayer in Zagreb, Pobednik in Belgrade, Svetozar Miletić in Novi Sad and The Bowman and The Spearman in Chicago). Portraits take a special place in his opus.

Meštrović achieved works of strong plastic value in the construction-sculptural monuments and projects, mostly with central layout (the Mausoleum of the Račić family in Cavtat, the Mausoleum of the Meštrović family in Otavice, the Meštrović Pavilion in Zagreb, Monument to the Unknown Hero in Belgrade). He also designed a memorial church of King Zvonimir in Biskupija near Knin inspired by old Croatian churches, a representative family palace, today the Ivan Meštrović Gallery, and reconstructed renaissance fortified mansion Crikvine-Kaštilac in Split.

Meštrovic created over fifty monuments during his two years in Paris (1908-1910).

The theme of the Battle of Kosovo particularly moved him, prompting one of his first great works, the Paris Kosovo Monument, as well as other works in bronze and stone. Much of his early work commemorated such epic moments from Slavic history, as he attempted to foster the pan-Slavic cause in his native country.

With the creation of the first Yugoslavia, Meštrović's focus shifted to more mundane topics such as musical instruments or chapels. He particularly oriented himself towards religious items, mostly made of wood, under artistic influence from the Byzantine and Gothic architecture. The most renowned works from his early period are the Crucifix and Madonna; later he became inspired by Michelangelo Buonarroti and created a large number of stone reliefs and portraits. The Croatian dinar featured Meštrović's work History of the Croats.

Meštrović's most famous monuments include:

Canadian Phalanx, a marble relief, 284 Wellington Street in Ottawa, Ontario

Gregory of Nin in Split

Josip Juraj Strossmayer in Zagreb

Monument of Gratitude to France in Belgrade

Monument to the Unknown Hero, Avala, Belgrade

Victor monument on Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade

Svetozar Miletić in Novi Sad (1939)

Nadežda Petrović in Čačak

Nikola Tesla in Zagreb

History of Croats in Zagreb and in the Royal Compound, Belgrade (two copies made)

Mausoleum of Njegoš on Mount Lovćen in Montenegro

The Spring of Life in Zagreb

Domagoj's Archers in Zagreb (Meštrović Foundation)

The Bowman and The Spearman in Chicago

Martin Kukučín in the Medical Garden, Bratislava, Slovakia

Ion I. C. Brătianu in Bucharest, Romania (24 noiembrie 1937)

King Carol I in Bucharest, Romania (1939) - this monument was destroyed by communists after 1948

Pietà in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame

Relief of Cardinal Stepinac with Christ, Zagreb Cathedral

St. Jerome the Priest, Washington, D.C.

Christ and the Samaritan Woman and St. Luke (1957), Notre Dame

Crucifix and Young Christ Teaching in the Temple (1957), Keenan and Stanford Halls, Notre Dame

Crucifix at St. Joseph Cathedral (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)Galleries displaying his work include:

Ivan Meštrović Gallery in Split, created after his major donation in 1950, which includes 86 statues in marble, stone, bronze, wood and gypsum, 17 drawings, and also eight bronze statues in the open garden, 28 reliefs in wood in the kaštelet and one stone crucifix

Ivan Meštrović Memorial Gallery created in 1973 in Vrpolje, his birthplace, with 35 works in bronze and plaster stone

Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame has many of his works. He was artist-in-residence at Notre Dame and resided in South Bend, Indiana, until his death.

National Museum of Serbia holds sculptures and monuments (a total of 45 works) including Miloš Obilić, Kosovo girl, Srđa Zlopogleđa, Kraljević Marko, and Widow

Louisiana Arts and Science Museum (LASM) (retrieved January 29, 2016) in Baton Rouge has a large collection of his sculpture and drawings.

Church of Sts. Cyril & Methodius and St. Raphael (New York City)He painted in oil (Moja majka [My mother], 1911).

Text courtesy of Wikipedia, 2023