Ivan Mestroic Gallery, special posting

Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Special posting: Ivan Mestrovic Gallery

Pat and I spent a couple of hours while in Split at the gallery of sculptor and painter, Ivan Metrovic, and were breathless with the power of his work

Mestrovic is known as the most famous of all "Yugoslav" sculptors. Born in Slovenia in 1883 to a peasant family, Mestrovic was discovered by an aristocrat who sent him to art school in Vienna. As a young student, Mestrovic met Auguste Rodin, and they became life long friends and correspondents. Some art critics rate him along with Rodin as one of the greatest sculptor of all time.

Mestrovic became a resident of Split as a developing artist, and the town purchased and mounted some of his earliest works. He was soon exhibiting in Paris, Vienna, London, and New York. Mestrovic was not reluctant to take political stands, and ran afoul of the “Ustase” party, infamous as the Croatian Nazi collaborators, during WW II, and later ran up against Tito's communist regime, as he was an active Christian and friendly with the upper hierarchy of the church.

He eventually moved to Indiana in the US where he died in 1962.

The gallery in Split is actually a villa designed and built by Mestrovic for his own home and studio. It’s location is right on the hillside north of Split, overlooking the ocean. The day we were there was flawless with sunshine and the sparkling Adriatic Ocean.

Right away we noticed his very unique and powerful body positioning, often with contorted heads on thick necks, and with dramatic facial expression. Some of his work was in mural form, where he was able to use subtle relief changes to draw out and feature characters in the portraits. This was especially notable in the wood panels in his famous “Kastelet”, which is a chapel nearby the villa. The walls of the Kastelet  have wonderful panels of Jesus life, all leading up to a particularly haunting wooden crucifix.

Some of his most moving sculptures were on Christian themes, and we both were shaken by his black stone carving of an anguished Job, and his portrayals of the Madonna and Mary Magdalene.

When you ar enjoying the photos, notice how he plays with depth in the portrayals of the dancers… the depth was compressed, giving them some of the same feel as the two dimensional wall panels.

There are Mestrovic works all around the former Yugoslavia, and indeed, around the world. We are so surprised not to have heard of him before.

Enjoy the photos, and try to find an opportunity to see some of his works yourself.
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