September 13 - 19, 2015: Issue 231

   IVAN MEŠTROVIĆ  - Sculptor


by George Repin

Regarded by many as one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th Century the Croatian sculptor and architect, Ivan Meštrović, was born on 15th August, 1883 in the village of Vrpolje but spent his childhood in Otavice in the Dalmatian hinterland.  At the age of sixteen a master stone cutter in Split, recognising his talent, took him on as an apprentice.  A patron was soon found and funded his admission to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.  Quickly learning German, Meštrović successfully completed his studies and in 1905, at that time clearly influenced by Art Nouveau, showed his work in Vienna. His work quickly became popular.  It was at that time that the great sculptor Auguste Rodin is reported to have said that Meštrović was the greatest phenomenon among sculptors and even greater than he was.

Right: Ïvan Mestrovic photographed in Zagreb in 1928

In 1908 he moved to Paris and, after a brief period in Belgrade in 1911, to Rome where he spent four years studying ancient Greek sculpture.

His wish to return to his home country when World War I started was thwarted because of his political opposition to the Austro-Hungarian authorities. He made exhibits in Paris, Cannes, London and Switzerland during the war years.

After the War he returned home to the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and became Professor and later Director of the Art Institute in Zagreb. Artistically he was very productive through the 1920s.  He travelled to New York, Chicago, Egypt and Palestine at this time.

In 1927 he entered a design for the first coinage of the Irish Free State but was unsuccessful because his entry arrived too late for consideration.  However, nearly forty years later, in 1965, the design was adopted as the seal of the Central Bank of Ireland.  It was also used on a 2007 Silver Proof €15 Irish commemorative coin in cooperation with the Croatian Bank.

Boy with horse ( a portrait of Ivan's youngest son Mate Matthew Meštrović ), bronze statue

In 1941, while living in Split he was warned that his safety could not be assured so he moved to Zagreb only to be arrested in November 1941, and served three and a half months in Savska Cesta prison.  In July 1943 he obtained a visa to go to Switzerland where he remained until 1946 when Syracuse University in the USA offered him a professorship. During this time Marshal Tito’s government in Yugoslavia invited him to return home – but he refused to live in a communist country.

"Persephone" - sculptured in Rome

From 1946 he spent the rest of his life in the United States. President Dwight D Eisenhower personally presided over the 1954 ceremony when he was granted American citizenship.

He became a professor at the University of Notre Dame.

While living in the United States he retained a love and an emotional attachment to his country of birth and, over the years, sent statues and other artworks to Croatia. In 1952 he signed over his Croatian estates to the people of Croatia including over 400 sculptures and many drawings but vowed that he would not return to the country while the communists were in power.

Following his death on 15 January, 1962 at South Bend, Indiana his remains were brought to Croatia and interred at a mausoleum in his childhood home town of Otavice.

Woman at Prayer - Galería Mestrovic en Split 

Art works which he gifted to Croatia are in a number of galleries and museums, the most easily accessible being the Ivan Meštrović Gallery in Split.  The photographs of artworks accompanying this article were taken in the latter gallery on 23 May, 2014. The photograph of the sculptor is from Wikipedia.

Male nude sculptured in wood

 "Pieta" - one of several sculptured by Mestrovic


Relief in Art Nouveau style of a girl with a harp



Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants  Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre  Around Angkor - 1963  Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross The Oceaographic  Museum in Monaco  The Island of Elba Russian Fairy Tale Plates Meteora Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska Cloisonné Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories Not A Chagall! Did You Listen? Did You Ask? Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells Murano  University of Padua Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi  Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park  Aphrodisias  The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre  Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island  ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997 Hotere Garden Oputae Children of the Trobriand Islands Page Park Market - Rabaul Rabual  Kotor, Montenegro  Galleries of Photographs I  Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II  The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  

Copyright George Repin 2015. All Rights Reserved.