The exhibition was initiated by the president of the Word-Colour-Tone culture association in Vienna Jadranka Gros and organised in collaboration with the CHF Zagreb, the Croatian Centre in Vienna and the Croatian embassy in Austria, with the financial support of the Croatian State Office for Croats Abroad.
Fifty-six years after the prominent exhibition of distinguished Croatian emigrant and painter Kristijan Kreković (1901–1985), opened in 1958 at Vienna’s Hofburg in the presence of then Austrian president Adolf Schärf, on Friday evening, September 26th, this Croatian painting great, whose life abroad was marked by a tragic longing for the homeland from which he was expelled and whose independence he did not live to see, has returned to Vienna with a grandiose exhibition at the Croatian Centre.
The exhibition of Kreković drawings was opened by Croatian ambassador to Austria Gordan Bakota, noting that he had been banned and suppressed in the former Yugoslavia, while in the free world he was a celebrated artist, a “link between homeland and emigrant Croatia”.
“During this unstable historical period Kreković shaped the European and international culture scene and was a bridge between homeland and emigrant Croatia,” said Bakota, thanking everyone who made the presentation of this exceptional artist to the people of Vienna possible.
Art historian and project leader Ljerka Galic, who leads the emigrant museum department at the Croatian Heritage Foundation in Zagreb, spoke about the artist and his oeuvre.
“The exhibition in Vienna includes twenty Kreković drawings on loan from the Modern Gallery in Zagreb,” said Galic, noting that this exhibition was in fact an emigrant’s tale told through the artist’s unique drawings created in the period from 1948 to 1970 in Peru, his second homeland.
Galic noted that this project, launched three years ago during the 110th anniversary of the painter’s birth, was prompted by two donations to Croatian Government in 1991 and 1994 of Kreković drawings and oils on canvas made by his wife Sina after the author’s death. These are now kept in the collections of Zagreb galleries and some, unfortunately, still in storage basements.
“Among art connoisseurs Kreković was considered the best portraitist of the 20th century and as such portrayed many of the well known figures of his time, including Britain’s queen Mary, Swedish king Gustav, the Spanish king Juan Carlos, Mahatma Ghandi (with whom he was a friend), and many other figures, and he presented his Virgin of Peace to Pope Paul VI as a gift,” emphasised the CHF project leader.
Galic also spoke of Kreković’s life and education, noting that he was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina to a Croatian family, that his father was a woodsman from the Lika region in Croatia and that he spent his childhood and youth in Maglaj and Tuzla. He studied painting in Vienna and graduated in 1925 and studied painting and architecture in Paris. In 1955 he moved to Peru and adopted Peruvian citizenship, and the life and art of the Inca had a deep impact on his oeuvre. His exhibitions in New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Madrid, Lima, Paris, Barcelona and other major cities met with great success. He was the recipient of many international prizes and awards.
“He died in 1985 in Palma de Mallorca never giving up his dream of returning to the homeland,” said Galic, noting that this inimitable Croatian artistic great remained true to himself and his academic expression throughout his life, never heeding the events on the European art scene.
“Kreković’s entire oeuvre is a part of Croatian emigrant heritage,” noted CHF legal affairs department head Diana Mašala-Perković in presenting the Croatian Heritage Foundation and the project to the gathered Viennese.
The guests were welcomed by the initiator of the exhibition and president of the Word-Colour-Tone culture association in Vienna Jadranka Gros, who said that the exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Croatian Heritage Foundation of Zagreb, the Croatian Centre in Vienna and the Croatian embassy in Austria, with the financial support of the Croatian State Office for Croats Abroad.
“This excellent synergy has allowed us not only to see, but also to present to the world these valuable and stunning works of art,” said Gros, thanking the Croatian Centre in Vienna for the exhibition space they have provided.
Croatian Centre general secretary Gabrijela Novak Karall said that the Centre was honoured to host this magnificent exhibition. She noted that the Centre was the home not only of Gradišće Croatians, but also of all other Croatians who wish to preserve their maternal language and promote their great wealth of cultural heritage.
Also on hand for this impressive Vienna exhibition of high artistic merit were Croatian ambassador to Slovakia Jakša Muljačić, minister-counsellor at the Croatian embassy in Bratislava Ankica Vlašić and Peruvian consul in Austria Enrique Noria.
Musical interludes at the exhibition opening were provided by young pianist Rajna Ognjenović, performing the works of Bach and Beethoven. Bilo je lakše voljeti te iz daljine (It Was Easier To Love You From Afar), a poem penned by Croatian poet and political émigré Boris Maruna, was read by Diana Mašala-Perković. The exhibition is open through to October 9th of this year.
Text by: Snježana Herek