About Ivan Mestrovic

Atelier Kastelet - art gallery & caffe

The son of Croatian peasants, Meštrović was apprenticed to a marble cutter at the age of 13, and three years later entered the Vienna Academy, where he studied until 1904. He exhibited at the Vienna Secession exhibitions and at the Austrian exhibition at Earl’s Court in London in 1906. In 1908–09 Meštrović lived in Paris where he exhibited works at the Salon d’Automne and later at the Salon des Artistes Français. These garnered much attention and led to his friendship with the sculptor Auguste Rodin who described Meštrović as "the greatest phenomenon among sculptors." In 1909, after two years of intense sculpting, the Secession gallery in Vienna offered Meštrović a show featuring a comprehensive collection of his work. In 1911 his participation in the Serbian Pavilion of the International Exhibition in Rome affirmed Meštrović's international significance as a sculptor.

Meštrović promoted a Croatian style artistic movement, and portrayed characters from local legend in early works such as The Kosovo Cycle (1908–10). Many of these early works reflected the spirit of the Secession. Some show impressionist restless surfaces created under the influence of Rodin's naturalism while others commemorated epic moments from Slavic history, as he attempted to foster the pan-Slavic cause in his native country.

After World War I, he was appointed rector of the Academy of Art in Zagreb, Croatia. In January 1947 Meštrović moved to the United States, later that year he had a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, exhibiting twenty-five of his sculptures, sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. This was the first time the museum had honoured a living artist with a one-man show. The presented sculptures demonstrated Meštrović’s wide variety of skills, and featured besides his drawings works in bronze, stone and wood. Alonzo Lansford, editor of Arts Magazine in New York, reviewed the exhibition and wrote: "It is singularly significant that Meštrović is almost unanimously respected by American sculptors of all schools as one of the greatest living sculptors."

Meštrović turned to biblical themes in his later works, which included many monumental figures as well as reliefs such as The Deposition (1917). His figures are often elongated, with angular, simplified features. He usually carved in marble and wood and cast his sculptures in plaster and bronze. His artistic strengths are manifested in the lyrical and dramatic expression of the human body.

From 1947 onwards he taught sculpture at Syracuse University in New York, and he became a U.S. citizen in 1954. The following year in 1955 he became a professor of fine arts at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Critics in Europe and the United States ranked him highly throughout the first half of the 20th century and he became one of Croatia’s most prominent artists gaining worldwide recognition.

Ivan Mestrovic died on January 16, 1962.

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