Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ivan Meštrović

Ivan Meštrović (1883 - 1962) was a Croatian sculptor and architect from Vrpolje, Croatia (then Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, an autonomous kingdom within the Austro-Hungarian Empire). He is renowned as possibly the greatest sculptor of religious subject matter since the Renaissance, the first living person to have a one man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
At the age of sixteen, a master stone cutter from Split, Pavle Bilinić, noticed his talent and took him as an apprentice.
His artistic skills were improved by studying the monumental buildings in the city and his education at the hands of Bilinić's wife, who was a high-school teacher.In 1908 Meštrović moved to Paris and the sculptures made in this period earned him an international reputation.
After World War I he moved back home to the newly formed Yugoslavia and met the second love of his life, Olga Kesterčanek, whom he married shortly after. They had four children

In conflict with both the Italians (since he opposed their territorial pursuit of Dalmatia) and the Germans (since he declined Hitler's invitation to Berlin in the 1930s), he was imprisoned for three and a half months by the Ustaše during World War II. With help from the Vatican he was released. He first travelled to Venice where he attended the Croatian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. 
From there he relocated to Rome, and later to Switzerland. Not all of his family managed to escape—his first wife Ruža died in 1942 and many from her Jewish family were killed in the Holocaust. Later, his brother Petar was imprisoned by the emerging Communists, which further depressed the artist. Marshal Josip Broz Tito's government in Yugoslavia eventually invited Meštrović back, but he refused to live in a communist country.
Self portrait; Cast in 1956 in the Artistic Foundry, Belgrade
Before he died, Meštrović returned to Yugoslavia one last time in order to visit the imprisoned Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac and Tito himself.

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