Croatian Art in the United Nations
Peace (or Horsewoman)
One of the symbols of the United Nations, the sculpture called Peace (or Horsewoman) was made in 1954 by a Croatian artist Antun Augustincic (1900-1979). It was presented as a gift to the United Nations and is situated in front of the main United Nations Headquarters in New York. The basement of the statue is made of marble from the island of Brac, Croatia. A 5.5 meter tall equestrian sculpture is situated on the 10 meter tall stand.
Biographical note on the artist
Antun Augustincic was born in Klanjec on 4 May, 1900. In 1918, he started studying sculpture at the Zagreb College of Arts and Crafts, with Prof. Rudolf Valdec and Robert Franges as mentors. After the college was turned into the Royal Academy of Arts and Crafts in 1922, he continued his studies under the guidance of Ivan Mestrovic. After his graduation in 1924, he received a scolarship from the French Government, and went to Paris to L'Ecole des Arts decoratifs and to L'Academie des Beaux-Arts, under the guidance of J. A. Injalbert. According to his own words, Donatello, Michelangelo and Bourdell were his "spiritual fathers" for a number of years. In 1925, he held an exhibition at the French Artists' Show-Room, while, in 1926, he exhibited at that of the Independent Artists.
Upon his return to Zagreb, he participated at graphic exhibitions held in Zagreb in 1926, and in Lawow and Zagreb in 1927. That same year, he had a one-man exhibition at the Galic Show-Room in Split. In 1929, he was one among the founders of The Earth group, and later on also its Vice-President. He had exhibitions with the group in 1929, 1931 and 1932 in Zagreb, and in 1931 in Paris. He parted company with the group in 1933. At the same time, his works were exhibited in Barcelona in 1929, and in London and Belgrade in 1930.
As of the 30's, he started intensifying his engagement in public monuments, started back in 1928. Taking part in and often winning public tenders for monuments throughout the world, he gained a reputation of a master of monuments, particularly those equestrian, finally bringing him to the status of the state sculptor. Thus, in 1940, he became a coresponding member of JAZU (the then Yugoslav Academy of Science and Art). In 1946, he became professor at the Visual Arts Academy, and later on also its chancellor. In 1947, he was appointed master sculptor. In 1949, he became a full JAZU member, in charge of the Sculpture Workshop.
In 1970, he donated all his works to his native Klanjec, where Antun Augustincic's Gallery was opened in 1976.
He died on 10 May 1979 in Zagreb.
Girl with lute
President of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Stjepan Mesic, presented the statue Girl with lute by one of the most famous Croatian sculptors Ivan Mestrovic (1883 - 1962) to the Assistant Secretary-General, Ms. Gillian Soerensen on 6 September 2000. It is situated in the main corridor in the United Nations building on the second floor. The original, made in 1918 in bronze, is located in Ivan Mestrovic Foundation - Mestrovic's Studio Zagreb, Mletacka 8, Zagreb, Croatia. The sculpture is 46 cm tall.
Biographical note on the artist
Ivan Mestrovic was born in 1883 and died in 1962. He lived at a time of unexpected changes. He continued to develop as a sculptor through the time of the Russian Revolution, the Balkan War, World War One and World War Two. During his life he participated in over 150 exhibitions. Political events not only marked his artistic expression, but actively involved him as a man who served individual freedom and national independence.
Mestrovic spent his childhood in the grim and forbidding mountainous country of Dalmatia, close to the luxuriant coast of the Adriatic and at the same time removed from it. The destiny of the Croatian people played a strong role in the formation of his personality. By tradition his father's ancestors had been hadjuks, outlaws who defended the people from the harsh rule of their Turkish masters. As a child Mestrovic tended sheep while listening to orally transmitted epics, folk songs, and historical ballads. Before he ever had the opportunity to see an accomplished three-dimensional work of art, epic heroes and their heroic deeds inspired him to carve in wood and stone. During the long winter evenings his mother would recite Gospel parables from memory. Matthew, his father, farmer and mason, was the only literate man in his home village of Otavice. At age twelve Mestrovic taught himself to read and write by comparing the written text of the Bible (one of the two books in his father's library) with passages he had committed to memory. In 1899 the attention of a stone-cutter named Pavle Bilinic was drawn to Mestrovic's unusual talent, and the boy went to live in his workshop in Split.
The apprenticeship assured Mestrovic one meal a day. Split is a town rich with vestiges of Greek and Roman culture, and Mestrovic spent his spare time copying ancient works of art. Bilinic's wife, a high-school teacher, helped Mestrovic to continue his education, though he attended no formal classes. Nine months later, a mine owner from Vienna became sufficiently interested in him to consent to pay for his trip to Vienna and schooling at the Art Academy. Neither his new patron nor his benefactors in Dalmatia took into account that Mestrovic had never had formal school training. He did not speak a word of German. To make things worse, the mine owner did not keep his promises. Mestrovic's beginnings in the Austrian capital were marked by the greatest hardships. Yet Vienna was the first window into the world for the peasant prodigy. He developed psychologically, culturally, and artistically from his exposure to the society of Vienna at the turn of the century. He rebelled somewhat against the atmosphere and spirit of the Vienna Art Academy, disliked the director, the sculptor Edmund Hellmer, but admired one professor, the noted architect Otto Wagner.
In 1904 he married Ruza Klein, one of fourteen children of a poor Jewish merchant. Mestrovic completed his studies at the Academy in 1905, when he exhibited his works for the first time with the Secession Group in Vienna. At a group show in Zagreb, the Austrian emperor purchased the sculpture "Mother and Child." In Vienna Mestrovic met Rodin, who recognized his talent and encouraged him to travel. Charles Wittgenstein commissioned the "Source of Life" for his palace. The money from this commission permitted Mestrovic and his young wife to discover Italy and Paris, Michelangelo and the Louvre. Only six years after arriving barefoot in Vienna, Mestrovic started to participate in national and international exhibits. In 1908 he moved to Paris. In his Montparnasse studio, in only two years, he executed over fifty sculptures, each larger than life, and became an international success.
During the first months of 1911, Mestrovic and his wife were living in Belgrade. From the capital of the Kingdom of Serbia, they moved to Rome, in these years the international meeting point of artists and intellectuals many of whom befriended the Mestrovics -- Papini, Ungaretti, Bistolfi, de Chirico, de Pisis, Pica, Barilli, Croce, Rodin, Gorki, and Anglade among others.
The spectacular turning point in Mestrovic's career was the international exhibit in Rome in 1911. He won the first place award for sculpture; critics called him the greatest sculptor since the Renaissance. The heroes that fought the Turks in the famous Kosovo battle in 1389 came to life again in bronze and stone. He presented them to the European public as symbols of the patriotic aspiration and striving of the southern Slavs towards freedom and independence -- this time from the Austro- Hungarian oppressors. On the eve of World War I, Mestrovic was fighting with his chisel for the future destiny of his people. His voice was heard all over the world thanks to his artistic success.
Except for a short first visit to London and summers spent in Otavice, Ruza and Ivan remained in Rome until 1914. Mestrovic had a studio in Via Flaminia, just off the Piazza del Popolo. The day the Emperor Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Mestrovic took a boat in Venice for Split. He had participated in the eleventh Bienale in Venice and intended to organize a large exhibit in his homeland. Two days after landing in Split he had to escape to Italy: a friend warned him that his life was in danger due to his well-known political opposition to the Austro-Hungarian authorities. His art collection was saved at the last moment, just as the crates were leaving the pier in Venice. Back in Rome Mestrovic continued to work and reinforced his friendship with Rodin, who at the time was hoping to execute a bust of the Pope.
Politics and art went hand in hand throughout Mestrovic's life, during the years of World War I and later in Paris, Cannes, London, Switzerland, and again in Rome. Wherever he made a home for awhile, he had time and found the means to continue working feverishly. Considering that, especially for sculpture, space and materials are prerequisites and crating and shipping complicated and expensive, it was not easy to remain both artistically and politically active. The difficulties were even greater in war time. But Mestrovic managed.
The exiles in Italy at the beginning of World War I were informed that the allies were secretly negotiating with Italy to enter the war on their side. Italy, as a price, demanded Croatian and Slovenian territory. Two Croatian political leaders, Ante Trumbic and Frano Supilo, with Mestrovic to support them with his reputation, conceived a Yugoslavian Committee of National Liberation to save Dalmatia from Italian expansion and to fight for Yugoslavian union. The seat of this organization, during the four years of war, was London.