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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Croatian Modernist Painters - Miroslav Kraljević & The "Munich Circle" (aka the "Croatian School")

A very rare photograph of Miroslav Kraljević shortly before his death on April 16, 1913 at age 27. Image courtesy of the Gradski Muzej Požega (Požega City Museum)

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Images/related info:

I was originally going to quickly mention about the 2013 edition of Noć Muzeja (Long Night of Museums) took place last night in towns and cities all across Croatia. In Croatia it's the 9th year in a row where various museum's all across the country open their doors until midnight with free admission. It's been breaking attendance records and becoming more popular every year. This "Long Night of Museums" event is popular in other European countries too. However, I already did that topic previously HERE.

Footage from some museums in Zagreb last night, similar scenes took place at museums in other towns and cities across Croatia. Photogalleries Here and Here.

This topic from the title of this post though, I serendipitously stumbled upon it while checking out some of the related pics. I was previously only slightly familiar with these Croatian painters,...I mean I was familiar with the more well known and famous ones, so this was kind of cool to do. You learn something new everyday. This one is about an important Croatian painters movement that took place around the beginning of the 20th century, art historians having named them the "Munich Circle" (Croatian: Münchenski krug) and also known as the "Croatian school" (Croatian: Hrvatska škola) and "Die Kroatische schule". The beginning of Croatian Modernist painting and painters.

This modernist painting movement was actually very closely tied to other artists and movements going on in Croatia during that period, as well known artists from other parts of Europe, all using expressionism and impressionism and other styles to paint. Even though they were very capable of continuing the traditionalist, classical and conservative academic way of painting, they instead decided to expand onto new uncharted territories....improvise...experiment, etc. The "Munich Circle" influenced the contemporary art movements in Croatia as well as the later following generations. (See: Croatian art of the 20th century). I came across some very cool pieces of art and paintings from that era doing this post.

This post only tells a part of the story, Miroslav Kraljević was just one cog of that modernist painting wheel which continued the 19th century Croatian Modern Art movement to the next level, from the "Zagreb Colourful School" (Zagrebačka šarena škola) modern art movement which preceded it. There's too much information to get into, so this is why I decided to focus here on only Miroslav Kraljević. For more info about him and the "Munich Circle" modernist art movement, or "Die Kroatische schule" (The Croatian school) as their classmates called them, click onto the links or just Google around.....

*(Special bonus -  Some of Miroslav Kraljevic's work, as well as others from the"Munich Circle" are now on display at the Modern Art Gallery in Zagreb, which makes me wish I would have come across some of this info before I visited that gallery in 2011. Anyway, at the bottom I decided to add some of my personal photos from that visit)

Miroslav Kraljević - "Tri Gracije" (The Three Graces) 1911.

Miroslav Kraljević (1885–1913) was a Croatian painter, printmaker and sculptor, active in the early part of the 20th century. He is one of the founders of modern art in Croatia.

Kraljević studied painting in Vienna and Munich at the prestigious Academy of Arts along with Oskar Herman, Vladimir Becić and Josip Račić. This group of Croatian artists were later called the Munich Circle, known for their influence on modern art in Croatia. After Munich, Kraljević spent time in the family home at Požega, and then in Paris where he produced his best work. He died in Zagreb in April 1913, aged 27 from tuberculosis.

 Commemorative stamp from a 1912 self-portrait. Image source:

Miroslav Kraljević painted in many different styles, including Impressionism, Pointillism and Expressionism. He also became known for his drawings of grotesque or erotic characters, in a similar way to Aubrey Beardsley, and for his sculptures. Working in a variety of media, he used almost every painting and drawing technique in his portraits, figures, still lifes, animals and landscapes. His graphics used etching and woodcut, and sculptures were created in clay, plaster and bronze.

 Background of Croatian Modern Art

The term Modern Art in Europe covers roughly the period from the 1860s to the Second World War, and denotes a move away from academic art with its classical mythology themes and stylized landscapes. In Croatia, the change was marked by the Croatia salon (Hrvatski salon) exhibit of 1898 in the new Art Pavilion in Zagreb. One of the prime movers of that exhibition, and in the construction of the Art Pavilion itself was the artist Vlaho Bukovac. Together with Bela Čikoš Sesija, Oton Iveković, Ivan Tišov, Robert Frangeš-Mihanović, Rudolf Valdec and Robert Auer he established a breakaway Croatian Society of Artists, who were to become known as the Zagreb Colourful School (Zagrebačka šarena škola).

This set the scene in the beginning years of the 20th century, for young Croatian artists studying in Munich and Vienna, bringing back the ideas of the new Secessionist movements. Impressionism and post-Impressionism ideas spreading from Paris would also influence the new generation of artists. In sculpture and in painting, new ideas of individual artistic expression were taking hold, leading to a new direction of art in Croatia. The Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb was established in 1907, teaching a new generation of Croatian artists modern techniques and ideas. (The Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb today).

"Apres" (After) in pastel from his time in Paris in 1912. (

From his time in Munich a 1911 copy of "Satyr and the Peasant" by Flemish Baroque painter Jakob Jordaens. Interestingly, this practice work of his shows that although Kraljević was still very closely studying the work of other painters and painting styles, and very capable of continuing in the same classical painting traditions, he instead chose to blaze his own modernist and experimental avant-garde path. His choice of a painting to copy can also tell us much about Kraljević himself. (during the 19th and early 20th century it was customary that young art students copy the old masters in order to improve their painting skills or painting technique) Image:


Miroslav Kraljević was born on 14 December 1885 in Gospić, in the area of Lika. His early childhood up to 7th grade high school (1888 to 1902) was spent in Zagreb, though he completed high school in Gospić (1902–1904). He loved poetry and music, and he was often seen drawing. In 1904, the young Kraljević left for Vienna. There, in addition to studying law, he took painting lessons privately with George Fischhof. After two years he gave up the study of law and devoted himself to painting.

Miroslav Kraljević before moving to Munich and taking up painting. Image:

In the autumn of 1906 Kraljević moved to Munich, where he spent two terms at the private school of Moritz Heymann, known for training excellent printermakers. After seven months in Munich, he enrolled in the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts and became a student of Hugo von Habermann. During his time there (1907–1910) he studied with fellow Croatian painters Josip Račić, Oskar Herman and Vladimir Becić. At that time Munich was an important center of the European art scene, particularly for Realism, Post-Impressionism, Symbolism and Jugendstil.

 "Hunting" still life - 1910.

Teta Lujka u hodniku" (Aunt Lujka in hallway) 1907.

Miroslav Kraljević: At a cafetable in the garden, Paris 1912, Indian ink, quill pen.

"Luksemburški park" (A park in Luxembourg) 1912.

"Bonvivant" 1912, oil on canvas, Modern Gallery in Zagreb. (this particular portrait is one of his most well known yet probably a painting least known by the average viewer. It's a portrait of Ante Masovčić who was a friend from Kraljević's time spent in Paris. Masovčić also went by the writing pseudonym Arsen Maas and Arsen Mazoff from the time they both lived and studied in Paris. Masovčić was well known in Paris theatre circles, regularly attending and writing up articles for premieres and associating with many actors, artists and bohemians, even in a close relationship with the beautiful Helena Zapolski who acted for the famous Odéon-Théâtre in Paris. Interestingly, after Kraljević's death Masovčić later went on to direct the very first Croatian produced feature film in 1917, the comedy silent film "Brcko u Zagrebu" (Brcko in Zagreb), and later was also known for his important work with the Hrvatska Narodna Kazališta/Croatian National Theatre).

"Djevojka u naslonjaču" (Girl in a chair) 1911. Portrait of Zlata Kolarić-Kišur who went on to become a well known Croatian writer.

"Djevojčica s lutkom" (Girl with doll) 1911.

"Folies Bergère" Paris, 1912.

Upon completion of his studies in Munich, Kraljević returned to his family, who had by then moved to Požega, and where he spent 1910 and a good part of 1911. During this time, he painted Self-portrait with Dog (Croatian: Autoportret sa psom), and many of his other well-known portraits, landscapes and other works with rustic themes. He also returned to his interest in sculpture, producing works in clay, plaster and bronze.

"Izbori u Požegi" (Elections in Požega) 1911.

"Most na Seini" (Bridge on the Seine) Paris, 1911.

In 1911, Kraljević received a state grant to study in Paris. He formally enrolled in the Academy La Grande Chaumiére, but instead began to paint intensively at the studios of friends. Here Kraljević's creative talent came to the fore, and despite of the advancing effects of tuberculosis, he produced some of his best work, a range of motifs of Parisian life in drawings and oils. After a year, he left Paris and returned home to Požega.

In the autumn of 1912 Kraljević went to Zagreb, where he organized his first solo exhibition, which had a retrospective character. He rented a studio, where he continued to paint until December 1913. Then he went to a sanatorium in Brestovac for treatment. After two months, he left the hospital to return to Zagreb, where he died two days later on 16 April 1913 of tuberculosis.

A short retrospective biography

A short video from the town of Požega where he did a number of his works, lived and is buried. 


The "Munich Circle" marks the beginning of Croatian Modernism. The term was coined in the 1950s, referring to the four artists who studied at the Munich Academy of Art in the early 1900s. Miroslav Kraljević, along with fellow Croatian artists Joseph Račić, Vladimir Becić and Oscar Herman established modern art in Croatia, setting a new direction from the previously dominant academic traditions. Their art was autonomous artistic expression, without literary, historical or moralistic framework, which puts them in direct contact with French impressionism, particularly with Manet and Cézanne as role models.

A sketch from 1912 -"Scene from Russian Ballet"

Miroslav Kraljević is one of the founders of Croatian modern painting, and almost from the beginning was an extremely versatile artist. His art can be hard to categorize, as he explored many different styles and techniques. Kraljević's graphic work displays strong tonal qualities and an excellent sense of light and dark relationships, perfectly suiting a sensitive temperament which could express extreme joy, but soon transform into deepest melancholy.

The most mature pictures of Kraljević's creative period were produced while he was in Požega: Krave na paši (Cows at Pasture), Bik (Bull), and U štali (In the Stable). Broad strokes and sharp contrasts of color show the artist in his natural element, the countryside, rather than the bourgeois parlor atmosphere. Also in Požega, he painted one of his best-known and finest self-portraits: Self-portrait with Dog. There he created and anthological works of Croatian art, such as Portret tete Lujke (Portrait of Aunt Lujka), Djevojčica s lutkom (Girl with Doll) and portraits of his mother and father, and the poetic landscape painted with impressionistic atmosphere. His work contains elements of both Impressionism (for example in Park Luxembourg), and Expressionism (Women in the Park). His pipe pictures, also created in Paris, show methods similar to Cézanne.

The Gallery Miroslav Kraljević is an independent and non-profit contemporary art platform and gallery in Zagreb dedicated to promoting cutting edge contemporary Croatian art and building links to the international art scene. It is named after Miroslav Kraljević..."whose innovations exercised a decisive influence on Croatian visual art in the beginning of the 20th century".

Self-portait sketch from 1910.

Text source:

Miroslav Kraljević was one of the Croatian students at the Munich Academy whom Professor von Habermann used to call “Kroatische Schule”, while in the Croatian theory of fine arts they were referred to as the “Munich Circle”, giving this generation of painters from the beginning of the 20th century a key role in the creation of Croatian modern painting. In addition to Kraljević we find here Josip Račić, Vladimir Becić, Oskar Hermann, even Nasta Rojc a few years later. Their creations after their return home, whether they had come from Paris or Munich, marked a decisive turn on the Croatian visual arts scene and a final deviation from the fin de siècle ornate style or the monumental features of secession.

Born and grown up in a family of wealthy Slavonian noblemen, Kraljević attended the best schools since his early days and received instruction in drawing from excellent teachers. In the course of his two-year-long study of law in Vienna he regularly attended a painting course, so that the final choice of the painter’s profession (1906) of this extremely talented young man was a natural course for the family. In 1907 he enrolled the study of painting at the Munich Academy where he found the already mentioned painters Račić and Becić. Drawn together on account of the common resistance to the old-fashioned programme of the academy that continued in adhering to historicism and strict respecting of the tonal gradation of colours, the young men turned into an informal group standing out for their polemic discussions and a free was of painting assigned topics.

After completing the study, Kraljević joined his family on account of his poor health and while there tried to recuperate in order to leave for Paris for improving his skill and a “veritable” painting course. He arrived in Paris in the autumn of the year 1911, and after some starting difficulties succeeded to get rid of the Grand Chaumière Academy timetable, found his own studio and started painting freed of every type of discipline. He exchanged the tonal gradation with contrasting, and the classical realistic expression gave way to the swelling wish for expressive forms, enlightened palette and immediate drawing.

Miroslav Kraljević  self-portrait with dog in oil (1910). Currently on display at the Modern Art Gallery in Zagreb.

"Autoportret s lulom" (Self portrait with pipe) Paris 1912. Modern Art Gallery in Zagreb.

Discussing Kraljević at the Modern Gallery in Zagreb. Kraljević stated that it is the duty of young Croatian artists to return home to work and exhibit there. Image:

His excellent talent for drawing soon brought Kraljević to his first acknowledgements and a permanent engagement in the illustrated magazine Panurge. How difficult it was to break through in Paris in the course of the first decade of the 20th century and what it meant to succeed in the multitude of painters eager for affirmation – all this we can learn from Kraljević’s letter to his mother on the occasion of the publishing of his drawings from the theatre and café milieu: "If you take into account that there are 40,000 living painters and sculptors in Paris coming from all over the world, and they all try hard and attempt to make their names public, to become known, then you can believe that such success for a Croat, and with a name no real Frenchman can pronounce correctly, (it always turns out as some ‘Kralževik’ or ‘Kralževiš’), is really great and momentous." In barely two years in Paris, Kraljević painted several anthological works of Croatian modern painting.

Miroslav Kraljević painting signature from 1912.

His path led him from reminiscences of the plein-air impressionism, present in the oil paintings of the Luxembourg Park (1911 and 1912) and the adoption of Manet’s teaching on how to use ink, obvious in the Self-portraits with the dog and with the pipe (1910 and 1912) further to expressionism tinted with a powerful personality and a characteristic caricaturist feature on his acts and scenes from pubs, and to the extremely direct and impressive face-mask with hints of destruction of the whole bust on the Self-portrait from the end of the year 1912. His arrival in Zagreb in 1912, on account of participating at the exhibitions of Lado and the Croatian Artistic Association, and above all because of his first independent exhibition in the Ullrich Salon marks, unfortunately, the end of Kraljević’s painting. With his health seriously failing he could not return to Paris. After unsuccessful treatment in the sanatorium, tuberculosis had reduced him to just 62 kg (136 lbs) at the time of death and aged just twenty-seven.

The Miroslav Kraljević Gallery in Zagreb.

Death has interrupted Kraljević in his most creative period of work and like in the case of Plančić made it impossible for us to get to know their final achievements. In the Zagreb Ullrich Salon a posthumous exhibition of Miroslav Kraljević’s works was held in 1913. Five years later, Ljubo Babić, then twenty-eight, included the works of Miroslav Kraljević in the permanent layout of the Modern Gallery, marking the beginning of the line of many followers who had, for decades, begun their painting explorations standing before Kraljević’s paintings.


Autoportret sa psom (Self-portrait with Dog) 1910. oil on canvas
Krave na paši (Cows at Pasture) 1910-11. oil on canvas
Bik (Bull) 1910-11. oil on canvas
U staji (In the Stables) 1910-11. oil on canvas
Autoportret s lulom (Self-portrait with a pipe) 1911-12. oil on canvas
Mali autoportret s paletom (Small self-portrait with a palette) 1911-12. oil on canvas
Bonvivant 1912. oil on canvas
Girl with a doll
Park Luxembourg
Women in the Park
Great Park
Female nude
Works online

Solo Exhibits

1912 Gallery Ulrich, Zagreb - Miroslav Kraljević Solo Exhibit.

1999 Gallery of Fine Arts, Osijek - Miroslav Kraljević Solo Show: prints and graphics from the Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb.

2004 Adris Gallery, Rovinj - Miroslav Kraljević Exhibit.

Group Exhibits

1914 International Printmaking Exhibition in Zagreb. An international print exhibition was held at which 160 artists took part, showing 870 works. Miroslav Kraljević was one of 14 Croatian artists exhibiting their work which included prints, drawings, pastels and watercolours.

1942 Venice Bienniale - Miroslav Kraljević was one of the Croatian artists' work on display in the Croatian exhibit that year.

1973 Art Pavilion Zagreb - Paintings of the Munich Circle.

2007 Museum of Modern Art, Dubrovnik - From the Permanent Collection.

Public Collections

Public Collections in Croatia that hold works by Miroslav Kraljević.

Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik

MMSU - Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Rijeka, Rijeka

Galerija Umjetnina Split, Split

MSU Muzej Suvremene Umjetnosti / Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb

Public Collection in Macedonia (F.Y.R.M.) that holds work by Miroslav Kraljević.

Nacionalna Galerija - Chifte Amam - Skopje, Skopje

Footage from a 2004 display of his work at Adris Gallery in Rovinj, the speaker delves more into his personal life and work but explains how even though very capable of continuing the traditionalist, classical and conservative academic way of painting, he instead decided to expand onto new uncharted territories, improvise and experiment with ImpressioismPointillism and Expressionism. (The video is 24 minutes in length and in Croatian, but there are some good close up views of his work and painting techniques)

Related previous posts: new-museum-of-contemporary-art-opened-zagreb





These few images are from my visit to the Modern Art Gallery in Zagreb are in no particular order, but give a good idea of some of the works to be found in just that one gallery. (Zagreb is known, among other things, to also be known as the "City of Museums." These galleries are a good change of pace and an opportunity for tourists to get introduced to lots of Croatian artists and their works. Even just this one downtown art gallery, and the people I talked to there, was way more interesting than the specimens who hang around the downtown library around here I'll tell you. Art galleries or fucko-ism? A lot of people don't know Zagreb actually has one of the most museums per capita of any European city. (Example)

Some short foootage I filmed while there, I had to hurry near the end and stop filming because I could hear the steps of the museum lady coming back and they don't particularly approve of making videos. (She was one of those rare very hot museum lady types I should add and not the stereotypical kind you see on television, but I had a busy schedule and couldn't stick around unfortunately....)

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