Gustav Likan (1912-1998) was a distinguished Croatian painter, born in the region of Lika (a part of Croatia on the north of the Velebit mountain range, in the village of Srb. He completed his primary schooling in the town of Gospić, and his secondary education in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. He got his first employment in a bank. However, his artistic talents were soon recognized in Zagreb by Robert Auer (professor at the Academy of Arts), who helped Likan to enroll in the famed Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (Germany). He was soon selected as an honors student.
After living and studying in Rome, Amsterdam and Paris, he returned to his native Croatia in 1936. While in Europe, he exhibited his artwork in Munich, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Odense, Aarhus, Gothenburg, Oslo, Stockholm, Vienna, Bratislava, Salzburg and Split. While in Zagreb, he had several exhibitions during the period of 1932 to 1944.
After WWII, he emigrated to Austria. In 1950, he moved to Argentina, where upon the personal invitation of Eva Peron, he painted many murals in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Cordoba, Corrientes, Tucuman, Rosario, Termal de Reyes, San Juan, Salta, and Formosa. His best known murals are painted for the Children's Hospital in Termas de Reyes in San Salvador de Jujuy, which subsequently was transformed into a luxurious hotel for rich guests.
In 1957, he moved to Chicago, where he made portraits of several notable people, like Conrad Hilton (the founder of the Hilton hotel chain), the president of the USA Herbert Hoover, Chicago archbishop cardinal Samuel Stritch, etc. His "American Tragedy" painting dealing with the Kennedy family, is exhibited in the Presidential Library of L. B. Johnson.
He had his first North American exhibition in Chicago in May of 1959, and then in New York, Denver, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Atlanta, Toluca (Mexico), Austin, and elsewhere. It is worth noticing that the "Vincent Price Museum" in Los Angeles bought 250 of his works of art and drawings. Gustav Likan also made the portraits of Aloysius Cardinal Stepinac and Ivan Mestrovic. He described his life in his book The Life and Times of Gustav Likan, Collected Anecdotes.
According to Robert Merrill Chase: "... He has long been noted in Europe for his portraits of royalty and heads of state. Since coming to America, his color genius...caught fire and he emerged as one of the most important colorists of the twentieth century. Considered a prodigy, Likan won early acclaim in academic circles."
For further reading (in Croatian) see Dr. Ante Čuvalo: Gustav Likan