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Gustav Likan 1912-1998 distinguished Croatian-American painter and the Father of Acrylics
By Ante Cuvalo
Published on 07/30/2022
Known as the Father of Acrylics, Gustav Likan was originally from Croatia, he lived and painted in Argentina, Chicago and finally in 1969 he moved to Austin. In 1950 he began a two year commission for Eva Peron, painting murals in all the Argentina schools. He emigrated to South America in 1950 where he began a two-year commission for Eva Peron painting murals in the schools of Argentina. He later moved to the United States arriving in Chicago in 1957. He was appointed to the staff of The Chicago Academy of Fine Arts as an instructor where he taught until 1967. The remainder of his life he resided in Texas. He taught at the Laguna Gloria Museum in Austin.

"The function of art is the creation of beauty" (Gustav Likan)

Gustav Likan, born in Croatia

Gustav Likan: Mother and Child (in blue)

Ivan Me╣troviŠ (distinguished Croatian sculptor), portrayed by Gustav Likan

Gustav Likan: Mother and child (in red)

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 GospiŠ, 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 ╚uvalo: Gustav Likan

Gustav Likan: Mother and child (in grey)

Gustav Likan: Rodeo, 1965

Gustav Likan: Mother and child

Ten drawings by Gustav Likan can be found in Hrvatska Revija/Revista Croata /Croatian Review, a quaterly published in diaspora from 1951 to 1991. It began in Buenos Aires, then moved to Europe: Paris, Munich, Barcelona, and finally (1991) to Zagreb, Croatia. See [PDF].

Gustav Likan painted a portrait of cardinal Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac as well.

In some short biografphies of Gustav Mikan it is erroneously claimed that Gustav Mikan was "born in (ex) Yugoslavia". However, in 1912, a the time of his birth, Yugoslavia did not even exist. He was born in Croatia, which at that time was a kingdom within the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

Likan was born in the village of Srb, region of Lika in Croatia.

The name of the village is not related to the Serb ethnicity. The name comes from an old word for to "sip", to "absorb water", as explained here.

Gustav Likan: Self-portrait with his wife

Gustav Likan: Swans