» Ivan Mestrovic's Mother Teaching Child to Pray sold at Sotheby's auction
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» Ivan Mestrovic's Mother Teaching Child to Pray sold at Sotheby's auction
» Ivan Mestrovic's Mother Teaching Child to Pray sold at Sotheby's auction
|Ivan Mestrovic's Mother Teaching Child to Pray sold at Sotheby's auction
|By Rumjana Meštrović |
People , Culture And Arts , Religion
Lauded by Rodin as 'the greatest phenomenon amongst the sculptors'
Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962), a famous Croatian sculptor: "Mother teaching child to pray"
Purchased by Lady Cowdray from Ivan Mestrovic in 1930 or 1931
Bequeathed to her granddaughter, Joan Acton (née Pearson) and thence by descent
Lauded by Rodin as 'the greatest phenomenon amongst the sculptors', Ivan Meštrović began his career exhibiting with the Vienna Secession at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries. His fame led to important exhibitions across Europe, and in 1915 he made history as the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Meštrović's first visit to the United States was made in 1924 when he exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in a show which went on to tour several major American cities. The sculptor stayed in America for the best part of a year. He was based in New York with a studio at 42 Washington Mews, which he had borrowed from Paul Manship. His Mother Teaching Her Child to Pray was modelled there in 1925. The original plaster was bequeathed by Meštrović with a group of works to the town of Drniš in Dalmatia.
The present bronze is the only documented lifetime cast of the model. Two other posthumous casts are recorded, both were cast in 1968 and are in Zagreb: in the Meštrović Atelier and the Chromos Chemical Works.
According to the archives of the Meštrović Museums the present bronze was bought directly from the artist by Lady Cowdray in 1930 or 1931. It would have been cast in Zagreb, where the sculptor was based at that period, and shipped to London.
Annie, Viscountess Cowdray was 'a keen connoisseur of art' and a well-known society hostess. Her portrait was painted by John Singer Sargent, who was instrumental in bringing Meštrović to the States in 1924. She was exceptionally well travelled and may have met Meštrović in London, on the Continent or possibly during his sojourn in New York. Her philanthropic interests gave her a connection to Meštrović's beloved homeland - as chairman of the nursing charity.
Meštrović had completed a commemorative portrait of Dr Elsie Inglis in 1918, a year after her death.
Lady Cowdray died in 1932, and the bust, together with many other beloved treasures, was inherited by Joan Acton. Joan Acton was Lady Cowdray's granddaughter, who had lived with her as her own daughter since Joan's father's untimely death on the first day of the First World War. An exceptionally elegant and well-connected woman, Joan Acton appeared frequently in the society columns of the 1930s and 40s. In 1939 an article in Vogue was published citing lists of her 'likes' and 'hates.' Her 'likes' included: 'Queen Anne Houses, Sightseeing in Italy, Black pearls and rubies and Sculpture, particularly Mestrovic.' Joan made sure to take the bronze with her in the 1960s when the family moved to Corfu, where it has since been documented.
Mother Teaching her Child to Pray is emblematic of a central theme in Meštrović's art, as his daughter,
Maritza explained: 'many of his masterpieces show that he esteemed motherhood as the sublime mission.' The tenderness with which the mother encourages the faith of her child is particularly touching. The delicate, dappled surface of the sculpture with its careful patination, makes this a superb example of Meštrović's work in bronze. The sculptor was well-known to be meticulous about castings of his work and would have overseen the finishing. The woman's features recall those of the sculptor's second wife, Olga, with whom he had four children.
Ivan Mestrovic: ON RELIGIOUS ART (1954), excerpt: "...The head of that suffering Church is Cardinal Stepinac, my compatriot, my dear friend, of whom I and all Croats are proud. I am sure that our feelings are shared not only by all the Catholics throughout the world but also by all men of goodwill everywhere who cherish freedom of spirit..."
Please, do not miss the following deep thoughts of Ivan Mestrovic, as if written today (taken from Zeljko Skropanic web site, unfortunately not active any more):
There are more and more people today who have come to the conviction that one of the main causes of the tragic events of the recent past, as well as those which loom on the horizon, is the fact that modern man has all but forgotten the great teachings of the Sermon on the Mount [The Bible, Mathew 5-7]. The blame for this rests not only on our contemporary despotism, but, unfortunately, on a long list of talented men of science and art who have not foreseen the corroding complications and destructive consequences of their doctrines. This atmosphere of unbelief, this tragic state of man cut off from the very axis which holds and moves everything, has had repercussions on all domains of human activity, including that of art, which in the most significant periods of civilization worked hand in hand with religion - an ennobling and spiritualizing factor in human life.
Christian civilization, in our days, finds itself locked in a mortal struggle with the forces of secularism in varying forms and degrees. Many people fail to realize that Christianity, by waging the fight for its principles, defends also the foundation of the democratic way of life; for the concept of the dignity of each man and the equality of all men stands and falls with the Christian view that man is created in the image of God. Thus the Church is in the front lines of the battle against the onslaughts on human freedom.
A moment ago, I mentioned my wood carving of the scene of the Crucifixion. The piece of wood on which I carved the Crucifixion has an interesting story which I would like to share with you. I was in Geneva, Switzerland, when I was seized by the desire to carve the Crucifixion. Every available oak had been bought by the factory that manufactured rifle buts, presumably for both warring sides. I had a hard time to acquire from the factory a few boards for relief. I was unable to get the whole piece of the trunk because they had all been sawed up. Finally, I discovered one trunk that had not been sawed off; it was withered and had stood with its roots in the soil and was not considered good for rifles because it was assumed that the wood was probably decayed. When I started to work on it, I discovered that it was solid and whole. The lumberman told me that it had been imported. I was surprised to learn that it had come from Croatia, my native country.
That same piece of wood was later returned to Croatia, transformed into the Crucifixion scene. Today it stands there, in a small Chapel, in the country where the Catholic Church is being crucified daily. The head of that suffering Church is Cardinal Stepinac, my compatriot, my dear friend, of whom I and all Croats are proud. I am sure that our feelings are shared not only by all the Catholics throughout the world but also by all men of goodwill everywhere who cherish freedom of spirit
In vain do the Godless and restless men, who are today making weapons in the hope of enslaving the world, think that the trunk of the Christian tree is withered. It will outlive and outlast the forces of evil in my native land and throughout the whole world. He who has conquered death will conquer the destruction of His teaching.
One of Mestrovic's major works is Moses, the monument donated to the people of Israel.
Pieta in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart , Notre Dame, Indiana, USA. Marble sculpture by Ivan Mestrovic.
MESTROVIC, IVAN Sculptor, Architect and Writer
Ivan Mestrovic was Croatia's greatest contribution in art to America. By some of our press he has been called a "Croatian Michelangelo." Born of Croatian parents from Dalmatia in Vrpolje, Slavonia, on August 15, 1883, he very early displayed a great talent for sculpture. Discovered and furthered in his career by an Austrian, he worked for a while in Split, and in 1901 enrolled at the Art Academy of Vienna. After exhibiting in Vienna and Zagreb he became a pupil of the famous Rodin in Paris in 1907. His renowned. teacher declared Mestrovic "the greatest phenomenon among the sculptors. His two years in Paris resulted in a prodigious amount of work, and also a sensational exhibition of his new style in sculpture. Subsequent exhibitions followed in Vienna's Secession Gallery, Zagreb, and Rome. His sculptures created a great stir. They were based on national epics, on folk heroes and legends. His sculptures, in other words, were created thematically from the mind and soul of his people. In 1915 he exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, an unprecedented honor for a living artist. After 1918 he worked in Zagreb, where he served for many years as rector of the newly founded Academy of Arts.
Mestrovic was at home all over Europe, for he lived and exhibited in most European capitals and great cities. In 1925 during his first American exhibition in New York he met and became a friend of his countryman, Nikola Tesla. His exhibitions in America in 1924, 1926, and 1927 were great successes. In the 1930's he created his two famous statues of mounted Indians for Grant Park in Chicago, using a motif from the American heritage. During the last war the Croatian government sent Mestrovid to Rome and Switzerland. While in Switzerland he wrote a book published in German under the title Dennoch Will Ich Hoffen (Still I Shall Hope.) In Rome he worked on sculptures for the Croatian St. Jerome College there. Following World War II, Mesrovic settled in Syracuse, New York, where he taught sculpture at the University of Syracuse. From September 1955 until his death in January 1962 he was a professor of art at Notre Dame University. Today Mestrovic sculptures adorn several major American cities; they are exhibited in most important museums and art galleries. Much has been written on him since he came to America. The University of Syracuse published two representative books which prove the artist's versatility with hundreds of reproductions of his stone, bronze, plaster, and wood sculptures as well as his reliefs, drawings, and architectural works.
In all his works one notes dignity, perception, and variety of form. His heroic figures from the Croatian, South Slavic, and American past are of tremendous power, original in style and expression. "With his appearance," wrote the painter Jozo Kljakovic, "erupted centuries of suppressed national dynamism as well as the national soul, suppressed, humiliated, offended and oppressed through centuries. With pride the artist always pointed to his peasant stock and many of his best works depict Croatian women in their national costumes. He himself stated on occasion that as a young boy he learned to read from the popular collection of national poetry compiled by Andrija Kacic-Miosic. Occasionally Metrovic, too, wrote poems which reflect the influence of the national epics. Mestrovic was undoubtedly the most famous Croatian immigrant living in America. The art critics compare him to Michelangelo; they call him "the last living master of the human form," "an epic type," "his people's symbol of freedom and their spokesman and defender"; his art has been "more than a creative outlet; it has been a social and political and religious statement." Through it "Mestrovic speaks for man. And long after the oppressors have been forgotten, the art of Ivan Mestrovic will remain to speak for him.
Time after time he has been honored with awards. In 1953 the American Academy of Arts and Letters presented him with the Award of Merit; in 1960, the same Academy elected him a member for distinction in his field. Honorary doctorates were awarded to him by Notre Dame and Marquette Universities in June of 1955. Mestrovic was a member of the Edinburgh, Prague, Munich, Vienna, Bucharest, Zagreb, Belgrade, and Brussels Academies of Arts and Sciences, and of the National Institute of Letters. His works are in the permanent exhibits of more than twenty museums and art galleries. During the Art Festival. of Notre Dame University in November, 1955, he exhibited over seventy sculptures. He has been hailed as the greatest religious artist in America.
Mestrovic's mission at Notre Dame was to build "the strongest, most respected department of sculpture in any American university." He was hard at work there. His chisel was always busy. In a single year he was known to complete as many as nine major works amid a score of minor ones. Both a carver and a modeler, he has produced in this country and other countries every kind of sculpture from portrait busts to huge architectural schemes. In addition to sculpturing, he painted in fresco and oil, engraved, and lithographed.
In 1954, he was past his seventieth birthday and became an American citizen. He produced then a bronze work, "Man and Freedom," for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In addition he created a bronze statue of St. Anthony for the University of Oxford; a statue of Pope Pius XII for St. Louis University; one of Cardinal Stepinac for the National Catholic Welfare Conference; one of former President Herbert Hoover; a monument to Nikola Tesla and another to Rudjer Boskovic, the famous Croatian scientist of the eighteenth century (both donated to the Atomic Institute in Zagreb); as well as several other statues of famous Croatians. His monument to Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, and "Pieta," honoring the modernCatholic martyrs, were unveiled in St. Augustine, Florida, in April 1958. A statue of St. Jerome is placed in front of the Croatian Franciscan House in Washington, D. C. Two more works by Mestrovic are at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the nation's capital.
One of the artist's most recent works is the "Mother of Immigrants" statue unveiled in October, 1960, on Cathedral Square in Milwaukee; it bears the inscription "Dedicated to Immigrant Mothers." On August 12, 1960 Mestrovic celebrated his seventy seventh birthday at which time he received also felicitations from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He died in South Bend, Indiana on January 17, 1962 and his body was transferred-according to his own wish-to his native Otavice.
Much of his art is symbolic of his political leanings. His outspokenness put his life and the lives of his family in jeopardy, causing them to have to flee their beloved Croatia.
He has four museums in Croatia and two in the USA, at Notre Dame, Indiana and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LASM). There is a large collection of his art at Syracuse University as well monuments in Chicago, Washington DC, New York, The Mayo Clinic, Minnesota , St. Augustine and Miami , Florida, Buffalo, N.Y., Hawaii etc.
Ivan Mestrovic received in 1956 the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal.
The Gold Medal is given for the entire work of the recipient. Two Medals are awarded each year by the academy for distinguished achievement.
Mestrovic's works in bronze, stone, and wood can be found in galleries, museums and private collections in the US, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, England, Italy , Montenegro, Canada, France, Hungary, Russia, Germany, Argentina, Austria, Vatican, Switzerland, Spain, Czech Republic, Belgium, Brazil, Romania, Chile, Slovakia, Uruguay, Israel, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Macedonia etc.
Formated for CROWN by prof.dr. Darko Žubrinić
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