Posted by: Valentino Radman | June 27, 2010

Meštrović at V&A

Last week I spent several days in London, where I paid a visit to all major museums and galleries. At Victoria & Albert museum I took a photo of this heroic torso – made in 1908 – by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović. (click for enlargement)

Meštrović’s work was universally acclaimed as ranking with the greatest the world has ever seen when he was only thirty. While other young artists were hoping for the slightest recognition, he was being favourably compared with Michelangelo. Rodin labeled Meštrović “the greatest phenomenon in sculpture”. Eager critics echoed Rodin’s judgement.

Thousands flocked to Meštrović’s shows in Vienna, Paris, Rome and other principal cities of Europe. In 1915, his exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum made art history: it was the first time that this famous London museum honoured a living artist with a one-man show. Irish poet Butler Yeats has praised the works displayed at the exhibition and even proposed Meštrović for designing the Irish coins. His reputation continued to grow rapidly, and museum sought his works. At the time when Meštrović executed this impressive sculpture  he was very familiar name in European artistic circles, but particularly sought after in England. In his novel Women in Love famous English writer D. H. Lawrence  mentions Meštrović as a sculptor who was very much in vogue there. Several photos of Meštrović’s sculptures can be seen hung on the wall of James Joyce’s apartments in Trieste and Pula, as well.

This sculpture was, btw, the first heroic torso since Michelangelo.

I’ve seen a replica of this work (also in marble) at an exhibition in Zagreb. It was a common practice that artist (or assistants under his supervision) produce replicas of his successful, popular works.

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