A major retrospective of one of the founders of Modern Croatian painting, Menci Clement Crnčić was exhibited at Klovićevi dvori Gallery in Zagreb to mark the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth. Menci Clement Crnčić contributed greatly to Croatian art history and is most well known for his impressionistic landscape paintings, especially his depictions of the Croatian sea. The sea remained an inexhaustible source of inspiration for him throughout his lifetime, and he found ways to depict every aspect of its nature.
His early sketches show his skill for depicting everyday scenes from life in the city. Crnčić observed people from a distance but managed to capture their essence with his graphic style. He was a master of detail and drew snapshots of fleeting moments that were inherently dramatic in his heavily contrasted etchings. In was during this time working with famous German graphic artist, William Unger, in Lovran, a small coastal town in Istria, that his love affair with the sea began.The sea was a perfect subject for Crnčić. He depicted it in all of it’s changing temperments. Impressionist brushstrokes became brighter and more fluid. Water abstracted with the reflections and glimmering of the sun. Crnčić passionately exposed the drama of a stormy sea as well as the calm and peaceful moments. The sea was constantly changing, and he managed to capture the atmosphere of all of it’s different stages.
The sea was a perfect subject for Crnčić. He depicted it in all of it’s changing temperaments. Impressionist brushstrokes became brighter and more fluid. Water abstracted with the reflections and glimmering of the sun. Crnčić passionately exposed the drama of a stormy sea as well as the calm and peaceful moments. The sea was constantly changing, and he managed to capture the atmosphere of all of its different stages.
His paintings of the sea were especially well received in the art cirlces of Zagreb, where he moved in 1900. He continued to travel extensively around the coast painting the sea, as well as the countryside. He depicted moutains and vineyards in all of the seasons. He also continued to make etchings and drawings of his travels. In Zagreb he combined the two mediums and made paintings of street scenes around the city, which are still recognizable today. Crnčić also contributed greately to the city as one of the founders of the Academy of Fine Arts, Zagreb in 1907 where he taught until his death. He trained many generations of famous Croatian graphic artists, like Tomislav Krizman who was part of the Medulić Society, along with the famous sculptor Ivan Meštrović.
Crnčić traveled throughout his life and exhibited his work all over Europe, but it was in Croatia where he focused his energy and passion. Today he is regarded as the first Croatian landscape painter, but it is equally important to recognize his graphic work. Without it, he might have never discovered his love for the coast or helped created an institution to continue his legacy.
Written by Kelly Foster