In many people’s opinion the biggest talent in the history of modern Croatian painting, Josip Račić lived a mere twenty three years. Hence his oeuvre is relatively small, but it made an enormous mark and exerted a great influence on Croatian painting. Up to this time, the work of Josip Račić had been presented at only one major monographic exhibition, held in the Modern Gallery in 1961. The recent retrospective in the same institution, devised by Zdenko Rus, held between December 16, 2008 and March 15, 2009, was the most complete presentation of the oeuvre of Račić to date. It showed almost all the Račić works held in museums, galleries and privately in and outside Croatia. Also included are works recently ascribed to the great painter, works the attribution of which to Račić is still in dispute, a large selection of documentation (letters, photographs, postcards and picture postcard) as well as a selection of the works of the great world masters who were Račić’s models. This exhibition, the biggest ever relating to this painter, is visiting the Museum of Modern Art in Dubrovnik in a slightly reduced extent.
Josip Račić was born on March 22 in Horvati near Zagreb (in what is today the area of Knežija and Srednjaci). From 1892 to 1896 he went to the lower town general elementary school for boys in Samostanska ulica in Zagreb (today it is called the Josip Juraj Strossmayer Elementary School, at what is now Varšavska ulica 18), and from 1896 to 1900 he attended the Royal Real High School in Zagreb (now the home of the Mimara Museum). He learned the trade of lithography from 1900 to 1903 from the master craftsman and owner of a lithographic studio Vladimir Rožankowsky at Berislavićeva ulica no. 12 in Zagreb. In 1904 he went to Munich and enrolled in the private school of Anton Ažbe, who very quickly noticed Račić’s talents and encouraged him to go on working and studying. After that Račić moved to Berlin, getting a job as a lithographic draughtsman in the firm of Deutsches Verlag R. Bong und Comp. From 1905 to 1908 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where for a short time he was taught by Johann and Ludwig Herterich, and then by Hugo von Habermann. In that academy the quartet of Josip Račić, Miroslav Kraljević, Vladimir Becić and Oskar Herman formed a special group known as Die Kroatische Schule, or the Croatian School, while in Croatian art history they are referred to as the Munich Circle or the Munich Four. They drew much on the painting of Wilhelm Liebl and Edouard Manet (whose work they had the opportunity to see in Munich in 1907) and of older masters, the works of Hals, Goya and Velasquez. Josip Račić created an artistic synthesis featuring strong architecture in the subject, marked fullness of form and a profound psychology in the figures. In 1908 he moved to Paris, where he copied works from the Louvre, painted parks, river bank and café scenes, portraits and self-portraits. In the opinion of Zdenko Rus, who created this exhibition, it is possible that he then attended the painting school L’Académie Vitti, run by A. Marten, Kees Van Dongen and Hermen Anglada-Camarasa. For never properly explained motives, he committed suicide with a revolver on June 20, 1908, in the room of a Paris hotel at Rue l’Abbé Grégoire no. 45.
Josip Račić, born Horvati near Zagreb, March 22, 1885 – Paris, June 20, 1908
A RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION