Works preserved from the oldest stylistic periods bear witness to the continuity of creativity and to the talents of local people, and place the Croatian art and architecture heritage on an equal footing with the main components of world creative output.
The Pre-Romanesque period (second half of the 8th century to the end of the 10th century). Influenced by the late Classical period, Western European and Byzantine cultural spheres, small Pre-Romanesque churches with different ground plans began to spring up; the most widely distributed types being a central type of structure with vaulted roofs or small cupolas, followed by churches of a longitudinal shape, although several larger churches were also built (Knin, Biograd na Moru and Solin), which have been linked to Croatian rulers and other high-ranking officials. In terms of carved decorations on stone liturgical furnishings, rich motifs of interlace or wattle with Christian symbols became prominent between the 9th and 11th centuries, while the names of Croatian rulers were recorded on many altar screens (Višeslav, Trpimir, Branimir, Mutimir, Držislav). Weapons and jewellery discovered in graves were at first of Byzantine provenance, but gradually local master craftsmen imprinted their own characteristics on them.
The Romanesque Period (11th to mid 13th century. Romanesque regional variations were expressed in different degrees of development in individual areas (where building and renovation work was carried out intensively on town walls and fortifications, churches, lodges and mansions in Dalmatia and Istria, and to a lesser extent in the northern regions), but also in the diversity of the prevailing external influences (Lombardy, Apulia, Venice, Byzantium), or the stronger presence of local Classical and Pre-Romanesque heritage. From the second half of the 11th century onwards, triple-naved Romanesque basilicas with apses began to appear in architecture, and almost all the early Christian cathedrals were extended (Krk, Rab, Zadar, Dubrovnik), as were monastery churches (St. Krševan /Chrysogonus/ in Zadar, 1175). Bell towers are among some of the most monumental creations of Romanesque architecture. Early Romanesque sculpture reintroduced the human figure in the 11th century (the figure of a Croatian ruler from the baptistery in Split; the altar screen tablets from the Church of St. Nediljica /Domenica/ in Zadar); while from the early 13th century on, a great feeling for plasticity developed, as seen in the wooden doors of Split Cathedral and the magnificent Radovan portal of Trogir Cathedral. Split Cathedral (13th century) also houses the oldest surviving example in the world of a wooden choir stall. Only fragments of wall paintings have survived (Ston, Srima, Zadar, Peroj, Dubrovnik). Illuminated miniatures in codexes were produced in the scriptoria of Dalmatia (Osor, Zadar, Šibenik, Split) and in Zagreb. A particular place within Romanesque art was held by the goldsmiths’ craft (crosses, reliquaries, mobile altars, crucifixes, etc.).
The Gothic Period (13th to late 15th century). The Gothic period began in Croatia in the 13th century, and its typical, simple elements prevailed until the 16th century (the churches in Lepoglava, St. Mark’s Church in Zagreb). In Dalmatia, from the later 15th century on, churches were built in the Venetian style, along with town halls, cloisters, city lodges and mansions. The most important master of the Gothic-Renaissance style was the builder and sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac (born early in the 15th century, died in 1473), who trained in Venice and worked in Italy (Ancona) and the towns of Dalmatia. As Istrian painting made contact with northern trends, it reached its zenith in the frescoes which can be seen in Pazin, Butoniga and Beram (Vincent of Kastav, late 15th century).
The Renaissance (mid 15th to 16th century). Croatia was the first European country to adopt the influences of the Italian Renaissance. The Italian sculptor and builder Nicholas of Florence brought the early Renaissance style to full maturity in the Chapel of the Blessed John of Trogir in the Cathedral of Trogir, in which he was assisted by Andrija Aleši. The same chapel shows St. John the Evangelist and St. Thomas, a work by Ivan Duknović who mostly worked in Italy (the sarcophagus with the likeness of Pope Paul II from 1473 in the crypt of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) and in the court of Matija Korvin in Hungary. While aristocratic summer residences were being built in the Dubrovnik Republic in a particular style which was unique even in European terms, many fortifications were being built in northwest Croatia, from Čakovec to Senj, to form a line of defence against the Ottomans. Here, the castle-fortress Veliki Tabor (1505) stands out, along with the ideal Renaissance fortress town of Karlovac (1579).
Art achieved high Renaissance maturity in the works of Nikola Božidarević at the beginning of the 16th century. At that time, many Croatian artists, nicknamed the Schiavoni, were working in Italy, among whom Juraj Ćulinović, Andrija Medulić and Julije Klović (Guilio Clovio, 1498–1578, during his lifetime called the Michelangelo of miniatures), the sculptor Franjo Vranjanin, creator of fine marble busts, and the architect Lucijan Vranjanin were among the most famous.
The Baroque period (17th and18th centuries). The Croatian Baroque style predominated in ecclesiastical architecture (the churches of St. Katharine in Zagreb, St. Mary of the Snows in Belec, St. Mary of Jerusalem in Trški Vrh, St. Vitus in Rijeka, the cathedral and church of St. Blaise in Dubrovnik) and public buildings (the Vojković–Oršić–Rauch mansion in Zagreb, the Patačić mansion in Varaždin, the castles of Gornja Bedekovčina, Daruvar and Ilok, and the Tvrđa fortress in Osijek). The illusionist frescoes and stucco decorations, altars and sculptures were mostly the work of foreign masters, among whom Ivan Krstitelj Ranger, Franc and Krištof Andrej Jelovšek were the most prominent, while native artists such as Tripo Kokolja and Federiko Benković, who did work in Italy, Austria and Germany, were also acclaimed.
From the Classical to the Modern period (late 18th to late 19th century). The main commissioners of Classical architectural buildings were the nobility (the Eltz manor--house in Vukovar, 1790), the Church (Maksimir Park in Zagreb, St. Theresa’s Church in Suhopolje, 1802–07) and the military authorities (the Josephine Barracks in Osijek). In the first half of the 19th century, the needs of the citizen class were met by the intimate, modest Biedermeier style, while utensils and ornaments were imported or produced in Croatian glassmaking studios, earthenware and furniture workshops. Biedermeier painting arrived in the 1830s, mostly produced by foreign travelling artists, but Vjekoslav Karas headed the independent Croatian version of the trend.
In the second half of the 19th century, Historicism prevailed (the Neo-Romanesque cathedral in Đakovo, 1866–82, the urbanised, lower town of Zagreb /1887/, and Mirogoj Cemetery and the Crafts School and Museum of Arts and Crafts /1891/). At the end of the 19th century, architecture for the tourist industry was built on the Kvarner coastline (Hotel Imperijal in Opatija, 1885), and in Dalmatia. The Secessionist style was applied to typical building in Zagreb, Osijek and Split, in the early sculptures of Ivan Meštrović and on posters and items of applied art in the work of Tomislav Krizman.
The 20th and 21st centuries. The ideas of modern, creative freedom and the right to individual artistic expression in architecture were advocated by Viktor Kovačić, while functionalism was represented by Drago Ibler and Stjepan Planić, the leading proponents of the Zagreb school of architecture between the two world wars. After the Second World War, many architects developed individual modes of expression based on the aesthetic postulates of the Zagreb school, among whom Marijan Haberle and Ivo Vitić stood out. Post-war architecture included the so-called international style. Vjenceslav Richter designed the Yugoslav exhibition pavilions in Brussels (1958) and Milan (1964), while Radovan Nikšić and Ninoslav Kučan designed typical structures and interiors executed by the architect Bernardo Bernardi, the author of many hotels and multi-storey industrial buildings. Postmodern tendencies can be discerned in the work of Zvonimir Krznarić, one of the authors of the Crematorium and the new building for the National University Library in Zagreb. Nikola Bašić also produced important works, paying particularly attention to architectural and sculptural spatial interventions.
The arrival in Zagreb of Vlaho Bukovac (1855–1922) in 1893, who had studied in Paris, had a definitive significance for painting; his open colourism was adopted by several younger artists (the Zagreb School of Colour), forming the artistic wing of the Croatian Modern period, and contributions were also made by other artists, such as Menci Klement Crnčić, a plenarist with a pronounced colourist emphasis and the founder of modern Croatian graphics, and Emanual Vidović, Josip Račić, Miroslav Kraljević, Vladimir Bečić and Oskar Herman, who studied in Munich (they formed a group known as the Croatian School – Die Kroatische Schule), and who based their painting on tonal modelling. The progressive thread in painting (from Cezanne, through Expressionism and Neorealism to Neoclassicism) developed in the opus of Ljubo Babić, the author of various stylistic cycles, Zlatko Šulentić and Marino Tartaglia, painters who introduced the avant-garde into Croatian art, and continued along the lines of Cubism and Postcubism in the works of the Group of Four, pupils of the Prague school, among whom Vilko Gecan and Milivoj Uzelac were most prominent. The architect and painter Josip Seissel (whose pseudonym was Jo Klek) painted the first abstract painting in 1922. Members of the left-oriented group Zemlja (1929–35) dealt with social topics; the main ideologue was Krsto Hegedušić, promoter of Naive art, particularly the Hlebine School, which in the mid 20th century attracted international acclaim, particularly for the works of Ivan Generalić, Ivan Rabuzin and Ivan Lacković Croata.
The first post-war European and American avant-garde tendencies (lyrical abstraction, Art Informel and abstract Expressionism) were first adopted by Edo Murtić and Ferdinand Kulmer. The EXAT 51 group (1951–56) moved in the direction of geometric abstraction, particularly in the works of its artistic champions Ivan Picelj and Vladimir Kristl. Julije Knifer was quite close to them, but also faithful to his sole preoccupation – the ‘meander’. Miljenko Stanić belonged to a circle of post-Surrealist art, while Josip Vaništa leaned towards poetic figuration. Within the framework of the New Tendency international artistic movement, Miroslav Šutej developed an artistic expression in op-art, playing on the boundaries between art, graphics and sculpture. Conceptual tendencies appeared between 1966 and 1978; many authors carried out happenings, performances, created installations and experimented in new media. Many of them (Mladen Stilinović, Sanja Iveković, Mirko Zrinšćak, Željko Kipke, Goran Petercol) began participating in the Biennale in Venice from 1991 on, the Kassel Documenta show, and in other important international art events. In terms of illustration, book illustration and posters, many painters and professional poster designers developed particular styles from the early 20th century onwards. In the second half of the century, Boris Ljubičić, Boris Bućan and Mirko Ilić introduced graphic, thematic and iconographic innovations. The new age of contemporary tapestry began with the monumental works of Jagoda Buić (1930).
The realistic sculptures of Ivan Rendić heralded the development of modern Croatian sculpture, which was continued through the work of Robert Frangeš-Mihanović and the impressionist inspiration of Branislav Dešković in portraying animals, to the great sculptor Ivan Meštrović (1883–1962), the creator of many sculptures in marble, bronze and wood, and of architectural-sculptural monuments in varying stylistic modes (from the Secession through Rodinism, the Classical, Gothic and Renaissance to Bourdelle and Maillé’s concepts of shape). Antun Augustinčić and Vanja Radauš were sculptors of psychologically motivated realism and socially oriented aspirations. The bearers of a new spirit after 1950 were Kosta Angeli Radovani and the abstract sculptors Vojin Bakić, Dušan Džamonja and Ivan Kožarić, the author of a huge, heterogeneous opus. Aleksandar Srnec created the first lumino kinetic works in the early 1950s. Branko Ružić and Šime Vulas developed their work, mostly in wood, on the edges of abstraction and figuration. The works of Zvonimir Lončarić and Marija Ujević-Galetović veered towards elements of pop-art.
The younger generation, while leaning on tradition, seeks new expressions in free abstract forms and ludic associations, as depicted in the sculptures of Peruško Bogdanić and Dalibor Stosić, and the installations of Matko Mijić.
Cartoons and comics
The development of cartoons in Croatia, as in the rest of the world, was linked to caricatures in satirical papers, and the first Croatian cartoon is considered to be Maks i Maksić, which appeared in 1925 as a direct copy of the work of Wilhelm Busch. Following a thriving period of serial cartoons in newspapers in the mid 1930s, the golden age of Croatian cartoons arrived: several magazines were published in Zagreb, and newspapers regularly serialised American and Croatian cartoons, with a strong cohort of artists (Andrija Maurović, Walter Neugebauer and Ferdo Bis) and scenographers (Krešimir Kovačić, Franjo Fuis and Norbert Neugebauer). The same group of authors got together again in the second golden age during the 1950s, when Maurović started drawing in colour (Ukleti brod /The Haunted Ship/, Djevojka sa Sijere /The Girl from the Sierra/, Biser zla /Pearl of Evil/, Čuvaj se senjske ruke /Beware the Hand from Senj/), joined by Neugebauer, Žarko Beker, Zdenko Svirčić, Frano Gotovac, and the most significant new artist, Julio Radilović Jules; scenographers included Zvonimir Furtinger (who with Jules created the classic Croatian cartoon Kroz minula stoljeća /Through past centuries/), Rudi Aljinović and Marcel Čukli. The comic strip using cartoon caricatures also developed in the work of Jules, Vladimir Delač, Borivoj Dovniković, Ivica Bednjanec, and Otto Reisinger. An aesthetic turning-point was reached in the so-called third generation of artists, in the mid 1970s, or the Novi Kvadrat group, composed of Mirko Ilić, Igor Kordej, Ninoslav Kunc, Joško Marušić, Krešimir Zimonić and, most importantly, Radovan Devlić (Macchu Pichu, Ćiril i Metod /Cyril and Methodius/).
Later, Croatian comics continued the graphic trends of Novi Kvadrat (Danijel Žeželj), and the realism of commercial comics (I. Kordej, Edvin Biuković, Esad T. Ribić and Goran Sudžuka), while an original ‘underground’ Croatian comic strip genre also developed (Dubravko Mataković), along with ‘alternative’ comics (Novo hrvatsko podzemlje /New Croatian Underground/, Divlje Oko /Wild Eye/ and Komikaze). Several Croatian comic strip artists have achieved international careers (Ilić, Kordej, Biuković, Darko Macan, Sudžuka and Ribić).