Josip Račić (1885-1908)

I have been wanting to do an in-depth look at certain individuals I consider important for some time now. I plan on collecting their works (to the best of my ability) all in one place for anyone who happens to find it useful. And I’ll start by introducing Josip Račić — an early 20th century Croatian painter and one of the modern founders of Croatian art. Despite dying young at 23 years-old, Račić demonstrated an incredible level of self-awareness in his short list of works which combined dark imagery and what he called “passion painting.” It was one of the first artistic manifestations of Croatian modernism.

Josip Račić was born in the small settlement of Horvati located within the city of Zagreb in Croatia. He attended elementary and high school in Zagreb and began working from 1900-1903 in the workshop of Vladimir Rožankovski studying lithography. His ambitions awakened, he went to Munich in 1904 to study under the Slovene painter, Anton Ažbe. He worked briefly in 1905 as a lithographer, but later that year he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Quickly, a Croatian art contingent formed at the school consisting of Račić, Oskar Herman, Vladimir Becić, and Miroslav Kraljević known as the Munich Circle (Münchenski krug). Račić became enthralled with observational painting and perspective which is felt in his works, most of them portraits. He particularly liked oil painting which is responsible for creating the dreary atmosphere in his works. The stares of his portraits are glassy and obscure with strong tones that place his works among the likes of French Impressionist Paul Cézanne and others.

Račić, being among the most gifted of the Croatian art circle, was rebellious and oftentimes clashed with his professor, Hugo von Habermann. He particularly objected to academic painting and the backward syllabus of the Academy. This desire made Račić leave for Paris in 1908. In a short three months, he painted several compositions of parks, cafes, and people. He also spent time copying some of the artwork in the Louvre, especially Francisco Goya’s work; his use of blackness interested him, but he also loved Impressionism and its use of light and colors. Račić tragically died of a gunshot blast on the 20th of June, 1908 in an apparent suicide.

Below are all the works by Račić that I managed to find in the best resolution I could find. My favorites are Majka i dijete (Mother and Child) and his self-portrait from 1908.


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