Guide to the Permanent Display


The Croatian Museum of Naive Art, the oldest museum of the Naive in the world, founded in 1952, keeps in its holdings more than 1,900 artworks – paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. The creation of the permanent display was guided by the motto: the Naive as segment of modern art. Some eighty notable paintings, sculptures and drawings by fifteen classics of the Croatian Naive, from the early thirties to the 1980s are on show. The focus is on the artists of the celebrated Hlebine School and on a few highly valued independent authors. Along with their works, pieces by some of the most important artists of other peoples and cultures are also on show.

In the first room are the paintings of Ivan Generalić (1914-1992), historically the first artist of the Croatian Naive and the Hlebine School. His early works are on show, those created at the beginning of the 1930s, when the social problem was particularly to the fore (The Requisition, 1934), then works of poetic realism, in which the romantic concept of the rural landscape dominates (Cows in the Forest, 1938; Harvesters, 1939), the phantasmagorias of the fifties and sixties (Death of Virius, 1959; Solar Eclipse, 1961), concluding with the purified approaches of the seventies, showing strong condensation and efforts at summation (Self-Portrait, 1975). In the pictures of Mirko Virius (1889-1943), who appeared a few years after Generalić, we see numerous and diverse scenes from the everyday life of the peasant (Harvest, 1938; Return in the Rain, 1939), characterised by a patently veristic approach.
Ivan Generalić:
Cows in the Forest, 1938
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Mirko Virius:
Return in the Rain, 1939
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The second room contains masters of the second generation of the Hlebine School – of Dragan Gaži (1930-1983), Ivan Večenaj (1920-2013) and Mijo Kovačić (1935). Gaži is a master of the psychological portrait, and of genre scenes of rural life, characterised by a tonal manner of construction and a veristic approach (Old Man Krančec, 1956; Portrait of Mate Bujina, 1959). In Večenaj, there are burlesque and grotesque figures (Goitrous Jana, 1962) and works inspired by Biblical subjects, with a powerful and unrestrained colouring (The Evangelists on Calvary, 1966; Moses and the Red Sea, 1973), while in Kovačić there are dominantly snow-drifted wastes and flooded ground (Woman in Winter Landscape, 1965) as well as scenes of a fairytale, rural and patriarchal life (Swineherd, 1967).

Dragan Gaži: 
Portrait of Mate Bujina, 1959

Ivan Večenaj:
The Evangelists on Calvary, 1966
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Mijo Kovačić:
Woman in Winter Landscape, 1965
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In the next room there are portraits of Martin Mehkek (1936-2014), characterised by a typological style of representation (My Neighbour, 1962; Gypsy and Gypsy Woman, 1967), as well as the paintings of Ivan Lacković Croata (1931-2004), a creator of twilight scenes (Long Winter, 1966) and idiosyncratic, melancholic elongated landscapes (Big Autumn, 1983), one of the most proficient and distinguished draughtsmen in the world’s Naive. After that come the burlesque and phantasmagoric scenes of Josip Generalić (1936-2004), whose painting diverges from the standard Hlebine motifs in showing scenes from modern and fashionable city life (Guiana, 1978) and the paintings of Slavko Stolnik (1929-1991), an expressive colourist, who does not belong to the Hlebine School by origin but did adopt its style, poetics and the technique of  painting on the reverse of glass.

Martin Mehkek: 
My Neighbour, 1962
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Josip Generalić:
Guiana, 1978

Slavko Stolnik:
Cows Coming Home, 1957

Ivan Lacković:
 Big Autumn, 1983
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The fourth room contains pictures of Ivan Rabuzin (1921-2008), who by the end of the fifties and in the early sixties was creating works of a distinctive and sustained style of exceptional lyricism (On the Hills – Primeval Forest, 1960; Dawn, 1963) and arriving at a-real approaches with his systematic abstraction, simplification and stylisation (Orehovec Hills, 1959; Islands, 1963). The paintings of Emerik Feješ (1904-1969) are examples of the urban Naive with the topic of city scenes, edifices of architecture and major urban spaces (St Mark’s, Venice, 1956). His works are distinguished by emphatically geometrical compositions and a bright and expressive handling of colour (Paris, St. Chapelle, 1958; Milan Cathedral, 1966). Also here are the sculptures of Petar Smajić (1910-1985), a master of pure and simple forms in wood (Head of Mother and Child, 1933; Adam and Eve, 1934), the first examples of Croatian Naive sculpting.

Ivan Rabuzin:
Dawn, 1963
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Emerik Feješ:
St Mark’s, Venice, 1956
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Petar Smajić: 
Adam and Eve, 1934
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Room Five holds works of Matija Skurjeni (1898-1990), next to Rabuzin, Feješ and Smajić one of the most prominent representatives of the independent artists. His paintings feature fantastic motifs and surreal atmospheres (Animal World, 1961). Skurjeni paints reality as if it were a dream, and dreams as if they were the real world; everything brims with powerful disproportions and a-logicalities (Children’s Races, 1959; Old Paris, 1964). Next in order are the paintings of Eugen Buktenica (1914-1997), the first naive painter from Dalmatia, who depicts scenes from life at sea, and Drago Jurak (1911-1994), author of numerous architectural fantasies and imaginations – idiosyncratic phantasmopolises.

Matija Skurjeni:
Old Paris, 1964
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Eugen Buktenica:
Fishing Convoy, 1955

Drago Jurak:
Luxury Boat, 1974

Of the total collection of foreign artists, only a few of the artworks of the most celebrated painters and sculptors are on show because of the constraints of space. Germain van der Steen (1897-1985) is a French painter who started painting before the outbreak of World War II, his works being characterised by a highly vigorous handling of colour (Notre-Dame, 1963). Then come works of Simon Schwartzenberg (1895-1990), also a French artist, who was recognised at the beginning of the 1960s as one of the most striking masters of the world’s Naive of the second half of the twentieth century. His pictures are particularly characterised by fancifulness, the lack of logic in the perspective and the extremely decorous lyrical colouring (Eiffel Tower, around 1963).
Nikifor (1895-1968) is the best known naive painter from Poland, with a reputation in his own country since the late forties, acquiring a European-wide reputation in the second half of the 20th century. In his limpid watercolours, he most often painted small architectural vistas with letters of the alphabet incorporated in them, mostly as structures imparting rhythm (Krynica, around 1950).

Germain van der Steen:
Notre-Dame, 1963
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Simon Schwartzenberg
Eiffelov toranj, 1963
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Motiv iz Krynice, 1960
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 The Italians include Enrico Benassi (1902-1978), whose works are marked by emphasized stylisations, powerful rhythm yet tender colours (Italian Squares, 1968) and Pietro Ghizzardi (1906-1986), a very expressive master, a painter also inclined to powerful stylisation and rhythm, who created numerous bizarre, psychological and sensual female portraits (Prostitute, 1965).

Enrico Benassi:
Italian Squares, 1968
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Pietro Ghizzardi:
Prostitutka, 1965
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 After them comes the Netherlander Willem van Genk (1927-2005), who in the last two decades has made his mark as a key figure at the borderline between the Naive and Art Brut – with gloomy, depressing scenes from the life of the big city, full of existential fears (Leipzig, around 1950). Quite opposite to him are Pavel Leonov (1920-2011), the most celebrated Russian naive painter, author of modern approaches to composition, with a string of simultaneous and separately framed events, numerous narrative scenes that often have allegorical meanings (Russian Travellers in Africa, 1996) and Taizi Harada (1940), the best known Japanese artist, whose lyrical cantilenas tell of the rural and idyllic life of his homeland, the alternations of the seasons, the joy of existence and infinite optimism (Hills and Valley in Late Autumn, 2004).

Willem van Genk:
Leipzig, 1950.
Pavel Leonov:
Ruski putnici u Africi, 1996.
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Taizi Harada:
Bregovi i dolina u kasnu jesen, 2004.
Germany is represented by Erich Bödeker (1904-1971), one of the most remarkable sculptors of the world’s Naive, whose works are marked by powerful stylisations, caricature, grotesquery and irony, along with expressive handling of colour. After that come the sculptures of Bogosav Živković (1920-2005), a classic of the Serbian and world Naive, creator of terrifying imaginary monsters, in whose work everything is fantastic, dreamy, fairytale, magical and irrational (Monster, 1962). Milan Stanisavljević (1944), also a Serbian sculptor, is the author of equally phantasmagoric visions, dramatic, often very expressive and symbolic, in which the actual material of which the works are made is always very much in evidence, and similarities between his work and some of the approaches of Art Informel have already been noted (Regeneration, 1986).
Slovenia is represented by Jože Horvat Jaki (1930-2009), author of phantasmagoric compositions, filled with innumerable human and animal figures, in which everything is full of symbolic charges and angst-ridden atmospheres (Food, 1964) and Macedonia by Vangel Naumovski (1924-2006), painter and draughtsman at the border between the Naive, abstraction and certain Surrealist features, in whose work there is a mixture of the waking world and the dreamy, the possible and the imagined (Enchanted, 1966).

Erich Bödeker:
Footballers, 1970
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Bogosav Živković:
Monster, 1962
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Milan Stanisavljević:
Regeneration, 1986
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Jože Horvat Jaki:
Food, 1964

Vangel Naumovski:
Enchanted, 1966
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Finally, we will mention Ilija Bosilj (1895-1972) from Serbia, classic of world Naive and Outsider Art, whose figures are highly generalised and shown as signs or symbols in whose paintings there is no law of gravity, where everything is unreal, ahistorical, fantastic and imaginary (Noah’s Ark, 1963; Family of Fliers, 1963); after him is Sava Sekulić (1902-1989), Croatian and Serbian painter and poet, author of phantasmagorias on the border between dream and waking, whose works feature lack of logic, abstraction and hypertrophy, lack of volume, planarity (In the Embrace of My Parents, 1974; Sisterhood is a Great Thing, Daughters of Mine, 1975). At the end, we would mention the sculptures of Sofija Naletilić Penavuša (1913-1994), Croatian artist from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who was acknowledged at the end of the eighties and in the early nineties, for her clean, reduced forms and powerful polychromy, as the most striking phenomenon in the contemporary European Naive (Broken-Winged Eagle, 1984; Great Owl, 1985).
Iljija Bosilj:
Noah’s Ark, 1963
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Sava sekulić:
Sisterhood is a Great Thing, Daughters of Mine, 1975
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Sofija Naletilić Penavuša:
Great Owl, 1985
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In the last room of all are classic drawings of a handful of the most eminent Croatian artists – including Ivan Generalić and Mirko Virius, Ivan Rabuzin, Ivan Lacković Croata and Mijo Kovačić.

The permanent display of the Museum is a vivid testimony as to why the Croatian Naive is considered one of the most important segments of naive art in the world and also shows that the Croatian Museum of Naive Art has not only major works of the nation’s culture, but also a very worthwhile collection of foreign artists, with numerous classic works, telling of the many variations within the Naive and deviations in the direction of Art Brut and Outsider Art that have become increasingly significant over the last few decades.


The Croatian Museum of Naive Art
Sv. Ćirila i Metoda 3, Gornji grad
10000 Zagreb, CROATIA
tel/fax: +385.1.4851911


From Jan 1st 2020 the Museum is closed for visitors. 

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