Sculpture Journal

Sculpture by Ivan Meštrović at the Grafton Galleries in 1917: critical and social contexts

Sculpture Journal (2016), 25, (2), 177–192.

Abstract

Two years after the important one-man exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1915, Ivan Meštrović presented new works to the London public in the Exhibition of Serbo-Croatian Artists at the Grafton Galleries. The artist attempted to separate his sculpture from direct political overtones by showing a series of Madonnas, religious reliefs and portraits of his contemporaries. However, the very context of the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue were saturated with political concerns, and focused on the emergence of a new Yugoslav state. A major cultural event endorsed by the British royal family, Meštrović seized the opportunity to show portraits of his contemporaries, including participants at the numerous social gatherings to which he and his wife were frequently invited. These portraits, and surviving correspondence, help reconstruct the social circles in which the artist moved. As well as numerous positive reviews of the exhibition, contemporary press reports also recorded negative reactions. These hostile reviews originated predominantly in those avant-garde artistic groups that objected to the artist’s popularity in the London art world.

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Author details

Prančević, Dalibor