Ivan Mestrovic
MESTROVIC, IVAN Sculptor , Architect and Writer .
Ivan Mestrovic was Croatia's greatest contribution in art to America. By some of our press he has been called a "Croatian Michelangelo." Born of Croatian parents from Dalmatia in Vrpolje, Slavonia, on August 15, 1883, he very early displayed a great talent for sculpture. Discovered and furthered in his career by an Austrian, he worked for a while in Split, and in 1901 enrolled at the Art Academy of Vienna. After exhibiting in Vienna and Zagreb he became a pupil of the famous Rodin in Paris in 1907. His renowned. teacher declared Mestrovic "the greatest phenomenon among the sculptors. His two years in Paris resulted in a prodigious amount of work, and also a sensational exhibition of his new style in sculpture. Subsequent exhibitions followed in Vienna's Secession Gallery, Zagreb, and Rome. His sculptures created a great stir. They were based on national epics, on folk heroes and legends. His sculptures, in other words, were created thematically from the mind and soul of his people. In 1915 he exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, an unprecedented honor for a living artist. After 1918 he worked in Zagreb, where he served for many years as rector of the newly founded Academy of Arts.

Mestrovic was at home all over Europe, for he lived and exhibited in most European capitals and great cities. In 1925 during his first American exhibition in New York he met and became a friend of his countryman, Nikola Tesla. His exhibitions in America in 1924, 1926, and 1927 were great successes. In the 1930's he created his two famous statues of mounted Indians for Grant Park in Chicago, using a motif from the American heritage. During the last war the Croatian government sent Mestrovid to Rome and Switzerland. While in Switzerland he wrote a book published in German under the title Dennoch Will Ich Hoffen (Still I Shall Hope.) In Rome he worked on sculptures for the Croatian St. Jerome College there. Following World War II, Mesrovic settled in Syracuse, New York, where he taught sculpture at the University of Syracuse. From September 1955 until his death in January 1962 he was a professor of art at Notre Dame University. Today Mestrovic sculptures adorn several major American cities; they are exhibited in most important museums and art galleries. Much has been written on him since he came to America. The University of Syracuse published two representative books which prove the artist's versatility with hundreds of reproductions of his stone, bronze, plaster, and wood sculptures as well as his reliefs, drawings, and architectural works.

In all his works one notes dignity, perception, and variety of form. His heroic figures from the Croatian, South Slavic, and American past are of tremendous power, original in style and expression. "With his appearance," wrote the painter Jozo Kljakovic, "erupted centuries of suppressed national dynamism as well as the national soul, suppressed, humiliated, offended and oppressed through centuries. With pride the artist always pointed to his peasant stock and many of his best works depict Croatian women in their national costumes. He himself stated on occasion that as a young boy he learned to read from the popular collection of national poetry compiled by Andrija Kacic-Miosic. Occasionally Metrovic, too, wrote poems which reflect the influence of the national epics. Mestrovic was undoubtedly the most famous Croatian immigrant living in America. The art critics compare him to Michelangelo; they call him "the last living master of the human form," "an epic type," "his people's symbol of freedom and their spokesman and defender"; his art has been "more than a creative outlet; it has been a social and political and religious statement." Through it "Mestrovic speaks for man. And long after the oppressors have been forgotten, the art of Ivan Mestrovic will remain to speak for him.

Time after time he has been honored with awards. In 1953 the American Academy of Arts and Letters presented him with the Award of Merit; in 1960, the same Academy elected him a member for distinction in his field. Honorary doctorates were awarded to him by Notre Dame and Marquette Universities in June of 1955. Mestrovic was a member of the Edinburgh, Prague, Munich, Vienna, Bucharest, Zagreb, Belgrade, and Brussels Academies of Arts and Sciences, and of the National Institute of Letters. His works are in the permanent exhibits of more than twenty museums and art galleries. During the Art Festival. of Notre Dame University in November, 1955, he exhibited over seventy sculptures. He has been hailed as the greatest religious artist in America.

Mestrovic's mission at Notre Dame was to build "the strongest, most respected department of sculpture in any American university." He was hard at work there. His chisel was always busy. In a single year he was known to complete as many as nine major works amid a score of minor ones. Both a carver and a modeler, he has produced in this country and other countries every kind of sculpture from portrait busts to huge architectural schemes. In addition to sculpturing, he painted in fresco and oil, engraved, and lithographed.

In 1954, he was past his seventieth birthday and became an American citizen. He produced then a bronze work, "Man and Freedom," for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In addition he created a bronze statue of St. Anthony for the University of Oxford; a statue of Pope Pius XII for St. Louis University; one of Cardinal Stepinac for the National Catholic Welfare Conference; one of former President Herbert Hoover; a monument to Nikola Tesla and another to Rudjer Boskovic, the famous Croatian scientist of the eighteenth century (both donated to the Atomic Institute in Zagreb); as well as several other statues of famous Croatians. His monument to Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, and "Pieta," honoring the modernCatholic martyrs, were unveiled in St. Augustine, Florida, in April 1958. A statue of St. Jerome is placed in front of the Croatian Franciscan House in Washington, D. C. Two more works by Mestrovic are at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the nation's capital.

One of the artist's most recent works is the "Mother of Immigrants" statue unveiled in October, 1960, on Cathedral Square in Milwaukee; it bears the inscription "Dedicated to Immigrant Mothers." On August 12, 1960 Mestrovic celebrated his seventy seventh birthday at which time he received also felicitations from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He died in South Bend, Indiana on January 17, 1962 and his body was transferred-according to his own wish-to his native Otavice.
Much of his art is symbolic of his political leanings. His outspokenness put his life and the lives of his family in jeopardy, causing them to have to flee their beloved Croatia.
He has four museums in Croatia and two in the USA, at Notre Dame, Indiana and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LASM).There is a large collection of his art at Syracuse University as well monuments in Chicago , Washington DC, New York ,The Mayo Clinic,Minnesota , St.Augustine and Miami , Florida, Buffalo, N.Y. , Hawaii etc.
Ivan Mestrovic received in 1956 the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal.
The Gold Medal is given for the entire work of the recipient. Two Medals are awarded each year by the academy for distinguished achievement.
Mestrovic's works in bronze, stone, and wood can be found in galleries, museums and private collections in the US, Croatia, Serbia , Bosnia and Herzegovina, England, Italy , Montenegro, Canada, France, Hungary, Russia, Germany, Argentina, Austria, Vatican, Switzerland, Spain, Czech Republic, Belgium, Brazil, Romania, Chile, Slovakia, Uruguay, Israel, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Macedonia etc.

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