The Demon of Modernity

Art, Painting
Demons of Modernism
(c) Modern Gallery, Zagreb

Major show of European symbolist painters from the decades prior to World War I, set beside Croatian modernist painters from the same epoch

A collaboration between the Pinacotheca of the Accademia dei Concordi of Rovigo, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo and the Modern Gallery, ‘Demons of Modernism’ brings together some of the finest examples of Symbolism, the turbulent, dreamy, sometimes nightmarish current of modern art that prevailed in the years before World War I. What makes the exhibition quite novel is that it juxtaposes the canvases of James Ensor, Odilon Redon, Arnold Böcklin, Franz von Stück and others with those of Croatian artists (notably Bela Čikos Sesija, Mirko Rački and Vlaho Bukovac) working at roughly the same time. Indeed it’s fair to say that Croatian modern art exploded out of this fin-de-siècle encounter with European Symbolism, and this exhibition takes the audience back right to the source of this art-historical big bang. The Croatian paintings in the exhibition are for the most part taken from the Modern Gallery’s permanent collection – so if you don’t catch them now, they’ll probably be hanging here again in a few months’ time. The paintings on loan from Rovigo are a different kettle of fish entirely – unique and compelling images like Franz von Stück’s Kiss of the Sphinx; or Gustave Moreau’s Traveller or Oedipus are rarely seen outside their home gallery and fully deserve to be savoured while they can.