Photo Credit: Braut, Marija 

Croatian artist, born in Slovenia, Gliha graduated from the Academy of fine Arts in Zagreb and then continued his studies in Paris, Vienna and Munich.

Gliha’s early work showed the influence of Paul Cézanne, and he tended to use thick paint in an impasto style to describe the form in his still life subjects.

Gliha’s early work during the 1930s and 40s were landscapes, portraits and still lifes, painted with in conventional, rather neutral colours. His landscapes showed the influence of Paul Cézanne, and he tended to use thick paint in an impasto style to describe the form in his still life subjects.

Island Krk , oil on canvas, 1987, NFS

In 1954, Oton Gliha painted “Primorje”, a coastal landscape that marked the beginning of one of the major series in Croatian art. His subject was the lattice of drystone walls (gromače), so common on the island of Krk, and along the Croatian coast.

About Gliha’s obsession by drystone walls:

“All at once, I saw the image of that landscape from Krk, criss-crossed by drystone walls as an old tablet with Glagolitic script carved upon it. This association may seem strange, funny even, but for me at that moment it was fate. It helped me unravel all the excitement that I used to carry within myself, observing that strange geometry, architecture and sculpture that man had unconsciously created in his struggle with stone. By making most of the earth free of stone, man used the same stone to put it back into captivity, by fencing it off by drystone walls. When I stand within them I feel, I don’t know why, very happy and filled by some silent festive joy. I feel the presence of a multitude of people and can hear their voices. Time seems to come to a standstill, reality becomes unreal. The faraway past seems to be the present; the present and future seem like the past: I experience an intense feeling of the presence of eternity. This spiritual state gives me power and stamina.”

Gliha’s excitement about his subject led him to interpret the motif in endlessly creative ways for the rest of his life. The shapes, rhythms and textures are caught in a variety of artistic styles and techniques, each one creating an individual mood from joyous to sad and reflective.

Oton Gliha’s art can be seen in public collections around the world. The Guggenheim Museum in New York bought one of his paintings as early as 1958. Gliha held solo exhibitions in leading modern art galleries in Turin, 1960; São Paulo, 1961 and Milan in 1964. He participated at the 31st and 32nd Biennale in Venice and he also painted his drystone walls as large compositions for public venues. For example, the frescos in the Federal Executive Council in Belgrade, 1962, the mosaic in the lounge of Krk airport, 1970, and the festive curtain of the National Theatre in Rijeka, 1981. Oton Gliha received the Vladimir Nazor Award for lifetime achievement in 1977.