Ask Morgana 149: Vlaho Bukovac

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922) was a Croatian painter, which is to say that is what he is counted as today. He was born in what was then a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, travelled to and lived in many places including the USA where he learned English, and passed away in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). In fact his father was Italian, and his name at birth was Biagio Faggoni. He studied art in France, where for a time he adopted the French version of his given name – Blaise – and seems to have gone by what was presumably his Croatian mother’s surname rather than his father’s.

His style varied much during his lifetime. His earlier work was very much in a style acceptable to the doyens of the ‘Salon’. Perhaps his best-known work comes from this period. ‘Une Fleur’ (1), which sold for more than £100,000 in 2006, is a symboliste painting, referring to the sexual awakening of a young woman. The subject’s coy glance is in contrast with the more direct, franker gaze of the model in (2), and the almost awkward pose in (3) which seems to suggest that he is tackling a more basic element of sexuality, even though throughout his nude paintings he kept the subjects’ pubic area covered. There is something about such covering up that draws our attention. Perhaps (3) is an attempt at realism. That is certainly true in (5). Paintings (4) and (5) show how his style had developed into Impressionism. I think he deserves a lot more attention as an artist.

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Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.

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