The Well of Life
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  Posted November 10th, 2014 by Zdenko  in Purgerska Nostalgija, Travel | 4 comments

Travel Croatia – Zagreb

Source: The New York Times

Ivan Meštrović is responsible for a lot of public art in Croatia and this was one of my favorites, located in the square that was once carrying name of our Marshal Tito, in lower town Zagreb, next to the elegant Croatian National Theatre.

The Well of Life is characteristic of Meštrović’s early work. Discussions, more often than not, have spoken of the influences of Rodin and Impressionism, at least in terms of the sculpture’s stylistic qualities. Many of Meštrović’s early sculptures bear the impact, to varying degrees, of Rodin’s style. I loved the implied symbolism of the Well of Life: our dependence on water.

The figures in the Well of Life, all thirsting for the life giving waters, are marvellously interwoven, their forms orchestrated around the small well, their surfaces a delight in their tactile quality. Meštrović certainly had the work of Rodin in mind when creating his sculptural group. However, the composition itself suggests that he was not only familiar with, but was influenced by Hans Canon’s ceiling painting called The Circle of Life, painted in circa 1884-85, that is now in the Naturhistorishes Museum in Vienna. Although Meštrović did not borrow figures from Canon, the circular arrangement of figures of various ages are similarly placed like the interlocking links of a chain.

I also found out another interesting fact – that the well was designed / surrounded by a round wall in a way that it could not be easily seen from the street view. The reason why: the human figures positioned around the well are naked, so the wall was raised not to display their nudity to the people passing by on the street (but visible to ones who decided to approach it behind the wall!). When the sculpture was first introduced there were objections to the nudity.  The city buckled under pressure and a low wall has since surrounded the work.

His Well of Life of 1905 was exhibited in plaster form in 1905 in the Secession Building and cast in bronze in 1910.

It was later placed in front of the National Theatre in Zagreb. The Source of Life, dating from 1906, was placed in the City Park in Drniš in 1958. His international reputation was established during these early years through exhibition of his projected Kosovo Temple monument sculptures, a project that unfortunately, may never be realized.

Very enchanting sculpture with great symbolic value. Definitely a Mestrovic masterpiece!

In the fine arts of our time probably the most famous is the sculptor Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1962), who created masterpieces, many of which are dedicated to the history of his motherland. You can see them in the Mestrovic gallery in Split and in Croatian capital Zagreb. He also created

  • the bust of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, New York (Croatia Place, Lackawanna),
  • the grand “Monument of the Unknown Soldier” and “The Monument of Gratitude to France” in Belgrade,
  • the beautiful Mausoleum of Petar Petrovic Njegos, Montenegrin poet and statesman (Lovcen in Montenegro),
  • “The Well of Life” in Zagreb,
  • “History of the Croats” (symbol of the University of Split), whose several copies are held in Croatia, while the original is in Belgrade (!), capital of the new Yugoslavia. He planned it to be situated in the “Museum of Croatian Antiquities” in Split. One expects the Serbs to return this important monument to Croatia.

His sculptures can be seen in London (Tate Gallery), Florence (in “Uffizi”), Torino, Rome, Prague (in Hradcany), Budapest, Chicago (Chicago Indians, Grand Central Park, see a postcard on the right from 1939 and two photos below), South Bend (Indiana, USA), Rochester (Minnesota, USA), Baton Rouge (Louisiana, USA) etc. He also carved a monument of the most outstanding Slovak writer Martin Kukucin (Matej Bencur) in Punta Arens (Patagonia, Argentina). Matej Bencur spent a part of his life in Croatia on the island of Brac and wrote a book about the life of the Croatian emigrants in South America.

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4 comments to “The Well of Life”

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