The oldest known Croatian paintings are from the 11th century and Croatian painters have been present on the international cultural scene ever since.
With the decline of Biedermeier, V. Karas and his portraits marked the beginning of the new age of Croatian painting. Dalmatia saw stagnation caused by the political circumstances (the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic, the Austrian occupation), while northern Croatia and Zagreb became the hotbed of national awakening and attempts towards comprehensive artistic development, including the fine arts as well. In the final decades of the 19th century, several talented painters appeared, educated abroad, among them portrait and landscape painter F. Quiquerez and representative of the idyllic genre N. Masic. Scupltor I. Rendic created monuments for cities and graveyards (Gundulic, Preradovic, Kacic). In 1892, V. Bukovac came to Zagreb, already affirmed throughout the world, and with his temperament and agility, he brought with him new stimulation. He created historical and allegorical compositions, portraits and studies; his virtuoso assimilated the Paris academic style and enriched the light of the plenary palette. C. Medovic represented the sacral and historical compositions, to which B. Cikos-Sesija gave a wealthier contribution in terms of color. Also belonging to this circle was graphic artist Menci Cl. Crncic and the landscape artist F. Kovacevic and Slava Raskaj.
Sculpture was represented by R. Franges, who worked in a wide range between the creation of monuments and posters, and in R. Valdec, the author of the realistic busts (Strossmayer, Racki). These painters and sculptors appeared jointly at an 1898 exhibition of the Croatian Salon, and become the first professors at the School of Arts, established in 1907.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Croatian painting took on a new European art form. The painting of E. Vidovic marked the liberation from the schemes of academics. Even more determined to take a new path, and conquering tonal modelation in the process, were J. Racic and M. Kraljevic, who in their short lives succeeded in creating works pivotal to the continued development of art. Studying together with them at the Munich Academy were V. Becic and O. Herman. T. Krizman stood out in graphics, coming from the Viennese Succession. Even prior to World War I, the association between Lada and Medulic began, and later the Spring Salon. The Medulic’s attempted to artistically express national myths and to capture themes from national legends, poetry and history. Their prime representative was sculptor I. Mestrovic, who quickly received world-wide reverence due to his powerful realizations. National themes were also the focus of M. Racki, who also illustrated Dante. In sculpture, T. Rosandic, medallion maker I. Kerdic and animalist B. Deskovic rose above their peers, while a new generation of painters arose, led by Lj. Babic and J. Mise. The influence of the Austria-Danubian region ended in 1918. The orientation of Vienna-Munich was quickly replaced by an inclination towards Paris, inaugurated by J. Racic and M. Kraljevic.
Immediately following the end of World War I, art creation was represented by the Spring Salon with occasional exhibitions of individual artists. Within the scope of the Academy of Art, academic painters M. Cl. Crncic, B. Cikos-Sesija and F. Kovacevic worked, as did medallion maker I. Kerdic. T. Krizman continued with graphic design, and V. Becic and Lj. Babic with painting. Mestrovic worked on new motifs from national poetry and legends, themes of biblical and symbolical significance and created great monuments (Grgur Ninski, Strossmayer, Marulic). New significance is given to sculpture F. Krsinic, the virtuoso modeler of the female form in marble (particularly motifs of motherhood and music), and M. Studin. At the end of the 1920s, the talent and power of A. Augustincic appeared; in the 1930s, V. Radaus, G. Antunac and I. Lozica affirmed their talents in sculpting. In the period between the two World Wars, there was a flux and polarization in the issues of significant artistic expression. During the phase of frantic searching, which took over the Western European artistic world following the cataclysm of 1918, the tendencies of expressionism and cubism penetrated into Croatia, and were evident in the early phases of the work of M. Tartaglie, Z. Sulentic, V. Gecan, Dj. Tiljka and M. Trepse.
In the spirit of ideology (leftist) Zemlje, K. Hegedusic founded a painting school in the Podravina village of Hlebina in 1930, in which the main representatives were I. Generalic, F. Mraz and M. Virius. Architecture came to modern conceptions in projects and the realization of many architects of the new generation with the continued reformation work of V. Kovacic. In the war years (1941-1945), painting came to a halt; persuasive documentation of the period was created by A. Augustincic, V. Radaus, M. Detoni and E. Murtic.
Special credit for the spread of abstract art is given to the appearance of the group ‘Exat 51’, founded by painters and architects in Zagreb in 1951. In the post-war period, this group strongly affirmed itself in naive art, which received international acclaim.
With the exhibition New Tendencies (1961), artistic life developed in the form of the second rise of the avantgarde. Various phenomena were thematicized: ambient and conceptual art, performance. The second half of the 1970s brought the sphere of ‘new artistic practice’. Meanwhile Biafra supported the involvement of art. The wide current of the new figuration continued to the late 1980s, the time of the path towards the so-called ‘new picture’.
The early 1980s brought two oppositely positioned directions to Croatian sculpture: minimalism and new figuration. The element of pop-art is led by Z. Loncaric, V. Lipovac, Marija Ujevic. Biafra created the sphere of the new figuration. Tendencies towards primary form was led by I. Kozaric. The new generation, K. Kovacic, P. Bogdanic and others sought new challenges in the level of elementary free form.Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integrations