author of set-up
Martina Bagatin i
Meštrović & Prodanović: The Artist and his Photographer
November 20, 2018 – February 3, 2019
The Meštrović Atelier, Zagreb
Three Views on Discovering Svetozar Prodanović
Although virtually unmentioned as a reference so far and hardly known for his photographic work, Svetozar Prodanović is definitely a photographer who left his mark on the Croatian documentary photography unlike almost any other photographer of his profile at the time. This exhibition presents his life and work as an attempt to evaluate his opus with respect to the postulates of professional fine art photography. This is the reason why we approached his work from three perspectives: that of an art historian, a conservator restorer and a photographer.
Svetozar Prodanović was born into a family of photographers; father Milan M. and mother Marija Prodanović had opened their first studio in their home town of Pakrac in 1890, moving from town to town and staying there to work for a year or two. In the year of Svetozar’s birth, 1895, they were living and working in Slunj. The family settled permanently in Zagreb in 1899, where Svetozar graduated from the State public school of mixed gender (Državna mješovita pučka škola) at Bogovićeva street in 1907. Six years later (in 1913) he continued his education by enrolling at the I. tečaj slikarskog odjela škole Otona Ivekovića at the Temporary School for Art and Art Design in Zagreb (Privremena viša škola za umjetnost i umjetni obrt), present day Academy of Fine Arts. At the end of the school term, Prodanović showed his work at the school exhibition which was noted favourably in Hrvatska prosvjeta. The course lasted for two years but Prodanović interrupted his schooling for his military service, graduating from the school as late as February 1919. Already in the following year he started his apprenticeship with Mihajlo Merčep, his father’s former associate and then with Arnold Braunner. At the end of 1922 he continued work at his father’s studio on 168 Ilica street, staying there until May 1930 when the studio was closed. In June Svetozar opened his own studio on 152 Ilica where he worked until its closing in November 1934. Most of his photographs are related to the work of artists, chiefly sculptors. Four approaches should be distinguished with his sculpture photography that his father had used first: Photographs made in the studio of the artist, at the metal art foundry of the Academy of Fine Arts, photography of public monuments and photographic shots for various publications. One of the sculptors he collaborated with was Rudolf Valdec whose three variants of the Monument to the King, First Liberator (Spomenik Kralju I. Oslobodiocu) were photographed by Prodanović which resulted in the photography album Photographs of the Plinth and Model for theMonument in Veliki Bečkerek (1924 – 1926). This album is one of the first signed works by Svetozar Prodanović as apart from his signet at the back of the photographs he was very rarely referred to as the author of photographs in catalogues. An important exception is the catalogue of the IV. Single Exhibition of Ivan Meštrović (IV. kolektivna izložba Ivana Meštrovića), held in 1932 at the Art Pavilion in Zagreb where Prodanović’s name was written on the cover. There is another comparable aspect to his collaboration with Valdec and Meštrović, namely the fact that Prodanović photographed the chosen variant of Valdec’s Monument to theKing in all phases, from the model and study in plaster to the model in clay. He used the same procedure with Meštrović’s Monument to Gregory of Nin (Spomenik Grguru Ninskom), capturing all its phases, too. Valdec’s model to the Monument to the King he photographed alongside with the study on the one side and that of a man standing on the other to clarify the proportions of the sculpture. He repeated the same steps with Meštrović’s Indians as both sculptors were sending photographs of the monuments for the orderer’s approval. At the same period of time (from 1924 to 1929) he was also collaborating with Ivo Kerdić on about ten of his works, photographing the bell for the church of St. Blaise (Sv. Blaž) in Zagreb in the belfry itself. The only known photograph documenting his collaboration with Slavko Brill is that of the tomb monument of the family Weiss. A few photographs remained of his collaboration with Vojta Braniš, the best being Saint Cecilia.