Thursday, September 12, 2013


Croatian art is some of the oldest art in Europe. Certainly close enough for Greek and Roman influence, much of the earliest pieces didn’t survive.  The surviving pieces of early works include mostly pottery and various sculptures of human and animal likenesses.
Croatian artists did well with the Bronze Age.  The Illyrian peoples were extraordinary when it came to bronze work.  They were especially known for bronze helmets and fibulas – no, not leg bones. That’s creepy. Fibulas were an ancient form of a brooch, and its design is actually the predecessor of the modern safety pin.  They also used bronze in burial ceremonies and in cremation. After bronze gave way to iron as the modus operandi, bronze was then relegated to just jewelry and artistic sculptures.

During the Middle Ages, Roman Christian art and architecture was the predominant influence.  Buildings, especially churches and cathedrals, were equipped with the standard buttresses and belltowers that were all the rage of the day.  It certainly gave the building the appearance of being strong and formidable. One of the most iconic motifs to come out of this age is the pleter, or what is called Croatian interlace. It’s complex strings (or etchings of multiple lines) that twist upon itself or interweaves itself, sometimes resembling a braid.  It can be used as either an edging or as a circular centerpiece. Most of the time, this interlace, or wattle as it’s sometimes called, was found on and in Medieval churches and monasteries. (Certainly would make some cool tattoos. I, myself, may develop some of this in pin-striping our 1964 Chevy Bel Air.) The Roman style architecture eventually waned its way into Gothic style – one of my favorite styles.

Baroque art flourished and took off like a wildfire. Paintings and baroque-influenced art was found everywhere: churches, public buildings, government buildings, and palaces. And this time was important for another reason: urban planning was beginning to really take place, with the systematic design of creating larger, straighter streets and the idea of planning town squares as the center. 
During the 1800s, the art of painting grew more prevalent, following the trending styles of Artistic Europe. Art Nouveau, Realism, Naturalism, and Impressionism were a few of the styles where Croatian artists excelled. Even into the 20th century and modern times, Croatian painters, as well as sculptures and artists of other mediums, utilized and were influenced by post-Impressionism, abstract art, and other avant-garde forms of expressionism.  A few names to know would be Miroslav Kraljević, Oton Iveković, Vjekoslav Karas, and Andrija Medulić (who was the teacher of the famed El Greco), among others.
by Miroslav Kraljevic
Most of the earliest pieces of Croatian literature started popping up around the 8th or 9th centuries.  Because only a few skilled scholars were able to take on this moderately painstaking feat, most of the written works at this time was delegated to historical accounts, liturgical writings, and scientific works.  And keep in mind as well, that written language was still being developed.  Well, and even spoken language and grammar was also being formed into more of a standard form to an extent. It was also a common practice to use a different language depending on the subject matter.  Some literature at this time was written in Latin, but later medieval prose was mostly written in either Croatian or what’s called Church Slavonic (a variation of early Slavic that was used mostly in the church). And they also utilized three different alphabets to write in: Glagolitic (a type of early Slavic writing system created by Saints Cyrus and Methodius – you know, the saints from Bulgaria who gave the Cyrillic alphabet), Latinic (the alphabet you’re reading in right now, based off of Latin), and Croatian Cyrillic (also called Bosnian Cyrillic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, because apparently it was too hard to share, it’s an extinct writing system now. I wonder why.).
Glagolitic script, like a cross between Cyrillic and alchemy symbols
One of the biggest finds from this early period was the Baška tablet. The reason why it’s important is that it’s the first documentation of the written Croatian language, dating back to 1100.  It was discovered in 1851 in the paving of a church near the town of Baška on the island of Krk.  I suppose it’s Croatia’s form of the Rosetta Stone in a way.
The Renaissance period is when poetry and prose first started resembling styles that we are more familiar with. And the 18th and 19th centuries brought about a change in literature towards a more social conscience and humanity.  It was also the beginning of Slavic literature as a whole.  Lyric poetry, travel literature, prose, and drama began to emerge as part of the Slavic literary canon.

One notable work was written by Marko Marulić called “Judita.” This was written as an epic poem, retelling the Biblical story of Judith, but it also was an analogy to the Ottoman invasion of Croatia. When it comes to novels, one book is often ranked as one of the best: The Return of Phillip Latinowicz by Miroslav Krežla.  Also known for his novel On the Edge of Reason, he’s considered one of the greatest modern writers from Croatia, not only widely read in Croatia but around the world as well. Some literary critics have been compared him as the Croatian version of Joyce, Proust, or Balzac. This is one of my favorite eras and styles of literature. I think I’m definitely going to have to try to find this book and add it to my collection. 
Up next: music and dance

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