Vlaho Bukovac and Alexandre Cabanel – A Historic Encounter of Pupil and Teacher

The Art Pavilion in Zagreb is the oldest visual arts institution in SE Europe, having a 120-year-long continuity of organising exhibitions. The gallery was founded in 1898, and thus this year is celebrating its 120 years of existence and activity. The man behind the founding of the Art Pavilion was the famed Croatian painter Vlaho Bukovac. For this reason the Art Pavilion is celebrating its 120 years with a major exhibition dedicated to Vlaho Bukovac and Alexandre Cabanel, the important French painter under whom Bukovac studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

On this occasion the Art Pavilion presents Vlaho Bukovac in a context in which his work has never before been exhibited. In this show, then, along with Bukovac’s works, those of his Parisian professor, Alexandre Cabanel, are also shown. Bukovac, as is well known, became acquainted in Paris with the then exceptionally distinguished and highly appreciated painter and professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, Alexandre Cabanel, and wanted to enrol in his class and study painting under his direction. However, at that time, Cabanel was an extremely popular painter and his class was consequently always full. But Bukovac, like most of the students at the École des Beaux Arts, wanted to take lessons only from him. And yet, the class was full, and the famed French painter could not fit him in. Our painter, however, would not give up, and made a deal with Cabanel that within a certain time he would paint a picture and if the professor liked it, Bukovac would be received into the class. And so he painted the picture Hand (Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik), which delighted Professor Cabanel, who now admitted him into the course. The famed French painter played a large and important role in Bukovac’s art education and the exhibition in the Art Pavilion brought together pupil and teacher, so providing a clear picture of what kind of an influence on Bukovac’s art Cabanel was.

What needs to be particularly pointed out is that up to this exhibition the works of Alexandre Cabanel have never been exhibited in either Croatia or surrounding countries and are thus a revelation for lovers of the fine arts who make their way to the exhibition in the Art Pavilion.

The exhibition encompasses more than 140 pictures. Those of Vlaho Bukovac are on loan from Croatian museums and those from abroad (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia) as well as from private collections in Croatia and elsewhere. In addition to Bukovac’s better-known paintings, it´s possible to see at the exhibition some recently discovered jewels, among which with its monumentality and beauty the very large (176 x 256 cm) oil on canvas Potiphar’s Wife (1886) is particularly conspicuous. This is a painting that is held in a private collection and is shown in Croatia for the first time in the exhibition. This masterly oil painting was done while Bukovac was living and working in Paris; an absolute discovery, it is a first-rate exclusive for the exhibition.

The works of Alexandre Cabanel came to the exhibition in the Art Pavilion from five French museums – Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Musée Inguimbertine, Carpentras, Palais de Compiègne Musée et domaine nationaux, Compiègne and from Musée Fabre, Montpellier, which is the Art Pavilion’s partner for the exhibition. It has to be pointed out that the Fabre Museum is, with respect to Cabanel’s works, the global number one. This is for two reasons: Cabanel was born in Montpellier and during his lifetime donated several of his works to the Museum, as did the painter’s friend and patron, Alfred Bruyas. Cabanel paintings has also arrived from the Russian Federation, from the Hermitage.

The choice of the works of Vlaho Bukovac and the textual analysis of Bukovac’s oeuvre for the catalogue is entrusted to one of the creators of the exhibition, art historian Igor Zidić, the acknowledged expert in Bukovac’s works. Meanwhile, Art Pavilion director Jasminka Poklečki Stošić has been working on the selection of works by Cabanel and on securing loan agreements for the last two years. The expert part related to Alexandre Cabanel has been handled textually for the catalogue of the exhibition by art historian Pierre Stépanoff, manager of the Collection of Paintings from the 14th to the 19th century in Musée Fabre and by the museum’s director, art historian Michel Hilaire, who is the most highly versed expert in France in the oeuvre of Alexandre Cabanel, and, along with Igor Zidić, one of the author’s of the exhibition.

During its three-month duration the exhibition will be accompanied by an accompanying program, including professional lectures, documentaries, concerts and other contents, held at the Modern Gallery in Zagreb, from where a large number of Bukovac’s paintings was borrowed for this exhibition. Visitors who purchase a ticket for the exhibition at the Art Pavilion are able to visit the Modern Gallery to view a monumental painting by Bukovac Gundulić Imagining Osman. The latter, for many reasons, can not leave the Modern Gallery.
A special feature of the accompanying program is the theatrical performance of Hand whose screenplay is based on the autobiographical book of Vlaho Bukovac My Life. The author and director of the screenplay is a talented Croatian middle-generation director Petra Radin.

All information related to the accompanying program are available on the website of the Art Pavilion.

The exhibition Vlaho Bukovac and Alexandre Cabanel – a historic encounter of pupil and teacher will be on view to the public from October 3, 2018, to January 6, 2019.