Naïve Art in Hlebine, Croatia

#interpretation #heritage #travel #culture #Hlebine #Podravina #NaïveArt

Some places are reluctant to reveal themselves to travellers

1.5h from Zagreb

Imagine the situation: You are driving a car out of town. You have time, it is early morning and the sun is still low on the horizon. It is late summer and the colours are still intense, although due to the drought and heat you can see yellow and brown spots here and there in the landscape that surrounds you. Meadows and pastures look fresh and I open the window to breathe fresh air. On the edge of a pasture is a forest. From the road I don’t know whether it is the limit you can walk to or is the forest inviting me to enter. Except for the cars on the road there is no one anywhere, no people no animals, not even birds. The bending road is not difficult to drive, but it is clear that you are already somewhere. That the road is local. It takes you through one village after another. From the car the villages look neat, the houses have their faces turned away from the road, they don’t look at passers-by. And they don’t want you to watch them. House by house and you are already out again and driving through the picturesque landscape again. You did not feel the need to stop in the village because it seems that the village has no desire to invite you to stop. You keep wondering what kind of region it is, who lives here, what kind of people? What do they do and how do they live? You don’t see large fields and pastures from the road, everything is somehow moderate. An here comes the next village. The sun is already high above your head, you want to stop somewhere, but there is no space to stop the car. Along both sides of the road is a ditch with a small green bridge for a vehicle belonging to the homeowners. Ditches, as if defending a castle! Then we passed a church! We’ve seen a lot of them so far so this one seems to be more recent as well. For us, the 19th century is recent! It seems that in this village, beside private family houses, there are other facilities. A shop, a school, a gallery. We can stop in front of the store, but it is already very hot, we would rather be somewhere in the shade! But it is nowhere to be found. It would be nice to stop somewhere, get to know the area and the people, but we pass and leave the village.

This would have been a probable scenario if the Walk through the Naïve Art in Hlebine , Croatia had not stopped us and kept us there for nearly whole day.

Walking through the Naïve Art in Hlebine, Croatia

Or – how one specific event, in a specific place (Hlebine, Croatia) and on a specific date (the last weekend in August) can make you stop and get to know the region and the people. A great example of heritage interpretation!

You all heard of Naïve art, naive artists, Ivan Generalić, and his son Josip, Mirko Virius and Ivan Večenaj, Martin Mehkek, Ivan Lacković Croata…  Does this series of genrations have an end? Unfortunately, yes. The number of young people continuing the tradition is small.

What began as an experiment by Krsto Hegedušić, a young and enthusiastic Croatian artist in the early 1930s, what then became a world sensation in the late 1950s and lasted until almost the 1990s seems to be ending. Moreover, in that period, I would say, something like a time capsule was created. The Croatian village of Hlebine is the cradle of Croatian naive art. Here, Krsto Hegedušić drew strong creative individuals, Ivan Generalić and Franjo Mraz out from the popular communal creativity and, with basic instruction in painting techniques, enabled them to express themselves creatively and freely in their own artistic style, which we now call Croatian Naive Art. For us, curious passers-by, such events provide an opportunity to enrich ourselves personally. I don’t mean here a financial investment in buying paintings, although that is possible too, of course. When traveling, we rarely come across the possibility to jump into the “shoes” of a local man, and this particular aspect of local art provides that kind of opportunity. To feel like insiders. We didn’t just go through the village with a vague impression of the landscape. We stopped, entered the houses of artists and collectors, talked to the authors of the paintings.

The landscapes we followed along the road now takes on a deeper meaning. It is a home of the local people; the land, and the forest that feeds them. They are an inexhaustible inspiration to them, in all seasons. Looking painting after painting, we “walk through the year” and we “walk through the annual customs,” and we walk through generations.

And we see how people of Hlebine also changed their view of the world. The world painted by Ivan Generalić is very different from the one painted by the 3rd generation of naive artists. It does not mean that each of them does not convey the spirit of their time. Generalić’s paintings clearly tell us about the cruelty, love and grotesque of life. Just as we would describe today the period from 1930 until after the Second World War. Modern naive artists, I would say, are enjoying their village, the region and their lives now. From the motives, we get to know the everyday and holiday village life, and when the brush plays, the myth unconsciously comes to the canvas, and magic is created.

Thanks to the Tourist Board of Central Podravina and the Craft Stari Zanati, with the support of the Municipality of Hlebine, the Museum of the City of Koprivnica and the Tourist Board of Podravina and Prigorje, you will walk from house to house getting to know the spirit and heart of Hlebine. The walk leads from the Crafts Stari Zanati, and during the walk, you will meet and see the works of art, collections and ethno collections of Zlatko Kolarek and Radmila Bošnjak-Kolarek, Nadica Pakasin-Petrić, Stjepan Pongrac, Branko Matina, Nadica Belec.

Just when you thought you had mastered it, two exceptional exhibition spaces await you: the Gallery of Naive Art and the home of Ivan and Josip Generalić with the farm, gallery and the old house of Ivan Generalić.

And finally: Let this walk be enriched with creative contributions, it doesn’t matter at all that there are no cafes, restaurants, inns, hotels and apartments for rent anywhere. For those who want to finish the program with a meal and drinks, you need to turn next to the church and approximately 5 minutes away there is a picnic area Grofova Hiža. Needless to say, the owner is a naive artist.

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