Music, Still life
Lot 14AR
Zoran Antonio Music (Italian, 1909-2005) Cavallini
£18,000 - 25,000
US$ 29,000 - 40,000

Lot Details
Zoran Antonio Music (Italian, 1909-2005)
Cavallini
signed, inscribed and dated 'MUSIC/ Cavallini 1950' (lower centre); signed again, inscribed and dated 'MUSIC/ Cavallini/ olio 1950' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
33.7 x 41.7cm (13 1/4 x 16 7/16in).
Painted in 1950

Footnotes

  • The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Signora Ida Cadorin Barbariga Music, Venice, and is registered in the Music Archives under the number 010/2008.

    'These horses soundlessly moving against the dry brown hills have crisscrossed the walls of prehistoric caves. They are the horses of the beginning of recorded time [...] Older still, pre-existing all human recollection, is the landscape, reduced by age to a skeleton of stone. Its great endurance has made it the hero of Music's art, the theme to which he always returns' (M. Peppiatt, Music, exh. cat., 12 Duke Street Gallery, London, 1980, n.p.).

    The present work exemplifies Music's preoccupation with the landscape of his youth and in its very timelessness relates to the artist's personal experience of the Second World War.

    Music was born in Gorizia in the north-east frontier of Italy, at the time in Austrian territory and now part of Slovenia. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, and on graduation travelled to Spain until forced to flee at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936. He returned to the Dalmatian coast, painting views of the Karst Mountains which he had admired since childhood, and whose burnt and arid soil reminded him of his native Gorizia.

    He settled in Venice in 1943 and began to paint bright, light-infused views of the city and the surrounding lagoon. The sense of peace did not last, and in 1944 he was arrested for allegedly making contact with the Resistance and was deported to Dachau concentration camp. While interned he secretly committed to paper more than two hundred sketches of the horrors he encountered, an experience which was eventually to exert a lasting and powerful influence on his work. On liberation however he returned to Venice and initially to his pre-war subjects, without any overt acknowledgement of the traumatic experiences that he had suffered.

    A gradual change in style and a move towards abstraction can slowly be seen in his work from the 1950s. The horses are at first clearly recognisable, but slowly he allows details to disappear, leaving behind only the most essential elements. In Cavallini, the creatures are sparsely delineated and threaten to merge with the indistinct and barren landscape which surrounds them. The warm ambers and yellows of the artist's palette reflect the heat of the earth, and his economy of colour is relieved only by small scattered areas of pattern, a hint of the more fantastical horses of his later work.

    Just as Music distilled his technique down to its simplest elements, so too did the size of his canvases remain relatively modest, as in the present work. This reduction of elements can be read as a reaction to the war, as the artist himself later acknowledged:

    'Without Dachau, I would have been a merely illustrative painter. After Dachau, I had to go to the heart of things' (The artist quoted in M. Peppiatt, Zoran Music, exh. cat., Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 2000, p. 10).

    Dry paint is applied thinly in the present work, allowing the weave of the canvas to show through. Music felt that thickly applied pigment would distract the viewer, who should never be aware of the material existence of the painting. The roots of this technique may be found in the frescoes of the ancient churches Music encountered on his travels through Dalmatia, where he also admired the mosaics:

    '[They] must have made a lasting impact on me, because my painting has always remained flat, without volume or perspective' (op. cit., p. 32).

    Painting from his childhood memories rather than working from life or photographs, Music sought refuge in his unchanging and timeless landscapes, which remain unalterable in the face of changing seasons or the actions of man: 'like the landscapes in the Bible [...] I feel drawn by them. I don't know why. It's a need.' (op. cit., p. 32).
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