Josip Račić

Josip Račić

Self-portrait by Josip Račić

Autoportret (Self-portrait) by Josip Račić, (1908) Oil on canvas. 65.1×53.1 cm, Modern Gallery, Zagreb
Born 22 March 1885
Died 19 June 1908
Nationality Croatian
Education Zagreb, Vienna, Munich, Paris
Known for lithography, painting
Notable work paintings in oils and watercolour, drawings
Movement realism, modern

Josip Račić (22 March 1885 – 19 June 1908) was a Croatian painter in the early 20th century. Although he died very young (he was only 23), and his work was mostly created when a student, he is one of the best known of the modern Croatian painters. Today, Račić is regarded as one of the most important representatives of Croatian modern painting.[1]

He studied lithography in Zagreb, and 1904 he went to Vienna and Munich, where he studied for a year at the school of the Slovene painter and teacher Anton Ažbe, followed by 3 years at the prestigious Academy of Arts. There, Račić, along with Oskar Herman, Vladimir Becić and Miroslav Kraljević formed the group known as the Croatian School. In 1908, he went to Paris where he painted a series of watercolors and oils depicting Parisian bridges, avenues and parks. He died of a gunshot wound in a Paris hotel room in June 1908, having committed suicide.[2]

Josip Račić is one of the founders of modern Croatian art, the first to bring the concept of self-awareness and artistic integrity to his life and works, "pure painting", as he called it. A particular feature of his paintings is the strong dark realms of human spirituality. A retrospective of his work was held in the Modern Gallery in Zagreb and Dubrovnik in 2008-2009, to mark the 100th anniversary of the artist's death.[3]


Josip Račić was born on 22 March 1885 in Horvati, near Zagreb (today the area of Knežija and Srednjaci). From 1892 to 1896 he went to the lower town general elementary school for boys in Samostanska ulica in Zagreb (today called the Josip Juraj Strossmayer Elementary School).[4] His elementary school drawing master was the artist Oton Iveković.[2] From 1896 to 1900 he attended the Royal High School in Zagreb, which is now the home of the Mimara Museum.[4]

Račić learned the trade of lithography from 1900 to 1903 from Vladimir Rožankowsky, a master craftsman and owner of a lithographic studio in Zagreb. In 1904 he went to Munich to study at the School of Anton Ažbe[2] who very quickly noticed Račić’s talents and encouraged him to go on working and studying.[4] In 1905, Račić was briefly employed as a lithographic draughtsman in the firm of Deutsches Verlag R. Bong und Comp in Berlin, but later the same year returned to Munich and entered the Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied for three years (1905–1908) under such teachers as Johann and Ludwig Herterich, and Hugo von Habermann.[4] At that time Munich was a center of European art scene for realism, Post-Impressionism, Symbolism and Jugendstil.

Josip Račić, along with Oskar Herman, Vladimir Becić and Miroslav Kraljević, formed the group then known as Die Kroatische Schule (The Croatian School).[2] In Croatian art history they are referred to as the Munich Circle or the Munich Four.[5] Their work drew much on the painting of Wilhelm Leibl and Édouard Manet (whose work they had the opportunity to see in Munich in 1907) and of older masters, the works of Frans Hals, Goya and Velázquez. Josip Račić's own work displayed strong tonal architectural qualities, with marked fullness of form and a profound psychology in the figures.[4]

In 1908, Račić moved to Paris, where he copied works from the Louvre, painted parks, river bank and café scenes, portraits and self-portraits.

Josip Račić died of gunshot wounds in a Paris hotel room on 20 June 1908. He had committed suicide for reasons that still remain unclear.[4]


Josip Račić is considered one of the greatest enigmas of Croatian modern art.[1] From simple beginnings, he arrived in Munich, at that time one of the great creative centers of the European art scene, and found for himself inspiration in the paintings of Leibl, Manet and the Impressionists, and the tradition of Velázquez and Rembrandt.[6] According to Miroslav Krleža, Račić was one of the first pioneers of the Munich Academy of art, his attitude is certainly important as the Leibl phenomenon in the history of German painting.[7]

The early 20th century saw great changes in European art, and Croatian art was also taking on a new form. The Munich Four were part of the new direction, especially "J. Račić and M. Kraljević, who in their short lives succeeded in creating works pivotal to the continued development of art".[8]

"Do not be in any doubt as to Račić's inherent artistic sensibility and the authenticity of his power to think. (...) Račić's painting is at the top the end of the development of traditional realism in the broad sense of the word. Oriented toward Manet, the idealized Goya and focused shaping of forces: the true pictorial interpretation of emotions. His work certainly stands above all" Radoslav Putar[9][10]

Račić's work is extremely important for the birth of the Croatian modern art and its incorporation into European trends of modern painting.[11]

The Josip Račić Modern Gallery Studio in Zagreb is named in honour of the artist. It is associated with the Modern Gallery, and is dedicated to the presentation of the works of Croatian contemporary artists.[3]


Works by Josip Račić are on display in the Modern Gallery in Zagreb[3] as part of its permanent collection.


Majka i dijete (Mother and Child) by Josip Račić, (1908) oil on canvas (90,2x68,4 cm)

Online exhibit of his works:

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Josip Račić - A Retrospective Exhibition". Dubrovnik: Museum of Modern Art, Dubrovnik. April 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2010. In many people’s opinion the biggest talent in the history of modern Croatian painting, Josip Račić lived a mere twenty three years. Hence his oeuvre is relatively small, but it made an enormous mark and exerted a great influence on Croatian painting.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Račić, Josip, Hrvatski Leksikon (in Croatian), II, Zagreb: Naklada Leksikon d.o.o., 1997, p. 337, ISBN 953-96728-0-5, ISBN 953-96728-2-1
  3. 1 2 3 "Modern Gallery". Zagreb: Modern Gallery. Retrieved 15 June 2010. Račić is one of the most important representatives of Croatian Modernist painting
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Josip Račić Retrospective". Kunstaspekte Internationale. 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  5. "Društva povjesničara umjetnosti" [Croatian Society of Art Historians] (in Croatian). Zagreb, Croatia. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  6. Nikolina Vrekalo (September 2004). "Slikar s aurom tihe svjetlosti" [Painter with an Aura of Quiet Light] (in Croatian). Croatia: Vjesnik Online. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  7. Miroslav Krleža, “O smrti slikara Josipa Račića”, Književnik, br. 8, 1928., str. 279-281
  8. "Croatian Art History". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  9. Radoslav Putar, “Pedeset godina poslije slikareve smrti. Račićev početak”, Narodni list, br. 4032, 1958., str. 4.
  10. 1 2 Petar Prelog (March 2008). "Povodom stote godišnjice smrti Josipa Račića" [Marking the 100th Anniversary of the Death of Josip Račić] (in Croatian). Zagreb: Društva povjesničara umjetnosti Hrvatske (Association of Croatian Art Historians). p. 3. Retrieved 15 June 2010. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of the painter Josip Račić (1885-1908), and in anticipation of the publication of his monograph from the manuscripts of Grgo Gamulin, the text presents several selected passages which give evidence of Račić’s key position in the history of Croatian modernist painting
  11. 1 2 "Opening of the Josip Račić Retrospective". Croatia. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  12. "Adris Gallery". Rovinj. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
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