Painter and writer Jozo Kljaković was born in Solin near Split on March 10, 1889. He finished secondary school in Split in 1908, after which he studied mathematics and physics in Zagreb. He then went to Prague and Vienna, where he studied architecture at a polytechnic college. He soon devoted himself to painting under the influence of Vlaho Bukovac, and acquired his artistic skill first in Geneva under Ferdinand Hodler, and then in Vienna at various art museums. In 1911, he went to Rome to attend the Institute of Fine Arts, and later began to study Florentine art in early 1912. In the Académie Ranson in Paris in the 1920s, he finally concluded his education with Maurice Denis and Marcel Lenoira, refining his skill in fresco-painting.
Politically, in the First World War, he advocated the creation of the Yugoslav state and fled to Serbia in 1912, avoiding mandatory military service in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. After briefly living in Serbia until 1915 as an art instructor, he went to Paris and Geneva, where he remained until the end of the First World War, and then moved to Zagreb for an extended period. In Zagreb, he was granted a post as a professor of wall and decorative painting at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts, where he worked from 1921 until his emigration in 1943. Together with Ivan Meštrović, Kljaković was the central figure of the Zagreb Circle’s art school in the interwar period. As a distinguished public intellectual, in 1934 he signed the Zagreb Memorandum in which he sought the federalization of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after assassination of King Alexander I Karađorđević.
After the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia, Kljaković was arrested and interned between October 1941 and February 1942 due to his political past and Yugoslav orientation. He went to Rome in 1943, where he lived until 1947, when he went to Buenos Aires. He returned to Rome in 1956. At that time, he was vice-president of the St. Jerome Fraternity for Assistance to Croatian Refugees in the post-war era. His second stay in Rome lasted from 1956 to 1968, when he finally returned to Zagreb. Kljaković did not dare to return to the country immediately after the war because of his criticisms of Tito's regime and socialist Yugoslavia, but also due to his pro-democratic positions and highly developed religious art.
However, just before his death, when he was old and blind, he decided to return to his own country and die there. There was a process of so-called “liberalization” in the 1960s, and Kljaković no longer had to fear for his life as much as in the initial post-war years. Croatian sculptor Antun Augustinčić, who studied under Kljaković at the Academy of Arts, deserved the most credit for his return. In his letter to Augustinčić dated May 13, 1967, Kljaković explicitly stated that his decision to return to Croatia was crucially influenced by two external events: the Brijuni Plenum and the resignation of Aleksandar Ranković in 1966, one of Tito's main associates, and the Protocol in that same year which established formal relations between the Vatican and Tito's Yugoslavia ad led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states.
Because of these political reversals, Kljaković hoped that the "evolution of our communists" had progressed, and he wanted to finally return to his homeland (Kljaković 2018: 111). His return to the country was strictly censored by the regime and Kljaković's funeral was organized under its strict control without a church ceremony. He died in Zagreb on October 1, 1969, at age of 80.
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Metropolitan City of Rome, Rome, Italy
- Općina Solin, Solin, Croatia
- Zagreb, Croatia
Eva Kmentová was a Czech sculptor. She graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague in 1951 and the following year married her fellow student, the sculptor Olbram Zoubek. She had her first solo exhibition in 1963 at the Aleš Hall – Gallery of Young Artists. However, after 1968 she was a banned artist and could only exhibit her work occasionally, usually in small galleries outside of Prague. In addition to sculpture, Kmentová also created drawings, objects and installations. Her work tended to reflect the theme of carnality, which she interpreted in an original way – she emphasized touching the body, haptic perception, the injuring and fragmentation of the body. Amongst her favourite techniques were printing and casting.
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Milan Knížák is a Czech artist, musician and performer. His works cover a broad range of activities – art, architecture, fashion, design, music, poetry, photography or action art. His first exhibition took place in 1958 in Mariánské Lázně. Since the beginning of the 1960s, he started with performance art – happenings – and realised several installations in Prague. Knížák and his friends founded a group called “Aktuální umění” (Actual Art), later known as “Aktual”, in 1963. It was a group of young artists focusing on new forms and action art, and one of its goals was to connect art and common life. The group published samizdat magazine of the same name, in addition to newspapers and flyers and as well as organising street events, exhibitions and happenings. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) between 1963 and 1964, though did not finished his studies. He then became a member of the Union of Visual Artists in 1965. He was registered as an “unwanted” person by the State Security a year later. In 1967, he founded a music group also called “Aktual” in Mariánské Lázně. Jindřich Chalupecký, an art and literary critic, mediated contact between Knížák and the movement Fluxus; this lead to Georg Macinaus inviting Knížák to travel to the United States, where he attended events organised by the movement in 1968. In 1970, Knížák returned to Czechoslovakia and renewed the music group Aktual, which significantly influenced the Czechoslovak underground and music groups such as The Plastic People of the Universe, DG 307 and Umělá hmota.
During the 1970s, he was followed by the State Security and arrested several times. By the end of the 1970s, he was allowed to travel to Western Germany and Austria, where he gave lectures and created art. He became the rector of the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) after 1989 and director of the National Gallery in Prague between 1999 and 2011. He gives lectures at both Czech and foreign universities, has organised dozens of group and individual exhibitions in the Czech Republic and abroad and has written several books. Knížák’s opinions, his activities as the director of the National Gallery and some of his contemporary works have also caused controversies, some of which have led to lawsuits.
- Mariánské Lázně, Czech Republic
- New York, United States
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Edvard Kocbek was born in Sveti Juraj ob Ščavnici, near Maribor, in the province of Styria (Slovenia) on 27 September 1904. He was a Slovenian poet, essayist, writer and translator who, as a Christian Socialist, joined the Revolutionary Front and the Slovene Partisans under the leadership of the communists in the Second World War. He completed his secondary education in Maribor, after which he spent two years studying theology in the seminary. After leaving the seminary, he enrolled with a major in French language and literature at the University of Ljubljana. During his studies, he went to the Humboldt University in Berlin, where he attended lectures by German theologian and philosopher Romano Guardini. After completing the studies during the 1930s, he spent some time in France, where he met Emanuel Mounier and the circle around the French magazine L' Esprit. In 1936, he returned to Slovenia and began teaching French. Throughout his studies, he was a member of the Christian left, and in 1937, backing the Republican side in Spain, he expressed his opposition to the support of Slovene Catholics for General Franco in his writing. This move created a division in the Slovene Catholic movement, and his stance on the Spanish Civil War were condemned by Bishop Gregorij Rožman. Before the Second World War, as a Christian socialist, Kocbek principally condemned the communists, but in spite of that fact, he and his Christian Socialist group later joined the communists, particularly during the war, when they were unified within the framework of the Slovenian National Front.
After the war, he held several posts in the new communist regime in Slovenia and Yugoslavia, but he did not have any real power; thus, in the first Tito-Šubašić government, he was the minister for Slovenia. He came into conflict with the regime in 1951 when he published a collection of short stories entitled Strah in pogum (Fear and Courage), in which he critically dealt with the moral conduct of the Slovene and Yugoslav Partisans during the war. This is why he was placed in isolation and under the strict control of secret service (UDBA), and was forbidden from any public activity or writing. To survive, he translated French and German literature. He paid special attention to writing poetry at those times when he was banned from public life, which was highly regarded as the greatest achievement of Slovenian modernist poetry.
Though he was not imprisoned at that time, he was repeatedly interrogated by the secret police, while his home was wired with microphones. Several years before his death in 1975, Slovenian writers Boris Pahor and Alojz Rebula published Kocbek's interview in the Trieste review Zaliv (The Gulf) under the title “Edvard Kocbek – pričevalec našega časa” (Edvard Kocbek - a witness to our time). What the communist authorities found controversial in this interview was Kocbek's statement about the liquidation of 12,000 Slovene Home Guardsmen (domobranci) after the end of the war by the Partisans, which was the first public mention of these events after the end of the war. Kocbek also pointed out that from the very beginning of the war, communist terror against non-communist groups within the Slovenian National Front continued. There was a fierce campaign waged by the regime media against Kocbek, but ultimately he was not prosecuted thanks of international pressure, since Kocbek enjoyed a reputation as a great poet and writer.
- Ljubljana , Slovenia