I came across the work of the late Croatian painter Ivan Generalic (1914-1992) recently. I had never heard of him but was instantly pulled in by his easily palatable work. It was colorful and had simple forms that fit the eye easily. Muscular bare trees under beautifully graded skies of rich color. Thick peasants and cows among simple square houses. Golden fields with each stalk of grain painted individually. It reminded me both of the gorgeous flora of Henri Rousseau’s paintings and the peasant scenes of Brueghel but still spoke in its own voice. Simple yet not.
Generalic was considered a Naive Painter. I never quite know what to make when I hear that term, whether it is disparaging or simply describing the form. By definition, much of my own work is naive although I seldom refer to it in that way. By naive, I mean that I often disregard many of the elements of classical realism such as true perspective or the fading of color and detail over distance. Plus I often leave out shadows and may have several light sources within a picture. But it was never studied. To me it is simply painting as I see things in my mind, translating them on a surface in a way that makes sense. Maybe that is why I am drawn to the work of people like Ivan Generalic who seem to make this translation seem so simple and elegant..
One of the ways I judge work of other painters now is to pull up a Google Images page of their work. You can get a real sense of their work in this quick overview, seeing all of the paintings together playing off of each other. It gives you a core feel for it, what it was really about. This definitely worked for Generalic, as you can see below. There’s is a real sense of fullness and purpose in the work. Certainty.
We don’t hear much about Croatian painters like Generalic here or even many Naive painters in general, which is our loss. I find his work beautiful and intriguing and am glad to have stumbled across it.