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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Kristian Kreković

The unknown queen?
Kristian Krekovic, 1938.
It's not at all uncommon in "discovering" artists about which to write that I come upon works with little or no titles, not to mention having no dates of completion. Occasionally, even the artist is in dispute. With portraits, that problem is a little more rare, but does sometimes occur, especially if the sitter is simply an unknown model. Never before however, have I found a painted portrait of a queen, and one from the 20th-century at that, in which the subject is in dispute. Until recently, the painting of the attractive monarch (left) was considered to be a 1938 portrait by the Croatian painter, Kristian Krekovic, of England's Queen Mother, born in 1900, who died in 2002 at the age of 102. However, despite the fact the painting is apparentlyh owned by the British government, and may, or may not, reside at Buckingham Palace (not on public display, in any case) a British expert on Croatian art, Lady Jadranka Njerš Beresford Peirse staunchly declares the portrait is definitely not that of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (below, left, the mother of England's Queen Elizabeth II).
The Queen Mother
by William Shawcross
In comparing the painting to a photo of the Queen Mother (left) from approximately the same year, there does appear to be a slight resemblance, but only slight. The hair, nose, and the jawline are all wrong. It would seem that either the painting is not who it's been purported to be, or it's a very bad portrait. If it is the Queen Mother, the artist certainly took excessive liberties to make her appear younger and more atteractive (not that such painted flattery is unheard of in royal portraits). Krekovic's biography does make reference to the artist returning to Europe from his home in Peru in the 1930s to paint various royals even mentioning the Queen Consort, Queen Elizabeth by name. But even though the portrait is quite "handsome" and appears worthy of a queen, the question arises, if it's not the Queen Mother, who is it? Needless to say, as European queens go, the possibilities are quite limited. Krekovic's drawings and paintings of his friend Mahatma Gandhi (below, left), from the same period, are undoubtedly the real thing.

Mahatma Gandhi, 1931,
Kristian Krekovic
Kristian Kreković,
1971, Self-portrait
Indios s pletenom kapom,
Kristian Kreković
Kristian Kreković was born in 1901 near the small town of Modriča, located in the norther part of what is now Bosnia Herzegovina, but then a part of Austria-Hungary. After WW I, Krekovic garnered his art training in Vienna and Paris, winning some degree of recognition for his work before he and his wife decided to move to Peru in 1930. They stayed for thirty-five years and, in fact, until after his death, he was better known (and appreciated) in Peru than in Europe. In 1955 the Peruvian Government sponsored an exhibit of Kreković's Incan-inspired work throughout the United States while the Peruvian city of Cuzco, made him an honorary citizen and presented him a gold medal as a tribute to their respect for his ethnographic paintings of their ancestors.

The Kredovic Museum, Majorca
Shortly before his death in 1985, Krekovic opened a museum named for him (above) and containing the main body of his work on the Mediterranean island of Majorca where he lived and painted the final twenty years of his life. Despite having been born in the Baltics, there was no love lost between Krekovic and his fellow countrymen. He spent the WW II years in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, where, after the war, he was arrested and tried by the Communists for having painted a portrait of the Croatian leader, Ante Pavelić. Despite his affront, when Krekovic referred to himself as Croatian-born Peruvian artist, the Yugoslav embassy in Peru was the first to protest.

20th Century Exodus, 1980s ,Kristian Krekovic
The Gift of King James I,
1971, Kristian, Kredovic,
Much of Krekovic's art doesn't look Yugoslavian, or Croatian, or even European. It's Peruvian, particularly Incan, thus Pre-Colummbian in appearance. It also has a touristy appearance which suggests that Krekovic's native Incans may have been more an effort to preserve his own financial well-being than to preserve, the Pre-Peruvian culture. That's not the case, however, when Krekovic returns to his history painting cultural roots as seen in his 20th-Century Exodus (above) from the 1970s. He depicts not Incans, but refugees from the social discords, jealousy, prejudice, and violence he could see boiling just beneath the centuries-old ethnic polyglot he'd grown up with. Of course we know now, all this eventually led to war, death, and destruction in the Baltic area which even Krekovic could not have imagined during the Balkan civil wars of the 1990s.

Pope John-Paul II, Kristian Krekovic,
suffering the little children to come unto him--the real key to peace.


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