Vera Dajht-Kralj

1928Dugo Selo, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes | 2014Zagreb, Croatia
Vera Dajht-Kralj — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Vera Dajht-Kralj behind her relief for movie theatre interior of the correctional facility for women, Požega, Croatia, 1963, courtesy Živi Atelje DK

Croatian sculptor, potter and art educator.

Vera Dajht-Kralj spent her childhood against the backdrop of the turbulent years before the Second World War. Her Jewish family escaped the Ustashe regime, but ended up in Italian camps from which they were eventually released. V. Dajht-Kralj graduated in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1950 where she finished her master workshops under the supervision of acclaimed sculptors Frano Kršinić (1897-1982) and Antun Augustinčić (1900-1979). She pursued additional training in Paris at the Académie des Beaux-Arts between 1952 and 1953.

The artist created works of all scales in the realm of fine and applied arts, using a range of materials and colours, while tackling the themes of love, desire, freedom and courage. Her sculptures are often described as poetic, metaphorical, archaic and eclectic as she drew inspiration from other art periods. The experiments and ideas that preoccupied her – spatial relationships between sculptures and their surroundings, empty spaces within sculptures, peculiar colour palettes, ornate metamorphoses – were always elaborated through meticulous preliminary drawings.

V. Dajht-Kralj was one of the few women artists that realised public monuments commemorating the People’s Liberation Struggle in Croatia. One such example, Spomenik palim borcima Druge moslavačke brigade i Posavskog partizanskog odreda [Monument and ossuary for the fallen fighters of the second Moslavina Brigade and Posavina Partisan’s Detachment, 1958] in Oborovo, Croatia, reveals her tendency towards the creation of active social spaces in public art. By placing the figures in the pool, rather than on a classic pedestal, the artist diminished the symbolic barriers between the sculpture and passers-by. Her sculptures, such as Prozor [Window] from 1991, were often entirely immersed in the commotion of daily life, communicating closely with their environment.

Conversely, her smaller scale sculptures remained deeply personal and enigmatic, depicting lovers, friendships, family and ancestry. Some of these projects were developed consistently over decades, such as the series Kuća predaka [Ancestral house], which she worked on from the 1980s, through which she devised her own imagery of home as an idea.

V. Dajht-Kralj exhibited her works regularly in group and solo exhibitions, at home and abroad, but had remained only partially recognised by the canon for various reasons, one of which was undoubtedly her resistance to follow dominant artistic paths. However, the persistent work of a non-profit organization Živi Atelje Dajht-Kralj / Living Atelier DK housed in her old studio has shed new light on her career through continuous research, public events, publications and a digitised archive. One of its biggest achievements is certainly the posthumous exhibition Beyond Visible: The Public Sculpture of Vera Dajht-Kralj that took place in October 2018 at the Croatian Museum of Architecture HAZU. The exhibition provided a fresh reading of Dajht-Kralj’s work, which brought to the fore her important role within the 20th-century Croatian art.

Ana Ćurić & Petra Šarin

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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