Emanuel Vidović was one of the most famous and greatest Croatian painters, born in Split in 1870 and died in Split in 1953. During his life, from 1887 when he stared painting, until the death in 1953, it is believed that Vidovic made more than 3.000 paintings. Though he used to, literally, destroy many of his artworks he did not appreciate, after each solo exhibition, a great opus of about 1,000 paintings, sketches, drawings and caricatures, has been preserved. It is also supposed that a great number of his paintings is still held in private collections all over the world, but unrevealed, probably because the collectors themselves do not know whom to attribute them to. Vidovic indeed, did not sign many of his paintings and the lack of the worldwide visibility of his artworks, made his art mostly unknown to the large public. Emanuel Vidovic is famous, mainly, as the landscape painter. The majority of his masterpieces are landscapes and motifs from Venice, Chioggia, Split and Trogir. Nevertheless, his still lifes, interiors of his ateliers and interiors of the churches in Split and Trogir, mainly the Post-Impressionist Intimism paintings, are equally contained within his masterpieces of art collection. Emanuel Vidovic’s masterpiece from 1906, the monochromatic “Angelus”, is the first painting of Croatian Modern Art, and, most probably, the anticipation of European Abstract Art.
Though he studied at the “Accademia di Belle Arti” in Venice, Emanuel Vidović was a self-taught painter. The conservative approach at the Venetian Academy made him abandon the studies already at the early beginnings and forced him to take his own path to become a painter. Emanuel Vidovic did not have a proper painting education and did not have an opportunity of staying in Paris, Vienna or Munchen. “His stays in Venice and Milan, though, Italian art centers, brought him in touch with the newest trends in modern Italian painting, which did not lag as far behind the streams in German or French art, as it was once erroneously believed. He enthusiastically studied the work of the Late Romantic painters, the “veristi”, the “macchiaioli” and the post-impressionists, understanding them all but copying no one. He built his own foundations on which his characteristic and authentic artistic expression was to grow.” (Nela Žižić). His stay in Milan brought him in contact with Italian divisionists from whom he learned the new technique of dot painting, soon adapting it to suit his own vision. Apart from the individual and original art of Giovanni Segantini (whose divisionism technique will briefly inspire Vidovic), all the other "influences" derive from Italian “macchiaioli” and Venetian landscape painters, classics Guardi and Canaletto and Vidovic contemporaries Ettore Tito, Giacomo Favretto and Pietro Fragiacomo. “Emanuel Vidović was also profoundly affected by Split cultural scene. As member of the Literary and Arts Club that gathered elite Croatian intellectuals, literary figures, painters, architects and musicians, Vidović was in touch with contemporary art streams that came to Split, largely from secessionist Vienna. We must also not ignore the fact that until 1912 Vidović regularly travelled to Italy and visited Venice Biennale where he witnessed the new developments in European art. We know that on his visits to Biennale he was particularly delighted by Whistler’s nocturnal scenes and, generally, by dusky landscape motifs, so frequently found in late 19th century painting.” (Nela Žižić). Emanuel Vidovic is associated with a number of painting styles: Impressionism, Divisionism, Symbolism, Art Nouveau, Modern art, Abstract Art, Expressionism and Post-Impressionist Intimism. Though having an impact on his painting, Vidovic has always adopted his own version of each of them, developing an original and unique art, which can’t be described in other words rather than “Vidovic painting style”. His uniqueness, originality and most of all, unpredictability, make a hard work for the art historians to set Vidovic within the most common art boundaries. Using many painting techniques; from oil to pencil, from tempera to gouache, from pastel to watercolour, and combining them in different occasions, as well as surprising constantly with new and original painting styles and motifs, is probably what makes Emanuel Vidovic one of the kind in the World’s history of Art.
Apart from his contribution to art in general, Emanuel Vidovic is also known for promoting and developing the artistic and cultural life in Split and in Croatia. Since the beginning of the 20th century, he was one of the most agile members of the “Literary and Arts Club”, involving a great number of Dalmatian intellectuals, writers, painters, architects and sculptors, gathered to promote the art and cultural life in Split alongside the European streams. With his caricatures, exhibited already in 1901, Vidovic is the founder of the caricature in Split and in Dalmatia. Together with World famous sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, Emanuel Vidovic was the co-founder and the soul of the "Croatian Art Society Medulić", which organized many art exhibitions in homeland and abroad. Within his role at “Medulić”, he was also the initiator of founding the “Gallery of Fine Arts” in Split, which would actually arrive only in 1931, long time after the disintegration of the art society. Together with Ante Katunaric and Virgil Meneghello-Dincic, other two painters from Split, Vidovic was the co-founder of the satiric magazine “Duje Balavac”. This trio had also a leading role in organizing the famous carnivals in Split in the period prior to the World War I. Later, as the teacher at the “Crafts and Arts School” in Split, he will have the opportunity to educate and influence many of the upcoming young painters and artists in Croatia.
Since his childhood, Emanuel Vidovic had a rich and, from time to time, happy and distressed life as well. When he was only 6 years old, his father Ivan died. After abandoning the “Venetian Academy of Fine Arts”, for many years of his stay in Italy, he was hungry and homeless. Despite many difficulties, in 1895 in Chioggia he met an Italian girl, love of his life, Amalia Baffo, who will actually become his wife and mother of their 9 children. In spite of the happiness of a large family, they lived modestly, mostly in poorness and at the edge of existence. Vidovic, with his art work only, was unable at the time to secure enough financial assets to “feed” the family. This was the main reason why they had to move frequently, from Split to Chioggia, from Chioggia to Solin, from Solin to Split, and from one apartment to the other, mostly against their own will. When Vidovic finally found a job as a substitute art teacher at the high school in Split, accused of hitting the “Italian separatist” police officer, shortly he remained unemployed again. In 1919, his ninth and last child Igor, died of “Spanish flu” when he was only 3 years old. This would put the painter into a great depression, which would last probably until the end of his own life. During the World War II, he refused to exhibit his paintings at the Italian “Split Art Exhibition”, held in the center of the occupied city. At the age of 72, the Italian authorities punished him for non-obedience, settling him and his family in a smaller apartment. Despite his opposition, dozen of his paintings were exposed at the “Biennale” in Venice. Though the paintings were exhibited against his will, after the War he was accused and persecuted by the authorities of the new-formed Yugoslavian state. Moreover, his art was not in line with the new needs: dolls, wooden horses, saints and churches did not match the requirements of the post-war society. Thus, he was often marginalised whereas his work and art were minimised and espoused to critics. Finally, in 1950 he slipped in front of his house and broke the femur, the reason why he spent the last 3 years of his life tied down to his bed. Despite it all, Emanuel Vidovic has never stopped painting. He died with the brushes in his hand and a “still life with Torso” in front of him, the last painting awaiting him to be completed.
In his entire life, Vidovic had never liked authorities and paid little of his attention to the critics as well. Already at the early beginnings, when he abandoned the “Academy” in Venice, he received the invitation for the enrolment at the Hungaro-Austrian army, which he firmly rejected, risking a permanent restriction to return back home in Split. Stubborn as he was, and committed to become a painter, he put everything at risk to reach his goal. Emanuel Vidovic was also a patriot. At the beginning of the 20th century, he fought against the pretentions of the Italian separation of Dalmatia, for which he was accused of hitting the “Italian separatist” police officer and lost his job at the public school. Later on, during the World War II and the Italian occupation of Split, he refused twice to participate at the exhibitions arranged by the Italians, in his own city and at the “Biennale” in Venice. As the punishment for the non-obedience, he and his family, were evicted from their home and moved to a smaller, old flat. After the War, with the rise of the new society, when he was supposed to paint according to the new needs of art, he continued to depict his motifs. Instead of scenes that were supposed to encourage the socialism, labour and working class, Vidovic continued to paint his dolls, wooden toys, saints and churches. Being “out of the lines”, he was marginalised and espoused to critics. In spite of it, never in his life he did what he was told to do, putting always everything at risk to maintain his conviction of what art had to be. Emanuel Vidović made a great number of paintings with motif of Split and Trogir, but he was never their illustrator. Many square meters of his canvases were painted sometimes, perhaps, casually, but none was a mere illustration for patriotic citizens or a souvenir for tourists. Each of his landscapes and motifs included always his idea and his individual look. He never made a painting just to sell it and actually destroyed many of his works he was even merely unsatisfied with. Though many of his paintings reflected lyric, melancholic, mystic and/or “darker” atmosphere, Emanuel Vidović was actually a happy person who enjoyed staying in company, liked humour and preferred a good and abundant meal. Above all, he was a family man, a great father and a devoted husband.
As during his life, as after his death, for many decades, Emanuel Vidovic, one of the best Croatian painters, was a victim of an unjust minorisation and marginalisation espoused by a number of Croatian art critics. It was art historian, Igor Zidić, who showed in the retrospectives held in 1971, 1982 and 1987 that Vidović was one of the precursors of Croatian modern art and a moving spirit that inspired the modernisation of Croatian painting before the 1950s. In 2006, finally, after 20 years of struggling to obtain a proper space, Emanuel Vidovic Gallery, a memorial center dedicated to life and work of the painter, was open in Split city center. Still today, we are committed to show what Emanuel Vidovic has to offer to the collection of European and World Art history.