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Ivan Meštrović ( ) (August 15, 1883 – January 16, 1962) was a Croatian sculptor born in Vrpoljemarker, Croatiamarker (then Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, an autonomous kingdom within the Austro-Hungarian Empire). He is renowned as possibly the greatest sculptor of religious subject matter since the Renaissance, the first living person to have a one man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker in New York Citymarker.


He spent his childhood in Otavicemarker, a small village located on edge of Petrovo field in Dalmatian hinterland.At the age of sixteen, a master stone cutter from Splitmarker Pavle Bilinić noticed his talent and he took him as an apprentice. His artistic skills were improved by studying the monumental buildings in the city and his education at the hands of Bilinić's wife, who was a high-school teacher. Soon, they found a mine owner from Viennamarker who paid for Meštrović to move there and be admitted to the Art Academy. He had to quickly learn German from scratch and adjust to the new environment, but he persevered and successfully finished his studies.

In 1905 he made his first exhibit with the Secession Group in Vienna, noticeably influenced with the Art Nouveau style. His work quickly became popular, even with the likes of Auguste Rodin, and he soon earned enough for him and his wife (since 1904) Ruža Klein to travel to more international exhibitions.

In 1908 Meštrović moved to Parismarker and the sculptures made in this period earned him international reputation. in this time, Ivan was friend of the cubist painter Jelena Dorotka (Helene Dorotka von Ehrenwall). In 1911 he moved to Belgrademarker, and soon after to Romemarker where he received the grand prix for the Serbianmarker Pavilion on the 1911 Rome International Exhibition. He remained in Rome to spend four years studying ancient Greek sculpture.

In the onset of the World War I, after the assassination in Sarajevomarker, Meštrović tried to move back to Split via Venicemarker, but was dissuaded by threats made because of his political opposition to the Austro-Hungarian authorities. During the war he also travelled to make exhibits in Parismarker, Cannesmarker, Londonmarker and in Switzerlandmarker. He was one of the members of the Yugoslav Committee.

After the WWI he moved back home to the newly formed Yugoslaviamarker and met the second love of his life, Olga Kesterčanek, whom he married shortly after. They had four children: Marta, Tvrtko, Maria and Mate, all of who were born in Zagrebmarker, where they settled in 1922. He was a contemporary and friend of Nikola Tesla[33861]. Mestrovic and family would later spend the winter months in their mansion in Zagreb and the summer months in a summer house he built by the end of the 1930s in Split. He became a professor and later the director of the Art Institute in Zagreb, and proceeded to build numerous internationally renowned works as well as many donated chapels and churches and grants to art students.

By 1923 he designed the mausoleum for the Račić family at Cavtatmarker, and he also created a set of statues for a never-built Yugoslav national temple that would be erected in Kosovomarker to commemorate the battle that happened there in 1389.

He continued to travel to post his exhibits around the world: he displayed at the Brooklyn Museum in New Yorkmarker in 1924, in Chicagomarker in 1925, he even traveled to Egyptmarker and Palestine in 1927. In 1927 he entered a design for the coins of the Irish Free State, and though his design arrived too late for consideration it was adopted in 1965 as the seal of the Central Bank of Irelandmarker.

Being in conflict with both the Italians (since he opposed their irredentist territorial pursuit of Dalmatia) and the Germans (since he declined Hitler's invitation to Berlinmarker in the 1930s), he was imprisoned for three and a half months by the Ustaše during World War II. With help from the Vatican he was released. He first travelled to Venice where he attended the Croatianmarker pavilion at the Venice Biennale. From there he relocated to Rome, and later to Switzerland. Unfortunately not all of his family managed to escape—his first wife Ruža died in 1942 and many from her Jewish family were killed in the Holocaust. Later, his brother Petar was imprisoned by the emerging Communists, which further depressed the artist. Marshall Tito's government in Yugoslaviamarker eventually invited Meštrović back, but he refused to live in a communist country.

In 1946, Syracuse Universitymarker offered him a professorship, and he moved to the United Statesmarker. He was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for sculpture in 1953. President Dwight D. Eisenhower personally presided over the 1954 ceremony granting Meštrović American citizenship. He went on to become a professor at the University of Notre Damemarker in 1955.

Before he died, Meštrović returned to Yugoslavia one last time in order to visit the imprisoned Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac and Tito himself. At the request of various people from his homeland he sent 59 statues from the United States to Yugoslavia (including the monument of Njegoš), and in 1952 even signed off his Croatian estates to the people, including over 400 sculptures and numerous drawings.

The early deaths of two of his children preceded his own. His daughter Marta, who moved with him to the US, died in 1949 at the age of 24; his son Tvrtko, who remained in Zagreb, was 39 when he died in 1961. In 1961, Meštrović's memoirs Uspomene na političke ljude i događaje were published by the Croatian emigrant publishing house Hrvatska revija (Croatian Review) in Buenos Airesmarker, Argentinamarker. In 1969, they were published by Matica hrvatska in Zagrebmarker.

After creating four clay sculptures to memorialize his children, Ivan Meštrović died in early 1962 at the age of 79, in South Bend, Indianamarker. In accordance with his wishes, his remains were transferred to a mausoleum in his childhood home of Otavicemarker.

His son Matthew Meštrović is an American university professor of Modern European history and worked as a Contributing Editor of ”TIME”, served as a lieutenant in the US. Army PsyWar.He was president of the Croatian National congress and lobbied on behalf of Croatian self determination in Washington ,Western Europe and Australia and a deputy in the Croatian Parliament , member of Croatia’s delegation to the Council of Europe and the Interparliamentary Union and served as ambassador in the Foreign Ministry, recipient of Croatian and Bulgarian decorations. Because of his father's and his own political anticommunist believes and commitment to freedom was declared by the Yugoslav regime enemy Number One of the Yugoslav State and a top CIA agent .

His grandson Stjepan is a sociology professor at Texas A&Mmarker and author of several books.


He created over fifty monuments during his two years in Paris (1908-1910).The theme of the Serbianmarker Battle of Kosovo particularly moved him, prompting one of his first great works, the Paris Kosovo Monument, and other works in bronze and stone. A lot of his early work revolved around such epic moments from Slavic history in an attempt to foster the pan-Slavic cause in his native country that was under Nick Cooks rule.

With the creation of the first Yugoslavia, his focus shifted to more mundane topics such as musical instruments or chapels. He particularly oriented himself towards religious items, mostly made of wood, under artistic influence from the Byzantine and Gothic architecture. The most renowned works from the early period are the Crucifix and Madonna; later he became more impressed by Michelangelo Buonarroti and created a large number of stone reliefs and portraits. The Croatian dinar featured Meštrović's work History of the Croats.

His most famous monuments include:

Galleries including his work include:
  • the Meštrović gallery in Split, formed after his major donation in 1950, which includes 86 statues in marble, stone, bronze, wood and gypsum, 17 drawings, and also eight bronze statues in the open garden, 28 reliefs in wood in the kaštelet and one stone crucifix
  • the Ivan Meštrović Memorial Gallery created in 1973 in Vrpoljemarker, his birthplace, with 35 works in bronze and plaster stone
  • the People's Museum in Belgrade which holds monuments such as Miloš Obilić, Kosovo girl, Srđa Zlopogleđa, Kraljević Marko, Widow.


  1. Keckemet, Dusko, Ivan Mestrovic, McGraw-Hill Book Company, NY, NY 1970, unpaginated
  2. Obljetnica rođenja Ivana Meštrovića
  3. Photo - Mauzolej Obitelji Račić at
  4. Mestrovic's Chapel,Time Magazine, November 05, 1923
  5. "Notes and Coins" - Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. "This beautiful Silver Proof €15 coin celebrates the 80th anniversary of the original coin design ‘Girl with Harp’ which was gifted to the Irish State by Ivan Mestrovic in 1927. This design was submitted by the artist as an entry in the competition for the design of the 1928 Irish Free State coinage. Unfortunately, because of difficulty contacting him – he was in the United States - his design arrived too late for consideration. The Chairman of the Design Committee, William Butler Yeats, subsequently wrote “He made one magnificent design and, on discovering that the date had passed, gave it to the Irish Free State with great generosity”. It has been used as the seal of the Central Bank since 1965.
  6. Ivan Mestrovic's Legacy at SU
  7. Prvi novac - Povijest hrvatskog novca
  8. Globus Online: Hrvatska remek-djela u Beogradu:

  • Agard, Walter Raymond, The New Architectural Sculpture, Oxford University Press, NY, NY 1935
  • Aumonier, W., Modern Architectural Sculpture, The Architectural Press, London 1930
  • Casson, Stanley, Some Modern Sculptors, Oxford University Press, London 1929
  • Exhibition of Twenty-Five Panels, Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University1950*
  • Exploring the Mayo Art Collection, Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota
  • Goode, James M. The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington D. C., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D. C. 1974
  • Keckemet, Dusko, Ivan Mestrovic, Publishing House, Beograd, Jugoslavija 1964
  • Keckemet, Dusko, Ivan Mestrovic – Split, Mestrovic Gallery Split and Spektar Zagreb, Yugoslavia 1969
  • Keckemet, Dusko, Ivan Mestrovic, McGraw-Hill Book Company, NY, NY 1970
  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson Architectural Sculpture of America, unpublished manuscript
  • Maryon, Herbert, Modern Sculpture – Its Methods and Ideals, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, LTD. London 1933
  • Schmeckebier, Laurence, Ivan Mestrovic – Sculptor and Patriot, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY 1959
  • The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington D. C. – America’s Tribute to Mary, C. Harrison Conroy Co. In., Newton NJ

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