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Between Originality and Imitation - the Case of Šime Dujmović, a Sculptor in the Shadow of Meštrović

Vinko Srhoj ; Odjel za povijest umjetnosti Sveučilišta u Zadru

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 1.211 Kb

str. 225-240

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Šime Dujmović (1887 - 1968), a sculptor from Hvar, is an almost unknown and unrecognized artist in the sphere of Croatian art. If one is aware that he created most of his ‘oeuvre’ as the executor of numerous statues conceived by Ivan Meštrović, and that he considered himself merely a technical assistant to the great master, the silence surrounding Dujmović’s name can be seen to be partly his fault, due to the fact that he never
emphasized his share in this work, and did not attempt to ‘bring into question’ Meštrović’s art by individuating his own style. By abstaining from a personal style and manner, which might have taken him on the journey to sculptural individuality, Dujmović’s status in Croatian sculpture was lower than his ability deserved. It seems that, to this considerably skilled sculptor, it was more
important to follow other people’s designs and carry out a given task to the best of his abilities, transforming matter into the most appropriate expression, at the expense of his own poetics which, considering his mastery of the techne, had much potential. Dujmović’s repression of his sculptural talent seems to be rooted in his attitude towards sculpture as a task which had to be carried out in a given material, not necessarily as a work of art which would have surpassed craftsmanship (although it is also rooted in the unfavourable circumstances of his life). Writing about the nineteenth- and twentieth-century sculptors and carvers of Split and Dalmatia, Grgo Gamulin described a plethora of
obscure figures who shaped the Croatian sculptural tradition at the turn of the century when sculpture started to elevate itself with a new consciousness, leaving behind the modesty of craftsmanship but for an always uncertain destination. ‘Certainly, we find ourselves in the area of craftsmanship and skill, but one never knows when art will appear on that boundary, and the very question of that boundary (between craftsmanship and art) is uncertain and ‘‘mobile’’, Gamulin concluded. This statement can largely be applied to Šime Dujmović, who repressed his own expression and, by following tradition and other sculptors (Meštrović), in the end missed his opportunity to demonstrate his real abilities.
Nonetheless, a small number of his works, such as his most ambitious project, the public sculpture Source of New Life, demonstrate that he did attempt to be individual, but from the wrong angle, that of the perfection of technical skill. Even if this sculpture was nothing more than a compilation of art nouveau, art deco and Meštrović, it confirmed that Dujmović was a master sculptor with enviable sculptural skill and that this technical ability had once again obstructed his path to individual expression. Not even in this most ambitious of his works were his authorial aims put first; instead, they were eclipsed by his skill in carving after models instead of shaping his own recognizable stamp.
This paper deals with some of his other sculptures Svetovid, Mother and Child, Sculptor at Work, Defending he Homeland) but it also highlights his contribution to he sculptural physiognomy of the mausoleum of the Račić family, in which Dujmović executed his most difficult works for Meštrović (The Crucified Christ, The
Entombment, Madonna and Child, cherubim heads and other decorative elements). The paper also mentions other numerous works on which Dujmović worked for Meštrović (Amor and Psyche, Woman with a Harp, the monuments Gratitude to France, To the Unknown Hero, nd Our Lady of Petropolje). Through an evaluation of he contribution assistants made on projects for master culptors such as Meštrović, and a consideration of the
ecognizability of his ‘hand’ in the final appearance of he work, a question emerges which touches on the heart of the relationship between Meštrović and Dujmović: what is the ratio between the creator of the idea and the manual assistant in its execution? Can authorship be ‘boiled down’ to the conception of a work of art, or should some credit also be given to the assistants who
frequently ‘spoiled’ or altered the master’s style? By considering the case of Dujmović, this paper provides answers by giving specific examples of cases in which an assistant’s contribution is significant and unmissable, without expressing an individual style. A rhetorical question which poses itself here is whether in such a manner Dujmović’s work (but also, more generally, the work of other numerous assistants and colleagues in the workshops of master sculptors anywhere) could be taken out of the shadow of the great master by acknowledging at least that part of his authorial input in which he spoke about himself while working for the master sculptor.

Ključne riječi

Šime Dujmović, Ivan Meštrović, sculpture, Island of Hvar

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