|Abstract (english)|| |
The dissertation deals with life and work of Oscar Nemon (1906 – 1985), a sculptor whose oeuvre has not yet been researched in whole or systematically elaborated. The focus of the research is on the artist's work, while his biography is presented in so far as it is important for the understanding of the artist’s activity and creative work. Oscar Nemon was born as Oscar Neumann on March 13, 1906 in Osijek, to a middle-class Jewish family. He attended elementary school and high school in Osijek, where he graduated in 1924. He held two solo exhibitions in Osijek, in 1923 and 1924. In 1924 Nemon went to Vienna. He made a brief contact with the sculptor Anton Hanak, and then opened his own studio, working on his own, mostly commissioned portrait sculpture. In 1925 Nemon left Vienna for Brussels, where he took the entrance exam at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts and Ecole des Arts Décoratifs) and enrolled in the third year of study as a talented candidate. He studied under Professor Paul Dubois and Arsène Matton until 1927. After two years of study, Nemon left the Academy, and from 1927 to 1929 worked at the studio of the Brussels sculptor Pierre de Soete, starting his career as a portrait sculptor and a medallist. Around 1930, Nemon became independent and had his own studio. He changed his family name Neumann around 1931 to Nemon. During his life and work in Brussels (1925-1936), portrait sculpture based upon realism was Nemon's only source of income and it represented the centrepiece of his artistic production. During the Brussels period, however, Oscar Nemon also achieved a separate, very limited, but conceptually and stylistically different section within his sculptural oeuvre: it belongs to modernism and corresponds to the contemporary trends of modern art in Belgium and in Europe – from art deco style based on post-Cubist geometric stylization to constructivism and expressionism. In addition, Nemon's unrealized project for the System and Center of Universal Ethics, conceived during his stay in Brussels, conceptually belongs to the avantgarde, while in terms of design it corresponds to examples of European modernist architecture between the two world wars, most notably the constructivist architecture of Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov. The central part of the dissertation deals with the analysis and valorisation of Oscar Nemon's portrait sculpture. The introductory section discusses the relationship between portrait art – especially sculptural portrait – and mimesis, and examines the categories and classifications such as "traditional", "conventional", "modernist" and "avant-garde" in portrait sculpture. By using Oscar Nemon’s work as an example, the modernist art history paradigm of subordinate role of the tradition of portrait realism in the context of 20th century artistic phenomena, trends and styles is being challenged. Nemon's portrait sculpture is determined by the terms of style and morphology between tradition and modernism, and as such it shows us that Nemon's portraits are equally worthy of cultural and art-historical consideration. Furthermore, special attention is given to the context of 20th-century Belgian, British and Croatian portrait sculpture and in this context Nemon’s work is analysed and evaluated. Nemon's contribution to portrait sculpture of social elites of the 20th century is particularly emphasized. General features of Oscar Nemon’s portrait sculpture and portrait sculpture in Belgium are being determined: during his Brussels period, Nemon moves between realism and "rodenism", preferring summarizing and reducing, and avoiding descriptiveness. Some key Nemon works are analysed (Portrait of August Vermeylen, Portrait of King Albert I) as well as their comparison to the portrait sculptures of same models made by Belgian sculptors. Nemon's portrait exhibitions in Brussels are used as a basis for contextualizing Nemon's portrait sculpture in Belgium. Nemon's role as sculptor of social elites is examined through his portraits of individual members of the Belgian royal family. Furthermore, Oscar Nemon's portrait sculpture is considered in the context of portrait sculpture of the middle and second half of the 20th century in Great Britain. Oscar Nemon's exhibitions in England in the 1930s and 1940s testify of his active presence on the art scene, in which he presented himself almost exclusively as a portrait sculptor. Unlike Brussels exhibitions, however, which were very well accompanied by reviews in several different Belgian dailies, the reception of the Nemon exhibitions in England was much scarcer. Nemon’s position and status as a portrait sculptor will only be solidified after his acquaintance with Winston Churchill in 1950, and making portrait busts and monuments of Churchill from 1950’s onwards. Nemon’s portrait sculpture is compared to the work of members of the Society of Portrait Sculptors, and also it is compared to a special comparative sample of British sculptors such as Dora Gordine, Ivor Roberts-Jones, Franta Belsky, Jacob Epstein and Eduardo Paolozzi. Although Nemon's portrait sculpture is stretched in terms of style and form through various idioms, he was generally directed towards the type of modernity of slight reduction and moderate stylization of form. Nemon was one of the most productive portrait sculptors of the mid-20th century in the UK and his sculptural work testifies on the possibilities and achievements of figurative sculpture in the UK. Oscar Nemon is also being considered comparatively in respect of some key figures of portrait sculpture in Croatia in the period from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, noting that a comprehensive account of portrait sculpture of that period in Croatia is yet to be made. From the ranks of Croatian portrait sculptors, Antun Augustinčić is pointed out, both because of his importance for portrait sculpture in Croatia and because of comparisons with Oscar Nemon. The dissertation also deals with the medal work of Oscar Nemon's oeuvre: The portrait genre, which is the backbone of Nemon's sculptural work, extends into the medium of the medal, in which Nemon during his stay and work in Brussels achieved a small, but significant portion of works in the context of the history of the medal art: such as medals created in the spirit of modernism, that is, in art deco style. The study of portrait sculpture concludes with the establishment of a typological classification of portrait sculpture (by function, form, content and other parameters) based on the work of Oscar Nemon and corresponding portraits of other authors. Within the dissertation, the theme of Nemon's portrayal of two remarkable historical figures – Sigmund Freud and Winston Churchill – is thoroughly covered in two separate chapters. Sigmund Freud's portraits, along with those of later Winston Churchill, are the sculptor's most famous, quoted, and reproduced portrait sculptures. The chapter dedicated to Sigmund Freud discusses the history of Nemon's creation of the portraits of Freud in 1931 and 1936 and gives their analysis and critical judgment. Various variants of these portraits as well as monument statues are being processed and analysed, and Sigmund Freud's head (1936-1947) is valued as the one of Nemon’s best portrait sculptures. Nemon's portraits of Freud are compared to portrait sculptures of Freud by other authors. The narrative of Nemon as a portraitist and Freud as a model is analysed – a narrative that influenced the construction of Oscar Nemon's image as well as the critical reception and promotion of his portraits of Sigmund Freud. In a series of eminent historical figures portrayed by Oscar Nemon, the charismatic politician, speaker and writer Sir Winston Churchill holds a special place. Nemon had a unique relationship with Churchill; he was the only sculptor to establish a lasting friendship with Churchill but also with his family. An acquaintance with Churchill and live portrait sessions resulted in a series of portrait busts and memorials of the great British leader, which are nowadays found in various institutions and public places in England and around the world. Contact with Churchill has proven to be pivotal to Nemon's future career as a portrait sculptor in the UK. Winston Churchill's portrait, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II for the Windsor Castle (1952-1956), was used by Nemon as a universal prototype after which all his other Winston Churchill portrait sculptures were created, either in form of a bust or as a full-length statues. Other Churchill statues by Nemon are also analysed, such as Guildhall statue and especially the Churchill statue in the Houses of Parliament, in Member’s Hall in front of the entrance of House of Commons (1969), as well as other statues in different locations all around the world. It is argued that Nemon's portraits and monumental sculptures are unique in the context of representation of Winston Churchill in British portrait and monumental sculpture and as such are a contribution to the genre. Besides Nemon’s realistic figurative public sculpture such as statues of Churchill or British war heroes, a separate chapter of dissertation deals with other public monuments made by Nemon, in particular with two of his realised public sculptures which fall into a separate category of highly stylized figurative sculpture: Holocaust Memorial in Osijek (1965) and Per Ardua Ad Astra – Royal Canadian Air Force Monument In Toronto (1984). Final part of dissertation contains extensive catalogue of works based on the preserved sculptures as well as the existing archival documentation of destroyed and hitherto found works. Additional part of dissertation is the exhibition list, bibliography, literature, and list of reproductions.