Prison drawings

In 1941, Meštrović was arrested and imprisoned in the Ustasha jail in Zagreb, together with his friend and fellow artist the painter Jozo Kljaković. The traumatic experience of imprisonment and fear for his own life, the deterioration in his health and the ever-present proximity of death left a trace on the sculptor’s psychological and physical being. Artistic work, even in a relatively simple medium like drawing, gave him great consolation in the jail: “I drew days at a time, finding great spiritual relief in it. I did some score of drawings, among which there were several versions of the Pietà, which I later on did in Rome.”

The themes to which Meštrović resorted in his hardest moments this time were based on his own experience. The superhuman suffering, impotence and injustice were embodied in the trials of Job and the death of Christ in the drawings Job and the Deposition. The figures of prophets, Prophet I and Prophet II, in the midst of the dreadful spiritual and material destruction still preached the need to preserve the highest human values. Scenes dedicated to the Resurrection, like the drawing Women at the Tomb and Noli me tangere reveal faith in life and smoulder like a glimmer of hope in conditions at the edge of human existence. A year later he turned these drawings into the wooden reliefs Resurrection (Lausanne, 1943) and Do not touch me (Lausanne, 1943), continuing the work on “the history of Jesus of Nazareth in wood” that he would later display in the chapel of Holy cross in Crikvine-Kaštilac.
(Z. J. Š.)

Job

Zagreb, 1941 – 1942
charcoal on paper, 71 x 49.5 cm
owned by the Meštrović Gallery in Split, inv. no. GMS-374

The Deposition (Pietà)

Zagreb, 1941 – 1942
charcoal on paper (pasted on plywood), 186 x 90 x 0.6 cm
owned by the Meštrović Gallery in Split, inv. no. GMS-211

Prophet I

Zagreb, 1941 – 1942
charcoal and chalk on paper (pasted on plywood), 124.5 x 90 x 0.6 cm
owned by the Meštrović Gallery in Split, inv. no. GMS-206

Prophet II

Zagreb, 1941 – 1942
charcoal and chalk on paper (pasted on plywood), 125.5 x 89.3 x 0.6 cm
owned by the Meštrović Gallery in Split, inv. no. GMS-207

Women at the Tomb (Resurrexit)

Zagreb, 1941 – 1942
charcoal on paper (pasted on plywood), 177.2 x 122.2 x 0.6 cm
owned by the Meštrović Gallery in Split, inv. no. GMS-209

Noli me tangere

Zagreb, 1941 – 1942
charcoal on paper (pasted on plywood), 183 x 122 x 0.6 cm
owned by the Meštrović Gallery in Split, inv. no. GMS-210