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Designers & Creators Directory

Drago Tršar

(DRAA-goh TRR-shar)

Birthplace: Planina, Slovenia (at that time "Kingdom of Yugoslavia")

Heritage: Slovene

Date born: April 27th, 1927

Education: Academy of Fine Arts, Ljubljana, graduated 1951

Biography

The small town of Planina sits at the northern foothills of the Javorniki Mountains within the Inner Carniola region of Slovenia and it was in this settlement that Drago Tršar was born in April of 1927. His parents, Karlo and Pavla, were able to provide him with a secure upbringing, with his father working as a productive locksmith. Geared towards the arts at an early age (with much youthful experimentation in drawing and painting), this interest was cultivated by his parents. War came to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1941, at which point he was only 14 years old. Despite his age, he still took part in the Partisan resistance with Gubec's Brigade (Gubčeva brigada), primarily working as an artist to document the events of the unit. However, even war would not keep him from a pursuit in the arts. At the age of 16 in 1943, he traveled to Ljubljana to study painting under artist Franc Gorše, however, his artistic evolution quickly shifted his interests instead towards sculpting. As such, he began to study under the famous Slovene sculptor Boris Kalin. After several years of studying with Kalin (and after completing his compulsory military service in 1949), Tršar applied to the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, to which he was accepted. During his time at university, he studied with numerous talented professors of great significance, including Zdenko Kalin, Karel Putrih and Peter Loboda. Not long after graduating in 1951, him and some fellow artists founded in 1953 what would be the first "avant garde" art group in Slovenia, named "Skupina 53" ("Group 53"), which consisted of Tršar along with the painters Milan Berbuč, Mire Cetin, France Peršin, Marko Šuštaršič, Melita Vovk, as well as graphic artist Marijan Tršar. The primary focus of this assemblage was to highlight alternative art expressions and work counter to the hegemonic standards of the "socialist realism" style which was still the dominant form of art during this time period in Yugoslavia.

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Photo 1: A view of Drago Tršar painting in his studio in Ljubljana, Slovenia

It was with Group 53 that Tršar participated in his first exhibitions, which took him on an exhibition tour across Yugoslavia. With this newfound recognition, Tršar was able to secure a scholarship with the Prešeren Fund, which took him even further afield during the 1950s to such places as Paris, Egypt, Italy, the Netherlands, the USSR, Germany, and Belgium. Then, in 1958, Tršar was able to exhibit some of his works on behalf of Yugoslavia at the Venice Biennale, even further solidifying his reputation as one of Slovenia's premiere young artists. This early work created by Tršar focused on themes of the natural world, including animals (such as his award winning bull sculpture), however, he then transitioned into exploring stylized interpretations of the human form, both in the form of busts, single figures and, what he became most known for, his amalgamation of multiple human forms melding together into one solid mass. Employing this "mass crowd" technique, he embarked upon his most recognizable cycle: "Manifestations". Tršar worked in multiple mediums, including paint, stone, ceramics and wood, but his most enduring works for which is most known are those large-scale sculptures rendered in bronze.

In the mid 1950s, Tršar begins participating in competitions for WWII memorial works, with one of the first of these being the "Monument to Fallen Fighters", which he created in 1953 in the small town of Zgornje Jarše, Slovenia. While this modest monument, rendered in stone, is more akin to his earlier artistic evolution and development, subsequently through the 1960s up to the 1980s Tršar would employ his signature "mass crowd" technique to create large-scale bronze monuments and public sculptures across Yugoslavia, from Slovenia to Bosnia to Belgrade. Meanwhile, in 1960, Tršar took on the position of an assistant teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubjana, finally working his way up to a tenured professor in 1978, ascending to the rank of head of the school's sculpture department. Furthermore, in 1967, Tršar won the coveted Prešeren Prize (the highest recognition for the arts in Slovenia), while in 1990 he won the Prešeren Prize for Lifetime Achievement. In 1995, he was inducted as a full member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

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Photo 2: A view of Drago Tršar's sculpture "Women" from 1957 at the National Gallery of Slovenia. [source]

Always intoxicated at the prospect of creating his large evocative sculptures in an outdoor environment, Tršar took part in numerous open-air international sculpture symposiums across Yugoslavia [more about this practice in THIS article], such as at Danilovgrad, Kikinda, Aranđelovac, as well as others around the world. In describing the artistic style and dynamic energy that radiates from Drago Tršar's sculptural work, particularly the "mass crowd" signature style that he developed during his career, the Slovene art historian Milcek Komelj makes the following observations, as quoted from [THIS] source:

"...in the mature phase of his creative youth, Tršar was mesmerized by the human crowd, shaping it into both a uniform and varied artistic composition, suggestive as a whole and dynamic because of the lively structure. He invested in with an allusion to the historical restlessness and interconnectedness of people and he became a sworn sculptor of people and humanity in general and remained one even after he abandoned traditional figuralism and turned to abstraction. Nevertheless, his seemingly abstract, even crystalline forms are full of human life; they are packed with expression, symbolism and perseverance or seething with enthusiasm."

By all metrics, Drago Tršar is among the most significant and influential Slovene sculptors of the 20th century, always seeing ahead to the future of art and in full grasp of how sculpture can connect humanity. Of the many monuments that Tršar created over his life across Yugoslavia, one of the most celebrated, even up to the present day, is the Monument to the Revolution from 1975 that today sits on Republic Square in the center of Ljubljana, Slovenia, right in front of the Slovene National Assembly. Over the decades, Tršar has had countless exhibitions of his work, all across Europe, as well as shows in America, Brazil, among other locations around the globe. As head of the sculpture department of the Academy of Fine Arts through the decades of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, Tršar mentored multiple generations of young artists that today are on the forefront of sculpture in Slovenia. Evidence of the lasting legacy and influence of Tršar can be seen at entrance to the Modern Gallery of Ljubljana, where the main entrance is flanked on both sides with two large Tršar sculptures. In 2018, the Gallery of Božidar Jakac in Kostanjevica na Krki, Slovenia organized a retrospective show of his work called "Drago Tršar: Monument", which was hugely successful. Tršar continues to live in Ljubljana. His younger brother Dušan is also a highly accomplished sculptor. A documentary about Drago Tršar, produced by the Gallery of Prešeren Awardees, can be watched at YouTube at THIS link.

Works by this Designer:

This is a listing of a number of memorials, monuments, public art and other notable Yugoslav-era works by Drago Tršar. Those sites listed in the upper part of this section have profile pages, while those listed in the lower part do not yet have completed profile pages. This list is not exhaustive and will be added to over time.

Monument works with profile pages:

Click photos to go to page

Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Name: Monument to the Revolution

Year: completed 1975

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Monument Edvard Kardelj, Ljubljana 1981.jpg

Name: Monument to Edvard Kardelj

Year: completed 1981

Maribor, Slovenia

Maribor, Mestni Park, monument to the fighters for the northern border, 1958-2.jpg

Name: Mon. to Northern Border Fighters

Year: completed 1958

Monument works without profile pages:

Kamnik, Slovenia

Kamnik, SLO-1, 1962, Monument to the Revolution.jpg

Name: Monument to the Revolution

Year: completed 1962

Location: 46°13'28.9"N, 14°36'37.2"E

Zgornje Jarše, Slovenia

Zgornje Jarše, 1953.jpg

Name: Monument to Fallen Fighters

Year: completed 1953

Location: 46°09'51.0"N, 14°35'38.9"E

Vukosavci, BiH

Vukosavci, BiH-2, Monument to the Revolution, 1986.jpg

Name: Monument to the Revolution

Year: completed 1986

Location: 44°38'09.1"N, 18°52'33.3"E

Trebelno, Slovenia

Trebelno, SLO,.jpg

Name: Monument to Gubec's Brigade

Year: completed 1972

Location: 45°54'42.0"N, 15°08'57.9"E

Ravne na Koroškem, Slovenia

Monument to Prežihov Voranc, 1966.jpg

Name: Monument to Prežihov Voranc

Year: completed 1966

Location: 46°32'32.1"N, 14°57'31.8"E

Other Works of Public Art:

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana art museum, Manifestanti I,.jpg

Name: Part of "Manifestation" cycle

Year: completed 1959

Location: 46°03'11.4"N, 14°29'57.3"E

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, 1961, Facults of Philosphy relief.jpg

Name: Reliefs (x2) on Faculty of Arts building

Year: completed 1961

Location: 46°02'47.6"N, 14°30'00.5"E

Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia

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Name: "Connected"

Year: completed 1978

Location: 46°30'14.3"N, 15°04'37.1"E

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana art museum, Ljudje v perspektivi II-2.jpg

Name: "People & Perspective II"

Year: completed 1959

Location: 46°03'11.7"N, 14°29'55.1"E

Belgrade, Serbia

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Name: "Four Groups/Četiri grupe"

Year: completed 1960

Location: 44°49'11.6"N, 20°26'32.0"E

Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Name: "Ekvilibristi"

Year: completed 1957

Location: 46°03'29.3"N, 14°29'50.0"E

Aranđelovac, Serbia

Park Bukovičke Banje, Arandjelovac, Serbia-2.jpg

Name: "Circle of Life"

Year: completed 1967

Location: 44°18'29.5"N, 20°33'12.1"E

Danilovgrad, Montenegro

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Name: "Untitled"

Year: completed 1973

Location: 42°33'12.4"N, 19°06'20.6"E

Int'l Works Outside Yugoslav Region:

Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp Manifestanti, 1957 [51.179239, 4.412023]-2.jpg

Name: from "Manifestation" cycle

Year: completed 1957

Location: 51°10'45.3"N, 4°24'43.3"E

Unrealized Memorial Works:

Kozara, BiH

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Name: concept for Kozara monument

Year: completed 1962