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Designers & Creators Directory

Jovan Kratohvil

(YO-vahn KRA-toh-vil)

Birthplace: Belgrade, Serbia

Heritage: Serbian

Date born: April 17th, 1924

Date deceased: February 27th, 1998

Education: Univ. of Arts, Belgr. (grad. 1949)

(Јован Кратохвил)

Biography

Born in Belgrade in 1924, Jovan Kratohvil excelled in life both as a renowned Serbian sculptor, but also as an Olympic athlete. In his youth, Kratohvil vigorously trained as an athlete in swimming, archery and shooting, competing in local events across Serbia. However, his efforts in this direction were halted during World War II. After the war, he was inspired to go into sculpting as a profession and, thus, began classes at the University of Arts in Belgrade. As he trained as a student of sculpture students, he came to know numerous other young sculptors who were also training in Belgrade at that same time who would go on to become some of the most significant names in Serbian sculpture during the 20th century, such as Jovan Soldatović [profile page], Ana Bešlić [profile page] and Olga Jevrić. He graduated in 1949, after which he began apprenticeships with various artists. However, his pursuits as a sculptor did not stop him from his athletics. In 1952, he competed at the Helsinki Summer Olympics in the 300m Rifle event representing Yugoslavia. He never competed in the Olympics again after Helsinki, focusing the rest of his life on sculpting.

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Photo 1: A close up image of Kratohvil's 1954 "Monument  to Fallen Fighters" in Zemun, Serbia

After dedicating himself again to the craft of sculpting after returning from the Olympics in the early 1950s, he initially followed his university training of crafting figurative sculpture in the traditional methods, which he no doubt excelled at (Photo 1). In fact, his traditional methods were so refined that he was invited in 1951, aged only 27, to create a major memorial sculpture in the BiH village of Trnova dedicated to Srem and Eastern Bosnian fighters who fell in during WWII, then, two years later, he was asked to create the central WWII memorial in the center of the Belgrade suburb of Zemun. Both of these works were completed in the traditional approach in the style of socialist realism.

Photo 2: A vintage image of the 1958 work "Two Figures" by Kratohvil

Photo 3: A vintage image of the 1958 work "Head of the Beast" by Kratohvil

However, Kratohvil began to reconnect with his university sculpting partners in the mid-1950s, he became firmly entrenched into the new innovative and modern direction that he saw the art and sculpture headed. As a result of this inspiration, in 1957, he and a group of her artistic colleagues (including Jovan Soldatović, Aleksandar Zarin, Jovan, Olga Jančić, Ana Bešlić, among others) formed an art collective known as "Space 8/Prostor 8", which had a goal of creating bold modern art that cultivated a "symbiosis of sculpture, architecture and its surroundings" in a free public location available to those who might not be normal gallery visitors. Through this artistic evolution, he completely turned his back on traditionalist figurative sculpture, seeking only to explore expressions in modernist tendencies from this point forward. In asking the question "What was the impetus for Kratohvil's sudden change in artistic style", one article from 1983 gives the following explanation:

"The puzzle is probably that Kratohvil, like all True Masters, feels the primordial need of growth in the material through which he uses to embody his ideas. The reciprocity of the imagined world versus that precious medium through which those ideas will be expressed is an eternal sculptural constant that should not be doubted. As a result, the turning point occurred when Kratohvil replaced his previous medium with a new means of expression. After many years of testing the possibility of new metals (bronze, Swiss enamel, painted metal), Kratohvil discovers a plastic mass - polyester [resin]. While in earlier sculptures, the medium did not decisively determine content and form, this time polyester resin imposes of a very specific structure of the work. When Kratohvil used it, he found it had "sculptural mass", which means that it does not imitate any other material (stone, etc) and requires only an extremely reduced abstract form."

It was during this period of formative inspirational and collaborative effort that Kratohvil took part in a series of exhibitions organized by Space 8 in May of 1958, located at Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad (with a follow-up exhibition a few months late in September of 1958 at Tašmajdan Park in Belgrade). It was during this 1958 series of exhibitions with Space 8 that Kratohvil first began to have this new style of work he had been creating exposed to a wide audience, presenting such pieces as "Two Figures" and "Head of the Beast" (Photos 2 & 3). These works began to bring Kratohvil significant attention and critical acclaim, leading him to a career to become one of the most prominent modernist sculptors in Serbia, where he focused on crafting innovative geometric arrangements enhanced by his unconventional application of texture and material. But most of all, he would appreciate polyester resin as his new favorite material to work in (Photos 4, 5 & 6).

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Photo 4: A mid-1970s abstract work in polyester resin by Kratohvil

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Photo 5: A mid-1970s abstract work in polyester resin

Photo 6: A mid-1970s abstract work in polyester resin by Kratohvil

After the tragic plane crash of Soviet dignitaries into the side of Mount Avala in 1964, Kratohvil was commissioned to create an honorific memorial to commemorate the victims of the tragedy. This memorial is one of Kratohvil's most recognized works, along with his works at Trnova, Zemun and Sansepolcro, Italy. In 1971, he became a professor at his former school, the University of Arts in Belgrade. While teaching here, he mentored Milorad Tepavac, who would later go on to design the 'Star' spomenik at Požarevac in 1985. Kratohvil held this position only for a few years, retiring shortly thereafter. In 1998, Kratohvil passed away in Belgrade at the age of 73.

Works by this Designer:

This is a listing of a number of memorials, monuments, cultural centers and other notable Yugoslav-era civic works by Jovan Kratohvil. 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.

Yugoslav Works with profile pages:

Click photos to go to page

Avala, SRB

Name: Monument to Soviet Plane Crash

Year: completed 1965

Yugoslav Works without profile pages:

Pirot, SRB

Name: Monument to Brotherhood & Unity

Year: completed 1978

Location: N43°09'55.6", E22°35'01.7"

Zemun, SRB

Name: Monument to Fallen Fighters

Year: completed 1954

Location: N44°50'26.5", E20°24'49.1"

Portorož, SLO

Name: Unitled work at Seča Sculpture Park

Year: completed 1962

Location: N45°30'05.0", E13°35'37.7"

Trnova, BiH

Name: Mon. to Srem & E. Bosnia Fighters

Year: completed 1952

Location: N44°40'02.9", E19°05'60.0"

International Works without profile pages:

Sansepolcro, Italy

Name: The Shine of the Slavs

Year: completed 1973

Location: N43°34'28.8", E12°07'56.9"