#FridayPainting: Vjekoslav Karas “Young Woman with a Mandolin”

Have you ever heard of Vjekoslav Karas? I confess that I had never heard of this artist before I turned the calendar from June 2nd to June 3rd a couple of days ago.

The painting of a young woman playing a mandolin resonated. The rich colours of her clothing, set against the light green to dark green background added drama to the portrait. The woman’s faraway gaze and her right hand poised over the strings of the instrument created a tension and expectation that music would come from the painting.

Vjekoslav Karas was born in Karlovac, a city in central Croatia, on May 19, 1821. I understand that he is considered a pioneer in a new era of Croatian painting, expressing a realism in his portraits.

In his early adulthood, Vjekoslav Karas studied in Italy, where he was was influenced and inspired by religious themes. It was in Rome where he found enjoyment in music. He learned to play the flute and the guitar, composing songs in both Italian and Croatian languages.

The Young Woman with a Mandolin, which was painted with oil on canvas, was of a woman from Rome playing a lute. It is titled in Croatian, Rimljanka s lutnjom, which is translated as “a Roman woman with a lute”. But if you look closely at the instrument it has a mandolin’s 8-string peghead.

Vjekoslav Karas returned his home city of Karlovac. He lived in poverty and suffered from bouts of depression. Tragically, he died by suicide, drowning in the Korana River, July 1858.

In 1975, the Vjekoslav Karas Gallery was built in the New Center, in the city of Karlovac.