Ljubo Babić

Ljubomir Tito Stjepan Babić (14 June 1890 – 14 May 1974) was a Croatian painter, graphic artist, theatrical set and costume designer, teacher, art historian, critic, and museum curator. As an artist, he worked in a variety of media including oils, tempera, watercolour, drawing, etching, and lithography. He was one of the most influential figures in the Zagreb art scene between the two world wars.

Ljubo Babić
Born(1890-06-14)14 June 1890
Died14 May 1974(1974-05-14) (aged 83)
EducationAcademy of Fine Arts, Munich
Known forOil painting, watercolour, Graphic arts, theatrical set design, art history, author, curator
MovementModern Art

He collaborated with director Branko Gavella in creating a series of set designs for the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb.[1] In 1940 he became a full professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb. He held exhibitions at home and abroad and published many articles on art history and critiques of contemporary art events. He wrote and illustrated many books, worked on designs for posters, interiors and decorative arts objects.


Ljubomir Tito Stjepan Babić was born in Jastrebarsko on 14 June 1890, the son of Judge Antun Babić and Milka (née Kovačić), and nephew of the author Ljubo Babić (better known as Ksaver Šandor Gjalski). The Babić family had been raised to the nobility in 1716 by Charles VI Habsburg. The Babić family seat was Gredice near Zabok, which had been purchased by Babić's grandfather.[citation needed]

Following his father's work transfers, young Ljubo attended elementary school in Slatina, Glina and Jastrebarsko. He attended high school in Bjelovar, with the final two years in the Donji Grad gymnasium in Zagreb. During that time, he attended private art school with Menci Clement Crnčić and Bela Čikoš Sesija, and took classes at the School of Arts and Crafts. After completing high school in 1908, at his father's encouragement he enrolled in the Faculty of Law at Zagreb University, but soon abandoned his studies for painting.[2]

Thanks to a scholarship from Count Teodor Pejačević Babić was able to attend the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich where he studied painting with Angelo Jank (1910–11), and Franz von Stuck (1911–13).[2] In Munich, he completed a course of artistic anatomy at the Medical School while also studying set design at the Künstlertheater. In 1913-14 he went on to complete his art studies in Paris, returning to his homeland at the beginning of the First World War.

There he opened a "modern painting school" in his studio, but soon afterwards accepted a teaching position at the School of Arts, (now the Academy of Fine Arts) where he became a full professor in 1940, working there for 45 years until he retired in 1961.[3] During the 1930s, he visited other schools and institutes around Europe in order to learn from their experience and improve teaching at the Zagreb academy. In 1932, he graduated in art history from the Faculty of Philosophy, Zagreb University.[citation needed]

In addition to his painting and teaching careers, Ljubo Babić was the first curator of the Modern Gallery in Zagreb (1919) whose inaugural exhibition featured the previously unknown works of Josip Račić. He organized exhibitions of modern French and German Art in Zagreb, and an exhibition of medieval art from Yugoslavia in Paris in 1950.[4] For many years he was the director of The Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters (from 1947) responsible for organizing many important exhibitions.[5]

Babić was one of the organizers of the Croatian Spring Salon (1916), the Independent group of Croatian artists (1923), the Group of Three (1929), Group of Four (1928), the group of Croatian artists (1936) and Croatian artists (1939).[4]

Ljubo Babić was elected as a Member of Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1928, becoming a full member in 1950.[3] He died in Zagreb on 14 May 1974.[citation needed]


Ljubo Babić was a central figure in the Croatian art scene in the period between the two world wars. His views provided a strong influence over the art of the time.[5] His early work from Munich shows some poetic symbolism and art nouveau. In portraits, he soon began to depict the more psychological characteristics of his subject. From 1916, expressionistic ideas and themes appeared, and a move towards abstraction, resulting in some of his finest works. In November 1916, on the death of Emperor Francis Joseph, all the streets of Zagreb were dressed in black flags. Inspired by this image, Babić, then aged 26, painted the scene from the second floor window of his studio on Ilica Street. In the foreground is a long, torn black flag and behind it are ominous clouds, and below the people passing. Black Flag (crna zastava) stands as one of his most memorable images.[6]

Writer Miroslav Krleža said of Babić - in the years between 1916 and 1922 - that he was strongly influenced by the time and by his own ideas. A strong influence on both was the poet Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević. Babić illustrated Kranjčević's "Songs" (Pjesme, 1908) and many of the poet's themes entered Babić's own work. From the inspiration of the mountain Velebit as seen from Crnčić, Babić created one of his most successful series: "View from the Sky" (Pogled s neba), "Aerial view" (Arielov pogled). He would later be known as the father of modern landscape painting in Croatia.[2]

A journey to Spain in 1920 resulted in an expressive series of paintings, including the powerful black "Fishermen" (Ribere). This cycle of Spanish street scenes was well received and stands as a high point of Babić's own art and Croatian painting in general.[2]

Around 1930, Babić started a series of landscapes and people from around Croatia. He would travel south in the summer months, sketching scenes from Koločep and Pelješca, to Čiovo and Trogir (1930–1936). He was working on what he called "native expression", believing that the landscape, historical experience and folk art could reveal the characteristics of the people. Back in his studio, he created an impressive cycle of landscapes (the series Homeland, Rodni kraj 1933-1939). This series brings his art close to documentary work and Babić worked closely with Matica hrvatska on aspects of folk heritage and modern cultural and artistic issues.[2]

Babić was one of the creators of the golden years of Zagreb theatre life in the 1920s/30s.[4] He made his debut as set designer in 1918, altogether creating about 180 designs (often also sketches for the costumes) for drama, comedy and operatic performances. His designs were always based on the logic of the stage events, and contributed greatly to the development of dramatic action.[2] He was also the founder of the first artistic Puppet Theatre in Zagreb (1920),[4] and his set designs for the Paris Expo in 1925, earned him the Grand Prix.[6]

In addition to being a creative artist and designer, Babić was also an interpreter and popularizer of art: as an art writer and critic, as a lecturer, and as a museum curator. He was the most reliable interpreter of Croatian heritage in art museums and exhibitions between 1919-1948. He also created posters and some very successful books on art (1908–1960).[2]

Babić's literary output includes 20 books, brochures and special editions, around 400 articles in periodicals, many encyclopedia articles and several educational programs. In addition to educational and critic works, he left a number of travel and autobiographical texts. Babić's travelogue text New York "skyline" was included in an anthology America Spectrum from one hundred forty-one works of European writers and works (Spektrum America aus Werken hunderteinundvierzig europäischer Dichter und Werken), Wien-München-Manutius Press, 1964. He was a member of several editorial boards of literary magazines, and editor of the Academy bulletin 1957.[2]

KlasikTV Video about Ljubo Babić and his work is available on YouTube[7]



  • From Munich Studio (Iz münchenskog atelijera), 1911
  • Self-portrait (Autoportret), 1912
  • Portrait of A.G. Matoš (Portret A. G. Matoša), 1913
  • Black flag (Crna zastava), 1916
  • Portrait of Miroslav Krleza (Portret M. Krleže), 1918
  • Christ (Krist), around 1918
  • Krajolik, 1918
  • Red Flags (Crveni stjegovi) I. i II., 1919
  • View from Brestovca (Pogled s Brestovca), 1919
  • Crucifixion (Golgota), 1919
  • Izgradnja, 1919
  • Raspeće, 1920
  • Spanish cycle (watercolours) (ciklus akvarela S puta po Španjolskoj), 1920
  • Pogreb, 1926
  • Croatian peasant (Hrvatski seljak), 1926
  • Figs (Smokve), 1928
  • Spring flowers (Proljetno cvijeće), 1930
  • Figs at Vignja (Smokvice kod Vignja), 1930
  • Landscape (Pejzaž), 1931
  • The Road to Koločep (Put na Koločepu), 1932
  • Nevenka, 1932
  • S Mrežnice, 1932
  • My Studio (Moj atelijer), 1933
  • Portrait of my wife (Portret supruge), 1934
  • Spring Countryside (Proljetni pejzaž), 1936
  • Autumn on Ciovo (Jesen na Čiovu), 1936
  • Self-portrait (Autoportret), 1937
  • Zagorje Countryside (Zagorski pejzaž), 1937
  • Homeland (Rodni kraj) (Pred večernjicu), 1938
  • Janica, 1938
  • Dried Flowers (Suho cvijeće), 1942
  • Spring, house and me (Proljeće, kuća i ja), 1953
  • From my Garden (Iz mog vrta), 1956
  • Orebi, 1964

Theatrical Set DesignsEdit

  • Verdi: Othelo, 1918
  • Goethe: Faust, 1921
  • Krleža: Golgota, 1922
  • Širola-Babić: Sjene, 1923
  • Debussy: Peleas i Melisanda, 1923
  • Shakespeare: King Richard III, 1923
  • Krleža: Vučjak, 1923
  • Shakespeare: Na tri kralja…, 1924
  • Wedekind: Proljeće se budi, 1924
  • Shakespeare: Hamlet, 1929
  • Beethoven: Fidelio, 1930
  • Büchner: Dantonova smrt, 1937
  • Cesarec: Sin domovine, 1940
  • Pirandello: Večeras improviziramo, 1941
  • Shakespeare: Hamlet (nova verzija, neostvareno), 1941

Book IllustrationsEdit

  • Kumičić: Začuđeni svatovi, 1910
  • Kučera-Plivelić-Božičević: Novovjeki izumi, 1910
  • Nazor: Hrvatski kraljevi, 1912
  • Dante: Čistilište, 1912
  • Bazala: Povijest filozofije, 1912
  • Vidrić: Pjesme, 1914
  • Donadini: Lude priče, 1915
  • Schneider: Oprema opere, 1916
  • Nehajev: Studija o Hamletu, 1917
  • Krleža: Pjesme I, Pjesme II, 1918
  • Vijavica (časopis), 1919
  • Juriš (časopis), 1919
  • Plamen (časopis), 1919
  • Begović: Dunja u kovčegu, 1921
  • Cesarec: Careva kraljevina, 1925
  • Shakespeare: Sabrana djela (nedovršeno), 1947–1960
  • Ljetopis popa Dukljanina, 1950
  • Ariosto: Bijesni Orlando, 1953
  • A.G. Matoš: Sabrana djela (nedovršeno), 1953–1955
  • Goethe: Faust, 1955

Books and publicationsEdit

  • Maestral, 1931
  • Croatian Art in the 19th Century (Umjetnost kod Hrvata u XIX. stoljeću), Zagreb 1934
  • Under Italian Skies (Pod italskim nebom), Zagreb 1937
  • Croatian Art (Umjetnost kod Hrvata) (SD, I), Zagreb 1943
  • Masters Revival (Majstori preporoda) (SD, II), Zagreb 1943
  • Colour and Harmony (Boja i sklad), Zagreb 1943
  • Unfied Forms (Oblici umieća), I. knj. (SD, III), Zagreb 1944
  • The Golden Age of Spanish Painting (Zlatni viek španjolskog slikarstva) (SD, IV), Zagreb 1944
  • Honoré Daumier, Zagreb 1951
  • French Paintings of the 19th Century (Francusko slikarstvo XIX. stoljeća), Zagreb 1953
  • Between Two Worlds (Između dva svijeta), Zagreb 1955
  • Izabrana djela (s C. Fiskovićem), Zagreb 1985


Babić exhibited from 1910 until his death in 1974 in solo, group and collective shows around the world, including the "Medulića" Munich annual exhibition with other artists of the Vienna (Austria) Secession, the Croatian Spring Salon, Lade exhibitions, Independent Artists, Group of Three, Croatian artists, the XXI Venice Biennale, and in a number of other exhibitions of Croatian and Yugoslav artists. At the Exposition internationale in Paris 1925 and in New York in 1926, he worked in the International Theatre Exhibition.[2]

Solo showsEdit

  • 2010/11 Ljubo Babić – Antologija (Anthology) Modern gallery, Zagreb.[8]
  • 1975/6 Ljubo Babić Retrospektiva, Modern Gallery, Zagreb

Group showsEdit

Recent exhibitions of Babić's work include:[9]

  • 2008 From the holdings of the museum - Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik
  • 2006 Croatian Collection - Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje, Skopje

Public collectionsEdit

Babić's work can be found in the following public collections[9]


Macedonia (F.Y.R.M.)

  • Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje


  1. ^ "History of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb (Drama)". Croatian National Theatre. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Igor Zidić (2009). "Ljubo Babić: Građa za Enciklopediju Matice hrvatske, Naslovnica" [Ljubo Babić: material for the Encyclopaedia Matica hrvatica]. Kolo (01–02). ISSN 1331-0992. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Ljubo Babić biography". Galerija Divila. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d "Ljubo_Babic". Hrvatska Radio Television. Archived from the original on 15 August 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Ljubo_Babić". Culturenet. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  6. ^ a b Patricia Kiš. "Retrospektiva Ljube Babiceva: Sa svoga je prozora gledao žalobne i prosvjedne povorke i pretvarao ih u remek-djela" [Ljubo Babić Retrospective: From his window he watched sombre processions and turned them into masterpieces]. Jutarnji List. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  7. ^ Video on YouTube
  8. ^ "Ljubo Babić Antologija". Modern Gallery. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Ljubo Babić (1890-1974) profile". Artfacts.net. Retrieved 16 February 2011.


  • Miroslav Krleža, Slikar Ljubo Babić, Vjesnik, Zagreb, 21 (1960)
  • Matko Peić, Predgovor (u katalogu retrospektivne izložbe Ljubo Babić), Zagreb 1960
  • Vinko Zlamalik, Ljubo Babić, Zagreb 1968
  • Igor Zidić, Ljubo Babić. Sentimentalni portret, Hrvatski tjednik, Zagreb, 1 (1971), 1, str. 18
  • Igor Zidić, Slikari čistog oka – neke težnje u hrvatskom slikarstvu četvrtog desetljeća (u katalogu izložbe Četvrta decenija – Ekspresionizam boje / Poetski realizam), MSU, Beograd 1971, str. 37-51
  • Zdenko Tonković, Kazališni scenograf Ljubo Babić, Prolog, Zagreb, 6 (1974), 21, str. 75-92
  • Zlatko Posavac, Teorija umjetnosti slikara Ljube Babića. Prikaz i pokušaj interpretacije, Forum, Zagreb, 14 (1975), 29, str. 83-101
  • Jelena Uskoković, Prikaz djela Ljube Babića (u katalogu slikareve retrospektive), MG, Zagreb 1975, str.V.-XIX
  • Vladimir Maleković, Grupa trojice, Aspekti hrvatske likovne umjetnosti 1930-1935 (u katalogu izložbe), UP, Zagreb 1976, str. 5-27
  • Radovan Ivančević, Ljubo Babić. S puta po Španjolskoj / Notes from a Journey through Spain, GZH & NSB, Zagreb 1990
  • José Luis Morales y Marin, Tres maestros de la Pintura Croata (Catálogo de la esposición »Grupo de los tres«, Madrid 1994/1995, o. 21-24
  • Tonko Maroević, La etapa Espańola de la Obra de Ljubo Babić, ibid., p. 53-56
  • Igor Zidić, Ljubo Babić u svjetlu nekih političkih kontroverzija (u katalogu izložbe), TDR, Rovinj 2003, str. 3-12
  • Josip Bratulić, Matica hrvatska i hrvatska književnost: kultura knjige u 19. i 20. stoljeću (u: I. Mažuran – J. Bratulić, Spomenica MH 1842.-2002.), Zagreb 2004., str. 128-131, 134-140, 147, 158-161, 163-164, 174
  • Petar Selem, Kretanja Ljube Babića (u: Arielov pogled; pretisak iz 1974.), Zagreb 2004., str. 7-20