Croatian Naive Art

Croatia is the birthplace of its own version of naive art, a distinct style of 20th-century painting that features fantastical and colourful depictions of rural life.

It was the painter Krsto Hegedušić (1901–75) who founded the Hlebine School, in the village of the same name in the Podravina region, 13km east of the provincial centre of Koprivnica. Upon his return from studying in Paris in the 1930s, he gathered a group of artists – all self-taught, with no formal art education – and gave them a chance to shine. This first generation of Croatian naive painters included Ivan Generalić (1914–92), now the most internationally acclaimed; Franjo Mraz (1910–81); and Mirko Virius (1889–1943). All were amateur artists portraying vibrantly coloured and vividly narrated scenes of village life.

Today a clutch of painters and sculptors still work in Hlebine and their work can be seen on display in Hlebine Gallery. Also in Hlebine is Galerija Josip Generalić; named after Josip (son of Ivan), also a renowned painter, it is located in the Generalić family home. Call ahead to check it’s open.

Other places to see naive art in Croatia are the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art in Zagreb and the Koprivnica Gallery, which has a small applied-arts section.