The life and work of Zoran Music spans most of the twentieth century, and bears witness to some of its most terrible events. This exhibition was the first of Music’s work in Britain for over half a century, and brought together most phases of his career, from the early Dalmation landscapes, Dachau works, and Venetian scenes to the remarkable late self-portraits.
Music was born in 1909 in Gorizia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He described himself as belonging to the civilization of that empire, though of ‘no fixed abode’. Drawing was second nature to Music and, when he was evacuated to Austria at the outbreak of the First World War, he saw works by painters of the Vienna Secession such as Klimt and Schiele as well as the French Impressionists.
In 1930 he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, later travelling to Madrid, where the works of Goya and the atmospheric, dark interiors of Spanish cathedrals made a profound impression upon him. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Music returned to Dalmatia where he painted the barren landscape of the Karst mountains, a subject he would return to frequently.
Music was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 on suspicion of anti-German activities. After being tortured, he was sent to Dachau and survived there until liberated by the Americans. He secretly drew the scenes of death and degradation he witnessed, finding it gave him a reason to go on living. It was not until thirty years later that Music revisited the horror of the death camps in his powerful series ‘We Are Not the Last’.