The powerful and globally important word ‘peace’ is found in the title of a sculpture by the Croatian sculptor Antun Augustinčić, set in the park of the building of the United Nations in New York (USA).
The ‘Peace Monument’ sculpture was made and placed in the park of the UN building in New York back in 1954, and upon the 25th anniversary of Croatia’s entry into the United Nations the sculpture was given a new shine which in 2017 was financed by the Republic of Croatia.
The ‘Peace Monument’, the sculptor Antun Augustinčić and marble from the island of Brač took their place in a historic speech by the first Croatian president Dr Franjo Tuđman, held upon the occasion of the Republic of Croatia’s admission into the United Nations in 1992.
The speech reads:“The Croatian nation can be proud of its contribution to the spiritual and material cultural heritage of mankind.Incidentally, it is not by chance that a small part of it is also present here.The entrance through which we pass into the United Nations General Assembly Hall is made from marble from the Croatian island of Brač.In my homeland this stone is considered as a symbol of Croatian survival.Over many centuries the greatest Croatian sculptures have placed themselves in it with their artistic works, and amongst them is Antun Augustinčić whose figure on a horse, the ‘Peace Monument’, is located in the park of this same United Nations palace.”
The beautiful monument is a 5.5 metre high bronze sculpture of a woman who is riding a horse with an olive branch in one hand and a globe in the other; a cloak that is fluttering on her back and a horse in a stance that suggests a powerful forward movement, in other words, a symbolic leading of the nations of the world towards peace. It is placed on a ten-metre high pedestal, made from the marble from the Croatian island of Brač.
The ‘Peace Monument’ is the work of one of the greatest Croatian sculptors of the 20th century, Antun Augustinčić. Along with Ivan Meštrović and Frano Kršinić, Augustinčić is certainly the most significant Croatian sculptor of his age, and his personal artistic expression is placed between Meštrović's monumentality and Kršinić’s lyricism.
Antun Augustinčić (Klanjec, Hrvatsko zagorje 1900 – Zagreb 1979), was a Croatian sculptor, a professor, a dean, a rector and an academic, a man who developed his unsurpassed distinctive reputation of top masters of equestrian sculptors and public monuments.
From 1918 he studied at the College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb under Rudolf Valdec and Robert Frangeš Mihanović, and when that turned into the Royal Academy of Arts and Crafts in 1922, he continued his studies with the famous Ivan Meštrović.
After he graduated in 1924, as a scholarship holder of the French government he went to Paris where he studied at the Ecole des Arts decoratifs and at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in the class of J. A. Injalbert. In Paris he exhibited at the Salon and the Salon des Independents. It was here that he got to know the sculpture of A. Rodin and E. A. Bourdelle, which liberated him from the academic method of formation. By his own recognition Donatello, Michelangelo and Bourdelle were Augustinčić’s “spiritual fathers” whose opus and new understanding of realism are visible in all of his works. He returned to Zagreb in 1926. He was one of the founders of the Earth Group (Zagreb, 1929), but in 1933 he left it due to ideological disagreements. From 1949 he led a master workshop in sculpture, in which numerous Croatian sculptors honed their art. He is included amongst the most important representatives of Croatian psychological portrait sculpture with his anthological psychological portraits. In bronze, plaster and Carrara marble, in full volume or high relief he modelled women’s sensual torsos.
During his life Augustinčić exhibited at many group and solo exhibitions in numerous cities around the world. With his participation and achievements he won a number of public contests for monuments around the world achieving a reputation which would be included in the collective consciousness as a master of monuments, particularly for those equestrian pieces.
Augustinčić was the winner of many national and international acknowledgements, and he donated most of his works to his home town of Klanjec where the Antun Augustinčić Gallery was opened in 1976.