During the last school holiday my daughter and I traveled to the most eastern part of Croatia, Slavonia. I was determined to find Art Nouveau architecture during our trip, and started my preparations at home (internet) to discover that only one city really stood out: Osijek! But as we had plans to stay in Vinkovci, I decided to find something there too. Well, according to Google, there was one building in Vinkovci that qualified: the ŠIMECKI shoe store. I had noticed its beauty before, but I never realised it was Art Nouveau. It looked completely different than the Mucha – Horta kind of Art Nouveau I was familiar with. Time to find out why…
From 1527 to 1867, Croatia was successively part of the Habsburg Monarchy and the Austrian Empire. After that, from 1867 to 1918, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (the Austro-Hungarian Empire comprised modern-day Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, large parts of Serbia and Romania and smaller parts of Italy, Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine). So, after almost 400 years, it cannot be a surprise that Croatian architecture is related to Austrian architecture!
Now, in the Austrian Empire, from the 17th century onward, large-scale Baroque urban planning took place. And from around 1900, Art Nouveau was the most popular style in Vienna. It is therefore only natural that, due to historical events, Croatian architecture is heavily influenced by Austrian Baroque as well as by Austrian Art Nouveau.
Below, I am showing some pictures I took in Austria. They are well known examples of Austrian Baroque. Please remember the yellows and the frameworks all over the facades.
Once in Vinkovci, I walked many a mile to find more Art Nouveau buildings as I could not believe the ŠIMECKI shoe store was the only one in the whole town! And I was right; It wasn’t much, but along the ‘Duga Ulica’ and the ‘Ulica Jurja Dalmatinca’ I did find a few interesting buildings.
Besides a handful typical Art Nouveau buildings, I noticed actually quite a lot of Art Nouveau decorating in Vinkovci too. As a matter of fact, I noticed it all over Slavonia. In most cases, these Art Nouveau decorations were applied to basic rural houses, also houses that were built in the 1930s and later (As I do not have pictures of these houses, I took the liberty to make some screenshots of Google Streetview to show you what I mean).
Thus, whereas the Austrians have evolved from Baroque architecture into Art Nouveau architecture, it appears like the Slavonians have basically mastered Baroque architecture and than added Art Nouveau decorations, not to move away from these 2 styles until steel and concrete were introduced in post-World War II socialist architecture! The result is a strange mishmash of rural farmhouses with Baroque and Art Nouveau details in the countryside, and Baroque appartment buildings with Art Nouveau decorations or, less often, Art Nouveau buildings with Baroque decorations in the city centers.
One more thing I want to show you is a picture of a Synagogue that I found in a book about the history of Vinkovci. The synagogue was dedicated on December 10, 1923. During WWII, local Germans dismantled its copper roof that was sent to the German army as “a contribution to the war effort,” and the Synagogue was entirely demolished in 1942. This Art Deco gem would have been the only evidence that Vinkovci ever knew other architecture than Baroque and Socialist architecture. Alas, this beautiful building is lost forever…
I hope you enjoyed the pictures I took in Vinkovci. Not the most spectacular examples of Art Nouveau, but I thought it would be nice to share some examples from a rural area where not everybody gets to go… Next time, I will show you my spectacular photos from Osijek. And those are of a finger licking kind of Art Nouveau!
Other places in Croatia where Art Nouveau objects can be found are Zagreb, Rijeka, Split, Istria and, as I already mentioned, Osijek.