Politician, lawyer and publicist, Dr. Ivo Tartaglia (Split, 1880 - Lepoglava, 1949), who for many years served as mayor of Split (1918-1928) and later as governor of Littoral Banovina (1929-1932), left a strong impression on the political, economic and cultural life of Split in the first half of the 20th century. Culture and art always had a special place in his vision of the city, just as they did in his private life. He enticed founding of cultural institutions and, as a passionate collector, he compiled a rich art collection. It became the largest private art collection in Dalmatia between the two world wars. About his passion as a collector he said: I was twenty-two when I bought the first picture or rather a diptych. I bought those two paintings by the Croatian painter Mirko Rački that are called ‘Good Woman’ and ‘Evil Woman’. I was a young solicitor at the time and I remember that I bought the painting on monthly instalments of 20 crowns. It gave me a great joy. The rest came by itself. At first I was buying paintings by young artists, most of whom had in the meantime achieved master careers, and when the circumstances allowed I started to buy older paintings and statues as well (...). I was always buying only those paintings that were kept here in Split. Over the years I became firmly convinced that I have to protect them from being taken abroad.

Tartaglia as art critic, secretary of the artistic society Medulić, chairman of The Art Association and friend of many artists, for decades actively participated in the artistic life of Split. Together with Emanuel Vidović, Don Frane Bulić and Kamilo Tončić, who was to become the first director of the Museum of Fine Arts, he was one of the initiators and most ardent advocates of founding of a museum that would not only provide custody for the artistic heritage, but also give encouragement to contemporary artists.

Towards the end of his life he bestowed the city of Split and the Art Gallery with another gesture. In his last will and testament from May 12th, 1947, he donated, among other things, his whole art collection to his hometown. Unfortunately, in those gloomy years after the World War II, even this noble act couldn’t save Tartaglia from his doomed fate. New government held the same old practice of retribution against those who didn’t share their political views. In Tartaglia’s case, like in many others, events that happened before, during and after the war took an ugly twist. After an unconvincing trial at the court of law, on June 24th, 1948, he was sentenced to seven years of hard labour, loss of his civic rights for other two years as well as confiscation of his property. In bad health and disillusioned, he died in the prison of Lepoglava on April 3rd, 1949.

The Tartaglia Collection (donation), counting over 550 artefacts, tells us a story not only about taste, culture and achievements of its founder, but also about a certain moment in the history of a city with its wider community that had put a lot of effort and enthusiasm in catching up with modernity and promoting its values. All of this is discernible in the works of artists who inaugurated modernism in Croatian art. The collection, however, also reveals a prominent sectionalistic note, which is utterly understandable in the context of aspiring to preserve the art heritage within its own environment. Old masters’ works from Tartaglia’s Collection and a respectable unit of icons bear witness to that as well as the specific collecting ‘fashion’ of that time.

Regardless of the fact that the Museum’s collection grew over the years, continuously thanks to many other donations, mostly by artists, even today the Tartaglia Collection forms a tenth of the Museums holdings. Therefore its integral presentation with an exhibition and catalogue is imposed as an obligation for the Museum and culture in general. We also wish to use this occasion and through the Collection present not only its artistic aspects, but also make the public acquainted with the donor himself as well as the times in which the Collection was formed and in which Tartaglia pursued his goals. This is why for this exhibition, along with the expert curators from the Museum of Fine Arts, other collaborators, eminent art historians and historians were engaged: D.Sc. Jasna Galjer, D.Sc. Daniela Matetić Poljak, D.Sc. Dalibor Prančević, the academic Radoslav Tomić and D.Sc. Josip Vrandečić.

The exhibition is accompanied by the representative catalogue with reproductions of all artefacts from the Tartaglia Collection held in the Museum of Fine Arts.

(Božo Majstorović, curator)

Link to the documentary film on the exhibition's preparations https://vimeo.com/113978182