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Ivan Meštrović Collection

An inventory of his collection at the Syracuse University Archives.

Finding aid created by: Ameena Mohammad and Meg Mason
Date: 2011


Ivan Mestrovic, ca. 1955

Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962) was a Sculptor-in-Residence and Professor of Sculpture at Syracuse University from 1947 to 1955. He participated in more than 150 exhibitions during his lifetime.

Born on August 15, 1883, in Vrpolje in the Sava Valley of Croatia, Ivan Meštrović grew up in the mountain village of Otavice in Dalmatian Croatia (then Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia) . He began carving under the influence of his father, while tending to his family's flock of sheep and goats. Meštrović used his surroundings as subjects for the stone and wood figures he carved. He was an apprentice to a stonecutter at fifteen in Split, and by 1899 he went to Vienna, where he was accepted by the Academy of Art the following year.

After being married in 1904, Meštrović and Ruža Klein moved to Paris. He exhibited works at at the Salon d’Automne and later at Salon des Artistes Francais, which garnered much attention and led to his friendship with the sculptor Auguste Rodin. Rodin described Meštrović as "the greatest phenomenon among sculptors." In 1909, after two years of intense sculpting, Meštrović was offered to show a comprehensive collection of his work at the Secession gallery in Vienna. In 1911 his participation in the Serbian Pavilion of the International Exhibition in Rome affirmed Meštrović's international significance as a sculptor.

In 1914, Meštrović was forced to flee Split on the eve of the Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia. With Anton Trumbic and Frano Supilo, he formed the Yugoslav Committee on National Independence in London. The Committee was devoted to the creation of a southern Slavic or Yugoslav nation. In 1919 Meštrović held an exhibition at Petit Palais in Paris, concurrent with the Versailles Peace Conference. Once Yugoslavia was formed, Meštrović gave the new state all the sculptures he created for the Temple of Kossovo; it is considered his first public monument. From 1919 to 1922 Meštrović designed and worked on the memorial chapel for the Racic family in Cavtat, Dalmatia. After divorcing Ruža, Meštrović married Olga Kestercanek in 1923. They had four children, Marta, Tvrtko, Marica and Matthew.

Meštrović accepted the post of Rector of the Academy of Art in Zagreb, which he held until the beginning of World War II. He also visited the United States between 1924 and 1925, for a series of exhibitions that resulted in the commission for the sculptures known as the Indians, the Bowman and Spearman, in Grant Park, Chicago. Despite traveling to the U.S. and France for a few exhibits, Meštrović spent much of his time during the world wars in his homeland. In 1926, he executed the monument Gregory, Bishop of Nin, which he gave to the city of Split. Meštrović built his summer home in Split, which was given to the Croatian people after World War II and now is home to a collection of his art. In 1936 Meštrović erected the family chapel in his native village Otavice. In Split, on his own property, he also added a church with cloister to house Crucifix and thirty wood panel reliefs, known as his Life of Christ series--also given by the sculptor to the Croatian people. During his lifetime Meštrović donated over 1,000 of his works to the Croatian people.

Due to his political leanings, Meštrović was imprisoned by the Gestapo in 1941. With help from the Vatican, he was released in 1942 and sought refuge in Switzerland after living in Rome for a time. He worked on a book about the artist Michelangelo while residing with his family in Lausanne and Geneva between 1943 and 1946. During this time in Switzerland, Syracuse University's Chancellor William P. Tolley contacted Meštrović about a position with the University. While in Rome Meštrović accepted the position as Professor of Sculpture in the School of Art at Syracuse University, with encouragement from the artist Malvina Hoffman. He arrived in the United States in January, 1947, with his second wife, Olga, and his son Matthew or “Mate.”

That April, Meštrović exhibited 25 pieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the first time the museum honored a living artist with a one-man show. Sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the exhibit showcased Meštrović’s wide variety of skills, featuring sculpture in bronze, stone and wood, as well as his drawings.

At Syracuse University, Meštrović's students referred to his studio, a refurbished barn on Marshall Street, as the "Bauhaus." Most mornings were devoted to class and students would sculpt, while Meštrović dedicated afternoons to his own art in a private space.

Meštrović received honorary degrees from a number of universities, including Columbia, Colgate, Notre Dame and Marquette. He received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Institute of Architects. He was a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor and became an honorary member of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in 1952. Several monographs on Meštrović's work have been published in multiple languages.

Meštrović was one of 20 people selected to represent 50,000 new citizens throughout the United States to receive American citizenship in 1954 at a televised ceremony conducted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1955, Meštrović left his post at Syracuse University to teach as Professor of Sculpture at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. At the announcement of his leaving SU, there were signs of his influence and work around campus (as there still are).

Ivan Meštrović died on January 16, 1962.

Scope and Content Note

The Ivan Meštrović Collection consists of the following series: Correspondence, Multimedia, Photographs, Printed Material and Subject Files.

Most of the Correspondence series comprise of letters written about Meštrović, his work and related subjects. Correspondents include Meštrović, his brother, Petar Meštrović, David Tatham, Mary Lewis, Norman L. Rice, and Jim Ridlon.

The Multimedia series contains printing plates that feature Meštrović's art, a CD featuring photographs, chronologies and bibliographies created in 2001 and a 2009 documentary from Croatian TV with English subtitles. A microfilm copy of the collection (one reel) is also included in this series.

The Photographs series includes items of Meštrović's two studios in Syracuse, New York, formal and informal publicity photographs and numerous photos of his works. Several of the items in this series are signed. The series is divided into the following categories: Drawings, Personal, Sculptures and Wood Carvings. Photographs of drawings, sculptures and wood carvings include some detail items or close ups of the art. There are also photographs of unidentified art by the sculptor.

Printed Material consists of books and book reviews; newspaper clippings, news releases, and other periodicals; and exhibition materials. All of the materials are about Meštrović and his art. While two books are published by Syracuse University Press, the majority of titles in this series are foreign language publications. Catalog and exhibit pamphlets are from numerous museum shows in the U.S., Croatia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Subject Files contains a varierty of items, including commemorative postage stamps, a tribute to Meštrović on his 75th Anniversary from Pavle D. Ostovic and a tribute in memorium from artist Malvina Hoffman.


Access Restrictions:

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or items from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Additional information about Ivan Meštrović can be found at the Syracuse University Archives' online exhibition, "Ivan Meštrović's legacy at SU".

The Ivan Meštrović Papers at the University Notre Dame Archives is available in 35 mm microfilm in Syracuse University's Bird Library. There are 29 reels.

Selected Search Terms


Hoffman, Malvina, 1887-1966.
Meštrović, Ivan, 1883-1962.
Syracuse University.


Croatia -- History.
Syracuse (N.Y.) -- History.
College teachers.
Higher education.

Types of Material

Black-and-white photographs.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Ivan Meštrović Collection,

University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries.

Acquisition Information

The Meštrović Collection comprises of materials from a variety of sources acquired by the Syracuse University Archives between 1955 and 2011. A large part of the collection was donated, over time, by Donald P. Bean, Dick Case, Mrs. Keith Kennedy, Roger McLaughlin, Ellen Nims, George Norris, Frank Piskor, Jim Ridlon, Laurence Schmeckebier, Luella V. Synder, David Tatham, and Joseph J. Witt. Mr. Witt's gift was made in memory of Elizabeth Ann Lott Witt. Some materials were transferred to the Archives from the Syracuse University Library. Microfilm of the Ivan Meštrović Papers at the University of Notre Dame was given from that institution's archives to the Syracuse University Archives as part of a microfilm exchange in 1996. Lastly, some Meštrović items were purchased in 1969 and 2008.

Processing Information

Damaging material, such as staples, were removed, and newspaper clippings were photocopied. Multiples or duplicates of items have been discarded from the collection.


The collection is arranged by series and alphabetically within each series.

Table of Contents




Printed material

Subject files