Ivan Mestrović (August 15, 1883 - January 16, 1962) was a Croatian and Yugoslav sculptor and architect. He was born in the village of Vrpolje (then Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, today Croatia). He spent his childhood in Otavice, a small village located on edge of Petrovo field in Dalmatian hinterland. At the age of sixteen, a master stone cutter from Split, Pavle Bilinic, noticed his talent and he took him as an apprentice. His artistic skills were improved by studying the monumental buildings in the city and his education at the hands of Bilinic's wife, who was a high-school teacher. Soon, they found a mine owner from Vienna who paid for Mestrovic to move there and be admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts.
In 1905 he made his first exhibit with the Secession Group in Vienna, noticeably influenced with the Art Nouveau style. His work quickly became popular, even with the likes of Auguste Rodin, and he soon earned enough for him and his wife (since 1904) Ruza Klein to travel to more international exhibitions. In 1908 Mestrovic moved to Paris and the sculptures made in this period earned him international reputation.
By 1923 he designed the mausoleum for the Racic family at Cavtat, and he also created a set of statues for a never-built Yugoslav national temple that would be erected in Kosovo to commemorate the battle that happened there in 1389. He continued to travel to post his exhibits around the world: he displayed at the Brooklyn Museum in New York in 1924, in Chicago in 1925, he even traveled to Egypt and Palestine in 1927. In 1927 he entered a design for the coins of the Irish Free State, and though his design arrived too late for consideration it was adopted in 1965 as the seal of the Central Bank of Ireland. During the April War Mestrovic was living in Split. After being warned by novelist and Independent State of Croatia (NDH) minister Mile Budak that the Croatian authorities could not guarantee his safety in Split, he moved to Zagreb in September 1941.
In 1946, Syracuse University offered him a professorship, and he moved to the United States. From 1951 he began making contributions to the Croatian emigrant journal Hrvatska revija, which would later publish his memoirs. He was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for sculpture in 1953. President Dwight D. Eisenhower personally presided over the 1954 ceremony granting Mestrovic American citizenship. He went on to become a professor at the University of Notre Dame in 1955.At the end of January 1951 Mestrovic joined the American campaign for the release of archbishop Stepinac from prison.
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