Josip Restek was born on March 7, 1915, in Volavje, County Jastrebarsko, near Zagreb. He obtained a degree in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1940, where he was taught by professor Ljubo Babić and Omer Mujadžić. In the following year, he specialized in printmaking under the mentorship of Professor Tomislav Krizman. That same year, he graduated with a degree in art history from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb and started to intensively engage in graphic arts (high print; woodcut, linocut).
From 1950 to 1973, he was a teacher and staff member at the School of Applied Art in Zagreb, initially in the Painting Techniques study program and later at the Graphic Department. From 1973 until retirement in 1982, he was a lecturer at the Graphic Art School in Zagreb, where he taught Graphic Design and Graphic Art History; for teaching purposes, he published the textbook Osnove grafičkog dizajna / Introduction to Graphic Design in 1975, in which he compiled elements of graphic art and their visual perception, and Tabelarni pregled likovno-grafičke kulture / Tabular Overview of Graphic Art History in 1976.
On academic summer study programs, he regularly visited pulsating European art centers like Venice, Milan, and particularly Paris, often together with his wife Blanka, also an artist, where they visited galleries and museums and participated in artists activities and art conventions, often in the company of renown colleagues artists like Slavko Kopač. In Paris he worked in different art studious like atelier Edmond Desjobert, specializing in flat print (lithography, screen print). In an atelier, Johhny Friedländer perfected his skills in deep relief print (aquatint, drypoint, copper plate etching) and he soon transitioned into multi-media print art and charismatic and original art expression.
In the early 1970s: “Restek’s print sheet became a relief; it is almost as if he penetrates the boundaries of deep print by creating a borderline formation, the drama of which arises between the two-dimensionality of the print and the three-dimensionality of the object. He carves, cuts, decomposes the plate to an expressive and voluminous modelation of the print sheet to a tangible burst,” as accurately observed by the author of the Restek’s retrospective exhibition Biserka Rauter Plančić (Exhibition catalogue, Klovićevi Dvori Gallery, Zagreb, 2003).
His exceptional work brought him international recognition and numerous awards. In the 1970s, he was named member of “honoris causa” and given a diploma and silver medal by Accademia internazionale Tommaso Campanella; he received plaques for his graphic art at the 6th and 7th Annals of Lika in Gospić; he was rewarded the Work Medal with Silver Star in 1972; he was given the purchase award at the 4th Exhibition of Yugoslav Portrait in Tuzla, and was named Academic with a title in 1980 and won a Gold Medal in 1982 by Accademia Italia delle Arte e del Lavoro in Salsomaggiore Terme, Italy.
From the early 1940s to the end of his life, he regularly exhibited his works at solo (43 exhibitions) and group exhibitions (275 exhibitions), at home, and around the world, of which it is specially worthy to mention the solo graphic art exhibition in Paris in Galerie Simone Badenijer (with introduction of Eduard Goerf) in 1956, the first retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb from March 5 to March 31, 1985, with introduction of Tomislav Lalin, as well as the second, posthumous retrospective exhibition at the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery in Zagreb, and the Vjekoslav Karas Gallery in Karlovac in 2003, exhibition author Biserka Rauter-Plančić, as well as the Exhibition on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth entitled Krajolik – Od forme do Enformela / Landscape – from Form to Art Informel in Klovićevi Dvori Gallery, Lotrščak Tower in 2015, exhibition author Petra Vugrinec.
In 1978, in his charming now 112 years old wooden birth house in Volavje, he organized the Permanent Exhibition of Paintings and Prints of Josip Restek.
Josip Restek died on May 13, 1987, in Zagreb.
BIBLIOGRAPHY – selected
“According to his authentic creativity and wide range of his artistic interests, Restek is one of Croatia’s most elite modernist printmakers, and without a doubt an artist on the highest European niveau. He carves, cuts, decomposes the plate to an expressive and voluminous modelation of the print sheet, to a tangible burst.”
Prof. Biserka Rauter Plančić,
Josip Restek, catalog of the retrospektive exibition,
galery Klovićevi Dvori, Zagreb,
“I personally believe that the epithet of elitism is equally supported by the ‘moral beauty’ of the artist’s work and life. His artistic work is adorned with modesty and genuine delight in the artistic production sans the desire to pander to transient modes. Restek’s oeuvre exudes a human criterion, a seldom achieved harmony and tranquility. His consistency is a mimesis, and his production and pursuit a continuity that manifests itself in a rarely-observed mastery of deliberation in the realm of graphic art.”
“Restek’s stylistic development … from realistically transferred motifs and figurative realism … to the liberation of form through expressionist morphological interventions in landscape and, ultimately, lyrical abstraction when he used motifs to abandon subjects from present time and place, thus abstracting occurrences to an extent of cosmic visions.”
Dr. sci. Petra Vugrinec,
Josip Restek – Krajolik, Od forme do enformela
Katalog izložbe proslave stote obljetnice u Kuli Lotrščak u Zagrebu
“ In this evaluation of Restek’s art, I would like to emphasize the importance of his printmaking opus, which, without any doubt, belongs to the highest levels of Croatian graphic art of sixth and seventh decade of the last century. At that time, Restek has produced, in the techniques of aquatint, linocut, woodcut, and cooper plate etching, one of the most important pieces of Croatian Art Informel, which certainly belongs to the highest European levels. For his exceptional work as a printmaker, Restek was simultaneously gaining recognition and receiving numerous awards in the competitions of elite graphic artists on international art exhibitions and biennales.”
Dr. sci. Ivanka Reberski,
Valorization of the donation of Josip Restek art to the town of Zagreb,
“Considering Restek’s masterful insight and unmatched expertise in the graphic art medium and methodical implementation of the numerous versatile printmaking techniques, there is no doubt that Restek has exactly in that compartment achieved his optimum, particularly in deep print and especially challenging juvigravurs.
Drawings and aquarelles, gouache as well as monotype, often served only as a preparation (foreplay) for engraving the plate in the layered print sheet making his masterful graphic art opus representative domestic as well as universally.”
Akademik Dr. Tonko Maroević,
Valorization of the donation of Josip Restek art to the town of Zagrebu,
“Restek is included in the great sequence of lyrical Art Informel … He completely conceals the figural traces in his print sheets, and even in certain oil paintings, with intense abstract graphisms.”
Abstract Art in Croatia,
1982. Gold medal, Accademia Italia delle Arte e del Lavoro in Salsomaggiore Terme, Italy
1980. Accademia Italia delle Arte e Lavori, named Academic with a title
1979. Purchase award at the 4th Exhibition of Yugoslav Portrait in Tuzla
1972. Rewarded the Work Medal with Silver Star
1971. Received plaques for the graphic art at the 6th and 7th Annals of Lika in Gospić
1970. Accademia Internationale Tommaso Campanella, named member of “honoris causa” and given a diploma and silver medal
1956. Second price, competition for the big murial in the Jugoslav capital “Savezno Izvrsno Vijece”, “Federal Executive Council”, entitled “Zemlja i Svemir”, “Earth and Space”