Vjekoslav Karas was the first major formally trained painter in the second half of the 19th century. He was born in Karlovac, in a humble artisan family. As a ten-year-old, he was already fascinated by art. His first teachers were Karlovac painting craftsmen and the painter Friedrich Hamerlitz. Colonel Franjo Kos and other prominent locals helped him raise some money to start his education in Italy. His first professors at the Florence Academy were Corsi and Meli. Three years later, he was already in Rome, influenced by the Nazarenes and their spiritual leader, Johann Friedrich Overbeck, painting his series of religious paintings. Apart from painting, while in Rome, Karas took singing, musical theory, flute and guitar lessons. In Karlovac, he founded and conducted a small choir, also composing over thirty pieces for this purpose.
Karas’s major works are: A Roman Women Playing a Lute, Mother leaving Moses by the River, Ana Krešić, Miško Krešić, Josefine Barac-Bernardić, A Boy, and A Self Portrait. Due to his sensibility, he was deeply disappointed because of the lack of understanding and incentives in his hometown, so he took his own life, drowning in the Korana river on July 5, 1858. Sometimes, rivers do have a strange effect on people, sometimes they are an inspiration and sometimes they serve as a dramatic epilogue to one’s life.
Many will readily agree that Vjekoslav Karas was the most important representative of the Croatian 19th century painting. Today, his statue stands near the old moat, on a plateau, overlooking the Old Town. You can enjoy his beautiful paintings at the Town Museum and also at the Vjekoslav Karas Gallery.