The Strossmayer Gallery of Old masters was named in honor of its founder, Josip Juraj Strossmayer (Osijek, 4th February 1815 – Đakovo, 8th April 1905), a priest, politician, patron of the arts, and one of the most important figures of Croatian public life in the 19th century. Guided by the idea of cultural revival as a significant part of the fight for national emancipation and unification of all parts of Croatia, he morally and financially supported a whole array of institutions, societies, and individuals, as well as many construction and publication efforts. One of his most significant feats was the founding of the modern University of Zagreb and the Academy of Sciences and arts, followed by the construction of the monumental Cathedral in Đakovo. Soon after becoming the Bishop of Đakovo in the year 1850, Strossmayer developed an interest in art and soon began to acquire artworks. This finally led him to the idea about founding a public museum of paintings.
This virtual exhibition is an extension of the exhibition The opening ceremony of the Strossmayer Gallery in 1884: on the occasion of the 200-year anniversary of the birth of Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, which was organized at the beginning of the year 2015 in the palace atrium of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. That exhibition was only one of the many events with which the Strossmayer Gallery marked two important jubilees in the period from November 2014 to November 2015: the 130-year anniversary of the Gallery’s opening and the consecration of the Academy, and the 200-year anniversary of the birth of its founder. A commemorative smaller exhibition catalogue was also published for the occasion. The nature and volume of the gathered material, which had by then already surpassed the chamber character of the exhibition, inspired us to conceive its virtual version, which would enable the inclusion of more material and its proper presentation. In the meantime, relevant expert and scientific literature that was published – among which the most recent title marked a fundamental breakthrough for the understanding of the genesis of this project for the Academy palace and Gallery of paintings, thanks to its analysis of the better and lesser known or unpublished architectural documentation – became our guiding light for additional research during which we selected further examples of exhibition material. The virtual framework of this exhibition offered a level of functionality that contributed to a more vivid and lively presentation of the material, as well as the possibility to simultaneously reach out to the most various types of users. Our wish is for this endeavor to be interesting and educational to the widest possible audience, but at the same time, to be useful source of research to our colleagues. Together with the company that designed the contents of this exhibition, and with the cooperation of our fellow cultural institutions that allowed the connection with their own digital repositories, we have strived to establish the widest possible network of connections with related and web-based available material and literature.
The main title of this virtual exhibition was taken from a congratulatory telegram sent by the public library in Delnice, a small town in the mountainous part of Croatia, which was one of the many dozens of cards and telegrams sent by individuals and institutions alike to the Academy for the ceremonial opening of its Gallery of paintings, and which were published in the newspapers day after day during that November month. The full text of this telegram: „Distinguished patron, pride of all Croats, while there is a world and until the end of time, in splendor be thy name for the feats you ordain for your grateful fellow Croats.“, fully describes the atmosphere and emotions inspired by the great event, and by Strossmayer himself, among the large number of his fellow Croats. We have tried to transmit that same inspiration to you, as faithfully and in as much detail as possible, in the work that ensues.