The specialized Collection Romolo Venucci has been established in 1989 by a donation of painter's widow Margareta Venucci. This donation to the Modern Gallery Rijeka comprised around hundred of the of the author's works. The donation was accompanied with a purchase of yet another 120 paintings. Until today, the Collection of Venucci, one of the greatest Rijeka artists of the 20th century, has been almost completely rounded by further purchases in 1999 (180 artworks and personal documentation) and 2002 ( another 34 artworks) and comprises 339 inventory numbers with a possibility of a comprehensive survey of a creative oeuvre of one of the greatest Rijeka artists of the 20th century.
Life of Romolo Venucci (Fiume, 1903 – Rijeka, 1976) is a paradigm of a city of Rijeka and its historical changes. Due to its geographic position within Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, Rijeka came to occupy a special political position in Croatia, since as a Corpus separatum it was annexed to the Hungarian crown, while between the two world wars it came under the Italian reign. The artist's father, Antal Wnouscek, was a military officer who happened to be transferred from his native Baranja (Pécs) to Rijeka where he married a Slovenian, Marija Ana Rostand. Their family with six children spoke Hungarian, hence Romolo attended Hungarian schools in Rijeka and studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Budapest (1923-1928). During the interwar period he changed Wnouscek, his surname of Czech origin into its Italian variant Venucci, and accepted Italian culture and language. He adopted new art trends, and his cubist-constructivist expressive oeuvre installed him as one of the leading artists of Rijeka vanguard group. He realized public works, frescoes in the Capuchin Church (1927-28) and the sculptures of angels for the facade of the Kozala church (1933-1934). After the war Venucci testified a deep connection with his milieu, from which he couldn't and didn't want to be separated, not in the harshest post-war conditions, not even during the biggest exodus of Rijeka inhabitants in the 1960s. As a member of the Italian minority he got employed at the Italian elementary schools, while in a role of pedagogue he lead very popular painting courses in Circolo Italiano, that were attended by many Rijeka artists.
Venucci's artist oeuvre moved from a youthful realistic approach and academic expression, through the Central European 1920s impressionist and expressionist influences, to the cubist-constructivism of the 1930s with the hints of Italian futurism, to post-war attempts of abstraction in the 1970s and a final return to a realist manner of portraying reality by expressive colourism.
Until the 1990s his works and publications were poorly represented and the artist was almost completely unknown outside of Rijeka. Thanks to a donation, Venucci finally assumed his true position, which he could always rightfully claim due to his visual art achievements. His work was first presented by a retrospective and an accompanying comprehensive exhibition catalogue in 1993 in organization of Modern Gallery. This was further followed by a monograph, published in 1996, that presented and processed then accessible Venucci's works in Rijeka's public and private collections. Vennuci's work is being consistently popularized through museum programs, thematic exhibitions and lends by which his contribution becomes embedded into the totality of Croatian painting.
Daina Glavočić, M.A.