GUSTAV LIKAN (YUGOSLAVIAN, 1912-1998)
Born in Yugoslavia in 1912, Gustav Likan early in life achieved international fame as an artist. He has long been noted in Europe for his portraits of royalty and heads of state. Since coming to America, his color genius caught fire and he emerged as one of the most important colorists of the twentieth century.
Considered a prodigy, Likan won early acclaim in academic circles. So great was his grasp and talent, he flew through the ordinarily rigorous years of required draftsmanship and human figure drawing in half the usual time. Recognizing his extraordinary talents, the Munich Academy of Fine Arts bestowed the special honor of Master Student upon Likan. He was given his own private studio and model. Considering the orthodoxy and conservatism of this institution, the elevation of a mere boy to such a status stands as a tribute to genius discovered.
Likan studied restoration under the best European masters of this rare art. This served to further develop his skills. Summers were spent in Holland, Italy and France...haunting the museums, sketching and painting 10 to 14 hours a day even during vacations. After earning his fame as a portrait artist, Likan immigrated to South America, where in 1948 he was hired by Eva Peron to paint murals for the country's churches, hospitals and schools, and then to the United States, arriving in Chicago in 1957. He was immediately appointed to the staff of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts as an instructor, where he taught until 1967, and where his lushly colored canvases earned him the title "father of acrylics".
For the remainder of his life, Professor Likan resided in Texas. He taught at the Laguna Gloria Museum in Austin and reportedly was a popular instructor. He was an outspoken critic of gimmickry in art. "Intellectual conjecture" as he put it. He believed rather in the unifying nature of art: "The function of art is the creation of beauty. The artist has the power to create in others his pleasurable excitement, thereby sharing with them aesthetic experiences.