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The Best Watercolourist of the 19th Century in Croatia Was Deaf: Slava Raškaj

She died at the age of 29, but for the Croatian artist Slava Raškaj this short life was enough to be considered the best watercolourist of the 19th century in her country. Deaf from birth, she was forgotten for most of the 20th century, but her work was rediscovered at the end of the 1990s.


Slava was born in 1877 in Ozalj, a small village in central Croatia and very close to the Slovenian border. She grew up surrounded by nature, which she enjoyed and which inspired most of her artistic work.

Slava Raškaj, Jelen, watercolour, 1897

At the age of eight, she was sent to a school for Deaf children in Vienna, where she received her first lessons in drawing. At the age of 16, she returned to her hometown, where she was discovered by a local teacher who encouraged her family to send her to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, to continue studying drawing. When she was only 23, her paintings were exhibited at the 1900 Paris Exposition. She finally died with 29 years of tuberculosis after several years of depression and aggression.

In her short life she left an unforgettable legacy, becoming one of the most famous women in Croatia: the Croatian National Bank emitted in December 2000 a commemorative silver coin with her image, the Centre for Deaf Children and Youth "Slava Raškaj" in Zagreb has her name or some of her paintings are exhibited in the Modern Gallery of Zagreb (Moderna Galerija).

Slava Raškaj, Lopoči, watercolour, 1890.



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