Vojin Bakić, a Croatian sculptor of Serb origin was born on July 5, 1915 in Bjelovar. He graduated from the Academy of Arts in Zagreb and completed a special course with the established sculptor of the time, Frane Kršinić. At his first stand-alone exhibit in 1940, Bakić displayed drawings and sculptures, predominantly female nudes carved in stone, which had defined curves and closed shapes.
In 1941, Ustashe took Bakić’s four brothers to the Danica prison camp and later to Jadovno at the foot of Velebit mountain where they were all executed. He escaped his brothers’ destiny, thanks to Kršinić, who provided written guarantees for Bakić, while risking his own safety.
After World War II, Bakić started work on his “large” sculptures and monuments. The first such sculpture from this series was a monument dedicated to Marx and Engels in 1953. Noteworthy monuments from Bakić’s early phase are the important monument Victory in Kamenska at the edge of the Požega valley, which was destroyed in the past war, similar to Bjelovarčan, Gudovčan and Before Execution, which were destroyed at the beginning of the 90’s. Later, Bakić created the so-called Leafy Form (Razlistala forma) which stands today on Gajeva street in Zagreb; a monument to Stjepan Filipović in Valjevo, Serbia; a monument at the Dotrščina memorial area in Zagreb, a monument on Petrova Gora and a monument dedicated by Croatian people to the victims in Kragujevac, Serbia. These are only some of Bakić’s great works.
At the Venice Biennale exhibit in 1956, the Yugoslav Pavilion contained 12 sculptures by Vojin Bakić with his monumental limestone Bull as the central exhibit. Soon more recognition followed – Bakić was invited to participate at two exhibitions organized as part of the first post-war exhibition in Brussels in 1958. This was the first time that the Federal Peoples’ Republic of Yugoslavia had participated at a world exhibition, with the ambition of demonstrating its openness towards the West and abandoning the politics of the then East.
Bakić’s studio burnt down in 1965 and much of his work was permanently destroyed. His sculptures met similar fate in the last war when many of his monuments were destroyed. Apart from those in Kamenska, Gudovac and Bjelovar, also destroyed was his monument to Bilogora partisans in Bačkovica, Monument to Deceased Fighters in Čazma, Ivan Goran Kovačić’s bust in Karlovac and part of the Dotrščina memorial park. His monument on Petrova Gora sustained damage and today thieves continue to remove stainless steel plaques from this work. Also damaged was monument at the Dotrščina entry plateau and Josip Broz Tito’s bronze bust in Veliko Trojstvo. Some sculptures have ‘disappeared’, which is mostly true of those in the Bjelovar town area from where they were removed but were never replaced. Bakić died in 1992, after suffering an additional blow with the death of his son earlier that same year.