Richard Neutra in World War I: Sketches and Watercolors

Monday, May 4, 2015 - 10:00am to Friday, July 31, 2015 - 5:00pm

Richard Neutra Self PortraitIn contrast to the richness, security, and relative comfort of his first two decades as a youth and student in Vienna, Richard Neutra (1892-1970) would experience, after 1914, the less happy traumas of war and illness. Following the assassination in Sarajevo in June, 1914, of Imperial Hapsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, by Serbian nationalists yearning to secede from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Neutra was sent as a Reserve Artillery Lieutenant to the town of Trebinje, Bosnia-Herzegovena, a remote outpost near Dubrovnik, Croatia, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic.  After the outbreak of war in August, the primary mission of Neutra's unit was patrolling the coast to spot approaching enemy ships. Its only combat involved small skirmishes with Slavic partisans in Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia.

During those years, however, as an ever-observant traveler, Neutra relished his encounters with new people and places and did sketches and water colors of them and of the area's physical and cultural landscape.  He was especially intrigued with the vestiges of old Islamic architecture throughout the Balkans.  But his own professional architectural skills lay largely in abeyance.  In Trebinje, he designed and built only a small officer's "teahouse," a modest structure that primitively anticipated his life-long penchant for simple post-and-beam pavilions. During and after the war, because of persistent malaria and incipient tuberculosis, Neutra also suffered bouts of depression, as revealed in somber black and white drawings.

This exhibition, curated by Thomas S. Hines, UCLA Research Professor of History and of Architecture and Urban Design, author of Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture (1982, 2005), includes selections from UCLA's holdings of Neutra's sketches and water colors, housed within its larger Richard Neutra Archive. 


Library Special Collections (Research Library)