Project Description

Nasta Rojc and Alexandrine Onslow

Nasta Rojc, one of the first academically educated female painters in Croatia, was born in 1883 into a wealthy family. Her father was Croatian politician Milan Rojc, a former Minister of Education. From a young age she didn’t fit the stereotype of a young girl so, after many quarrels with her family, she persuaded them to let her peruse her true calling – painting. She was mentored by the prominent Croatian painter Oton Iveković thanks to whom she became skillful enough to continue educating herself in Vienna and Munich, alongside some of the most exquisite artists like Miroslav Kraljević and Josip Račić. She excelled at portraits and landscapes, but although she was often present in various galleries, her work was frequently overlooked. In order to obtain a better status in society her family talked her into an arranged marriage with her friend, a colleague painter, Branko Šenoa. Their marriage was based on friendship – there was neither romance nor intimacy. Nevertheless, Nasta stayed legally married to Branko until his death in 1939, even after she met her one true love. Because of her poor health, Nasta took a trip to England, just after the end of World War I. Through one encounter she managed to heal her physical and emotional health. She met Alexandrina Maria Onslow, an officer of the British army, famous for her bravery on the war field that brought her medals of honor. Alexandrine was an exceptional woman, famous for testing the boundaries of femininity, thus opening Nasta up to her true nature. Nasta and Alexandrine traveled throughout England and Scotland getting to know one another and becoming deeply infatuated with one another; luckily, this love and infatuation lasted a lifetime and beyond. On that trip, Nasta painted the first painting of an automobile in Croatian art history, making a precedent once again, merely by her extravagantly bold life choices for that time. The two lovers returned to Zagreb together and started living together in a house that Nasta designed herself, along with a well-known architect Hugo Ehrlich, in a famous area of Zagreb, Rocco’s park. Unfortunately, not everything went smoothly for the couple. Nasta and Alexandrine supported the partisans and after the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia in 1941 their home was confiscated and though both of them were ill (at that time age 60 and 75), they were arrested, but soon released on account of insufficient proof. The stress was unbearable for Alexandrine, who started to fall ill more frequently, until she eventually died in 1949, leaving devastated Nasta alone. Nasta spent most of her time in the rose garden, reminiscing of her departed partner, allegedly barely painting. She died forgotten and poor on November 6, 1964, on the date of her birth. She was buried next to her beloved Alexandrine Onslow on the Mirogoj cemetery.