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 status stands as a tribute to genius discovered.
Professor 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, 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 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.
For the rest of his life, Professor Likan resided in Texas. He taught at the Laguna Gloria Museum in Austin. Since the beginning of his tenure, the enrollment of this fine arts course had trebled. Professor Likan was the most popular instructor ever to teach at this famous school; again, testimony to his artistry and his ability to inspire others. He had a special rapport with young people, keeping his own outlook young and vital…an obvious characteristic of his work.
Possessed of a highly individualistic philosophy, Likan 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 esthetic experiences.”
Truly spoken. Every Likan canvas is an act of love. Love of beauty…love of color…love of life.