"When we were in the camp, people would often declare that this sort of thing could never happen again. When the war is over, they said, a better world will come into being and such horrors will never recur. . . . But then, as time went by, I saw the same sort of thing starting to happen again all over the world – in Vietnam, in the Gulag, in Latin America – everywhere. And I realized that what we had said in those days – that we would be the last people to experience such things – was not true: the truth is that we were not the last."
After finishing his studies at the art academy in Zagreb Music began his career with extensive travels in 1934. He spent some time in Madrid, Paris, Vienna and Zurich before settling in Venice in 1940. Music was deported to Dachau in 1943 where he franticly sketched the life in the camp under extremely difficult circumstances. After his liberation in 1945 Music returned to Venice where he won the first prize at the Bienniale in 1950. Other prizes followed in 1951 and 1952 when Music was awarded the Prix de Paris, first together with Corpora and then alone. A new beginning in painting evolved around the artist's preoccupation with the Dalmatian landscapes of his childhood. A next step was an awakened interest in his direct environment, Italian landscapes.
Stylistically he was influenced by Byzantian mosaics and icons. He also spent some time during the 1950s working in Paris where the 'lyrical abstraction' of the French Informel determined the art world. He kept his studio in Venice, however, and exhibited again at the Biennale in 1956 and 1960. This time the artist was awarded the great prize for his graphic work and the UNESCO Prize. During the 1960s his organic motifs became more and more abstract and his compositions abandoned the laws of three-dimensionality. The much acclaimed series 'We are not the Last', in which the artist transformed the terror of his experiences in a concentration camp into documents of universal tragedy, was made in the 1970s. Music's work has been honoured in numerous international exhibitions, such as the large retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1955.
Zoran Mušič was born in a Slovene-speaking family in Bukovica, a village in the Vipava Valley near Gorizia, in what was then the Austrian County of Gorizia and Gradisca (now in Slovenia). Mušič's father was headmaster of the local school, while his mother was a teacher. Both parents were Slovenes from the Goriška region: his father was from Šmartno, a village in the Collio hills and his mother was born in a village Kostanjevica near Kanal ob Soči.
During the Battles of the Isonzo, the family fled to Arnače near Velenje, where Zoran attended elementary school. In 1918, towards the end of the First World War, the family moved back to Gorizia, but they were expulsed again by the Italian authorities that had occupied the Julian March. They moved to Grebinj in Carinthia, but they were expulsed again by the Austrian authorities after the Carinthian Plebiscite in October 1920. They finally settled in the Yugoslav Lower Styria. Zoran attended high school in Maribor. Between 1930 and 1935 he continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb.
After graduation in 1935 Mušič travelled extensively. He spent six months in Madrid, he visited Vienna and Dalmatia several times while being based in Maribor. He moved to Ljubljana in 1940 and then again to his native Gorizia in 1943. During this period, he painted several churches in the Goriška region, together with his friend Avgust Černigoj (Drežnica, Grahovo). In 1944, he was sent by the Nazis to the Dachau concentration camp, where he made 200 sketches of life in the camp under extremely difficult circumstances. From the drawings executed in May 1945, he managed to save around seventy. After liberation by Americans in 1945, Mušič returned to Ljubljana, but was subjected to the pressures of the newly established Communist regime and moved back to Gorizia already at the end of June 1945. In October 1945 he settled in Venice. In September 1949 he married Ida Cadorin - Barbarigo.
We are not the last.
In 1956 he won the first prize at the Venice Biennale. In 1951 and 1952 he was awarded the Prix de Paris, (jointly with Antonio Corpora in 1951). After 1952 he lived in Paris for a while, where the 'lyrical abstraction' of the French Informel determined the art world. Throughout this period he kept his studio in Venice and exhibited again at the Biennale in 1956 and 1960, when he was awarded the Grand Prize for his graphic work and the UNESCO Prize. The much acclaimed series 'We are not the Last', in which the artist transformed the terror of his experiences in the concentration camp into documents of universal tragedy, was made in the 1970s.
In 1981 Mušič was appointed Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in Paris. Mušič's work has been honoured in numerous international exhibitions, such as the large retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1995, opened by the French and Slovenian presidents Francois Mitterand and Milan Kučan.
He died in Venice in 2005 at the age of 96. He is buried in the local St. Michele cemetery.