Mullet on a Plate, 1932
oil on canvas
27.2 x 34.5 cm
As a “student of the French School” (Ecole de Paris), Vjekoslav Parać has obviously been influenced by the impressionist and post-impressionist aesthetic code. His work Mullet on a Plate represents an anachronism of sorts within European painting of the 1930s, but it corresponds to the pictorial tendencies within the Croatian cultural circle. After having finished the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1926 (class of Ljubo Babić), Parać went to Paris to undergo specialist training (1929-31) with the renowned teacher and cubist painter André Lhote. Cubist tendencies had minimal impact on the young and talented painter, who embodied his modus operandi in the manner of the great French painters of the late 19th c. (Claude Monet, Pierre Renoir).
Upon his return to his native Solin, Parać replaced the sights of Parisian metropolitan life with Dalmatian landscapes, still lifes and scenes from fishing life. Mullet on a Plate is a distinctly local theme, but its execution reflects French training. The fish on a plate is positioned in the centre of the composition and represents the only focal point of the painting. A thick impasto layer of paint, complemented by the gradation of cold hues in the background of the composition, additionally isolate the motif of the fish on a plate from the rest of the composition. The scene is static, it is, after all, a still life, but the learned post-impressionist precepts contribute to a vibrant note of the overall impression.
In 1935, Parać went to Rome to learn the basics of fresco painting at the Academia di Belle Arti. Having finished his training in Rome, he returned to his native land where he painted frescoes in the churches in Klis and Solin. He substituted the life of a Dalmatian farm labourer with monumental and “epic” frescoes with biblical themes. He worked as a professor at the Academy in Zagreb from 1950 to 1972. He became a full member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (today, the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts) in 1973. In addition to being a painter, he was also a graphic artist and a set designer. He received the “Vladimir Nazor” Lifetime Achievement Award in 1975.
Text: Zlatko Tot, intern curator of the National Museum of Modern art© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb