An Orchard in the Countryside, 1924
oil on canvas
In An Orchard in the Countryside from 1924 Vladimir Varlaj expands the Cézannesque and Expressionist methods that distinguish the work of the Prague Four group of painters (Uzelac, Trepše, Gecan and Varlaj), marked by a ‘return to order’ and a consistent reduction of details to basic structures defined by a simple drawing and a sequence of planes. In the spirit of the poetics of Magical Realism, Varlaj expresses his personal vision of the world by subordinating real landscapes or vedutas to the rule of absolute balance. He replaces descriptive colours with symbolic ones and natural with inner lighting.
Vladimir Varlaj started his education as an artist in Zagreb with Professor Tomislav Krizman, and finished the High School of Arts and Crafts mentored by Emanuel Crnčić. In 1917 he returned from the Eastern Front disabled, and in the following year he went to visit his friend and painter Milivoj Uzelac in Prague. Not a single painting of Varlaj’s exists from the period preceding his first appearance at the 1919 Spring Salon in Zagreb. Besides the Spring Salons, from 1921 to 1927 he also regularly participated in exhibitions of the Group of Independent Artists initiated by painter Ljubo Babić. Varlaj’s anthological series of landscapes and vedutas of an accentuated plasticity and exceptional suggestiveness was interrupted by a serious illness as early as 1934. The still lifes he painted later seem to be his way of bidding both painting and life farewell. He died in 1962 without having had a single solo exhibition held.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb