oil on canvas
100 x 120 cm
Vladimir Varlaj (Zagreb, 1895 – 1962) attended Tomislav Krizman’s private painting school, and in 1912 he started studying painting at the Advanced School of Arts and Crafts. The beginning of World War I and military conscription interrupted his education, and after having spent two years at the front he returned to Zagreb a disabled military veteran.
Despite his difficult health situation, in 1918 he enrolled to study painting at the Academy in Prague. Having gained a wealth of painting experience in Prague, four young artists, Milivoj Uzelac, Vilko Gecan, Vladimir Varlaj and Marijan Trepše, as an informal group of the Prague Four, presented at the 7th Spring Salon in 1919 some of the works that are today considered to be the pinnacle of Expressionism in Croatia. In the following years, he staged frequent exhibitions at home and abroad (Geneva 1920, Philadelphia 1926, London 1930), he was one of the founders of the Group of Independent Artists (1924) and in parallel, he continued his painting studies at the Zagreb Academy, graduating in the class of Marino Tartaglia in 1934.
In the 1920s, Varlaj often travelled to Dalmatia and painted seascapes, but he was equally inspired by the landscapes of continental Croatia. The mountain of Klek stands out as the most frequent motif he painted from various locations at different times of day or year, in a broad time span. Klek reveals the cohesion of man and nature, and severe geometric shapes in the landscape, such as the railroad crossing the valley, the bridge and the houses are used by the painter to depict life at the foot of the mountain as subtly as possible. He created a recognisable magical-realistic expression with a specific palette of earthy hues.
Text: Marta Radman, curator trainee © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb