An Old Woman with a Dutch Hat, 1913
oil on hardboard
Maksimilijan Vanka (1889-1962) studied painting in Zagreb with painter Bela Čikoš Sesija and in Brussels. He was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb until 1934, after which he moved to the United States. He was an important member of the Group of Four, together with painters Ljubo Babić, Vladimir Becić and Jerolim Miše from 1926 to 1929, when the Group of Four transformed into the famous Group of Three after Vanka left. He became a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1929. Large-format compositions depicting folklore and religious themes, colourful landscapes in watercolour, portraits and self-portraits comprise a significant portion of his oeuvre. He also did fresco painting and sculpture. Vanka’s designs for the decorations and costumes of Krešimir Baranović’s ballet Licitar Heart are particularly interesting.
Vanka painted his An Old Woman with a Dutch Hat in 1913 at the age of 24. Vanka’s entire oeuvre is known for its distinctive Realism, which was often colourist in nature. Although the colours in which he painted the old woman are more restrained, there are striking yellow highlights present on her face. The deformities of the old woman’s facial features, her sagging shoulders, penetrating gaze and expression of worry and fear, coupled with Vanka’s accentuated brushstrokes, contribute to the expressionist quality of the composition. The motif of the Dutch hat and Vanka’s placement of the portrayed bust indoors are a deliberate reference to the great tradition of modern Dutch painting.
Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb