At the Park, 1930
watercolour on paper
In a letter to a friend in Croatia from Paris, Vjekoslav Parać writes that “Sometimes my passion stirs me to work, but it all ends when I get out into the boulevard. And then cars, electricity, girls, all that life, the hustle and bustle dispel the thought of painting.” Moving to Paris was an exceptional episode in the lives of many European artists, at least until the second half of the 20th century, and particularly for artists from the periphery of Europe. Vjekoslav Parać was one such artist. He was born in 1904 in the town of Solin in Dalmatia. He enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1922, and in 1929 he moved – as a scholarship holder of the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes – to Paris, where he stayed for two years.
In trying to somehow “catch” or show the motives that fascinated him so much – streets, squares, nightclubs, acquaintances; in a word, metropolitan life – Vjekoslav Parać started to produce an increasing number of drawings and watercolours. When the theme that he painted was traditional such as a still life, Parać would stage it in front of a window overlooking the city. His At the Park watercolour from 1930 indicates perhaps best what Parać was preoccupied with at the time – how to depict by means of painting the everyday experiences of the residents of a metropolis? Everything in this painting is subordinated to a passing moment – Parać first sketched the scene in ink defining it only roughly, a priest, a man walking a dog, people sitting on a bench, trees, after which he finished it by applying colour, the sole purpose of which was to highlight what he quickly sketched in ink. Ink and watercolour, and the way in which Parać used them, correspond perfectly with the impression of movement, more precisely with the moment when the figures of the priest and the man walking a dog walk past each other. To depict this everyday and typically urban scene, Parać had to reject the rule of foreshortening – although closer to the viewer, the priest is considerably shorter than the man walking a dog behind him. However, the sense of movement is still there, with one insignificant moment in the life of the city having been recorded.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić,curator 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