Sunday, April 25, 2010

(Social) Realism: Croatia

Maksimilijan Vanka (1889 – 1963)

Maksimilijan Vanka (October 11, 1889 – February 2, 1963), also known as Maxo Vanka, was a Croatian-American artist. His most important works are his Millvale Murals in the St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church, the first Croatian Catholic parish in the United States, in Millvale, Pennsylvania, a borough of the city of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County. They depict Christ and Mary in images of war and offer social commentary on world events like fascism, war, and poverty.

Murals painted before the war depict Croatian immigrants coming to America to seek a better life, grateful to have escaped the slaughter taking place in their homeland. Their strong sense of pride in their heritage comes through and blends well with their entrance into the Pittsburgh labor-intensive industry of the time. This was Vanka's [sic]"Mothers offer up their sons for labor" theme, a tribute to all those who worked diligently in the mills and mines in and around Pittsburgh. One mural depicts the fire and collapse of one of the coal burning mills and as a Croatian mother cradles her dead son, her other three sons rush into the mill to save their fellow workers. The mother ends up losing all four of her sons, sacrificed for the good of others.

Murals painted after the war are much more striking and vivid, with very dark and haunting themes. This was Vanka's [sic] "Mothers offer up their sons for war" theme. He was a committed pacifist and the intensity of his beliefs are depicted clearly in these murals.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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