In Remembrance of Paja Jovanović


Vršac, 1859 – Vienna, 1957.

Paja Jovanović, a painter, has remained, along with Uroš Predić, the most significant representative of the artistic scene of the Serbian realism. His works can be found in many European museums.

He spent his long and happy life in the time between the two centuries, which are connected with many dramatic events, social-historical turmoils and important scientific inventions. In this period many important changes happened in art and painting, in the west European countries, as well as in the Serbian culture.

Paja Jovanović was born in Vršac, on 4 June, 1859, in the family of a photographer Stevan Jovanović and Ernestina, née Deot. He received his first lessons in drawing from his grammar school teacher, Vodecki. In 1875 he went to Vienna with his father, where he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in 1877, in the class of the professor Christian Gripenkerl. After he had finished his schooling at the Academy, he continued his studies in the master’s schools of Christian Gripenkerl and Leopold Carl Miller.


Encouraged to visit the Balkan region during his holidays, he studied the customs and folklore of the people from this area, and in 1882 he was awarded the prize of the Academy and was given the czar scholarship for the composition The wounded Montenegrin. The European public, interested in the events on the Balkans, directed their attention to the young painter, and in 1883 he signed a very convenient contract with the London gallery “French”. He continued his travelling through Caucasus, Morocco, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Spain. A great number of sketches, notes, studies, along with the collected objects from the life of the common people, will find their place in his famous genre-compositions, such as: Fencing, Decorating of the Bride, Cockfighting...

The reputation and fame of Paja Jovanović in the world have their repercussion among the Serbian people as well. As early as in 1893, he was proclaimed for the member of the Serbian Royal Academy. He was given the task to make the monumental, historical compositions, such as Migration of Serbs and The Proclamation of Dušan’s Law.

Apart from his genre-compositions and works with the historical content, the artist gained popularity as the remarkable portraitist. He immortalized the crowned people, the artists, the politicians and the wealthy people. His famous portraits are: Mihailo Pupin, King Alexander Karađorđević, The Painter Simington... He painted the portraits of his longtime model and wife, Muni with special care.

The works of church painting also made the field of Jovanović’s interest. He painted the iconostasis in Novi Sad, Dolovo and Sremski Karlovci.

On the very top of the Serbian painting, laurelled with awards and medals, Paja Jovanović is the painter whose popular works were used to educate many generations of young people.

The works of Paja Jovanović have been kept in the Town Museum of Vršac, along with the exceptionally famous Vršac Triptych. Most of his works and personal belongings can be found in “The Legacy of Paja Jovanović’’, which belongs to the Town Museum of Belgrade.



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