Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Picturing Peasant: Maksimilijan Vanka’s Folkloric Paintings and the “Croatian Question” from Habsburg Empire to Croatian Nation-State

Cook, Heidi (2017) Picturing Peasant: Maksimilijan Vanka’s Folkloric Paintings and the “Croatian Question” from Habsburg Empire to Croatian Nation-State. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Download (1MB) | Preview


This dissertation examines how early twentieth-century images and displays of Croatian folk culture were used to imagine a variety of competing and mutable Central European identities. In recent decades, early twentieth-century depictions of Central and Eastern European folk culture have been used to lend cultural legitimacy to new nation-states, including Croatia. This dissertation seeks to excavate the historical motivation behind and early reception of such depictions of folk culture by analyzing the folkloric works of Croatian painter Maksimiljan Vanka (1889-1963).
Vanka began painting folkloric imagery during the Great War. After his immigration to the United States in 1934, his folkloric work culminated in his murals in St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale, Pennsylvania completed on the eve of the US entrance into World War II. During the three decades in which Vanka produced folkloric works, the Yugoslav regions witnessed intense political change: the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the foundation of a unified Yugoslav state, the assassinations of political leaders, the establishment of a royal dictatorship, and the seizure of power by a fascist regime. In the shifting political situation, Vanka was typical of the artists and thinkers of his time in that he produced various and changing responses to the “Croatian question” about the region’s national sovereignty. This dissertation charts how Vanka used the image of the Croatian peasant to support cosmopolitanism in the late Habsburg Empire, Yugoslavism at the end of World War I, both Croatian nationalism and socialism in interwar Zagreb, and transatlantic immigrant identity in the United States.
Vanka’s artworks and connections serve as the thread that links together this project’s examination of depictions of Croatian folk culture in three specific early twentieth-century Croatian contexts: museums, mass media publications, and modern art. This dissertation explores the transfer of collections of folk culture from museums of applied arts to newly founded ethnographic museums after World War I; the increase in popular images of strong peasants in interwar Zagreb in line with the aims of the Croatian Peasant Party; and the stylistic and political diversity with which modern Croatian artists produced images of folk culture.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cook, Heidihac45@pitt.eduhac45
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcCloskey, Barbarabmcc@pitt.edubmcc
Committee MemberKonitzer, Andrewkonitzer@pitt.edukonitzer
Committee MemberArmstrong, Drewcda68@pitt.educda68
Committee MemberEllenbogen, Joshjme23@pitt.edujme23
Date: 19 January 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 21 November 2016
Approval Date: 19 January 2017
Submission Date: 9 December 2016
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 223
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: folk culture, folklorism, Croatia, Yugoslavia, museum history, nationalism
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2017 21:18
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2022 06:15


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item