Searching for the Eternal
He wanted to scoop from the depths of the source. To reveal the long memory of the race and meaning of passing on heritage, sacral tradition. He was not an ordinary traditionalist; he was a painter of a large aesthetic turn, an upgrade characteristic for masters. He searched for the secret of measure and found it. He joined the East and the West, past and future, experiment and academism. He was one of the best among elite European painting brotherhoods, among representatives of mysterious styles of his époque. Of course, it was least respected in his own environment

By: Dejan Đorić

In the generation of Serbian painters after Paja Jovanović and Uroš Predić, only one artist is separated for his artistic readiness, solidity of his work and certainty of his artistic expression. Vasa Pomorišac (Modoš, 1896 – Belgrade, 1961) is the most brilliant artistic phenomenon in the art between two world wars, if valued from the aspect of tradition. No other realist from his generation was equal to this painter, drawer and stained glass artist, who knew how to unimposingly introduce elements of applied arts into his aesthetics. Despite the additions of expressionism, futurism and cubism, his style is crystal clear, he rose into the realms inaccessible to most painters; he reached the skills which started falling into oblivion even before his contemporaries. He aesthetically remained where the greatest artists of pre-modernism sought glory, found himself on the ground of the most difficult painting challenges of neoclassicists, pre-raphaelites and secessionists, after whom the whole and pure artistic language vanished.
Vasa Pomorišac, aristocrat in the era of primitives, noble also judging by his heirs, as the portraits of his beautiful daughter and son show, was a born painter. It was soon discovered by his brilliant teacher Stevan Aleksić, great painter of Vojvodina from that time, although aside from the city happenings, the only who was able to give him corresponding lectures. Small self-portraits he painted after the stay in his studio, reveal him as an already completed master. The Academy of Munich, museums in Moscow, Academy of Zagreb, Art and Crafts School in Belgrade, famous London St. Martin School of Arts and Central School of Arts and four-year stay in Paris, only perfected the natural gift of this master. Already as a young artist, with his stained glass St. George from 1923, he was enlisted in the records of London schools as one of the few best authors among students. This was also confirmed by later favorable criticisms of his exhibitions in Paris and the Netherlands, as well as his appointing professor of the Academy of Applied Arts in postwar Belgrade.


Vasa Pomorišac achieved a great synthesis of modern styles and the traditional, neoclassical, highly-academic way of working. He gave a lesson about the meaning of traditio expression artistically- and idea-wise, in the best possible manner. The transfer of heritage, Serbian medieval, renaissance and pre-raphaelite dogma into the utopian visions of modernism, was possible only thanks to his great talent. In that sense, he had a particular contribution to the ”Zograf” group during his first longer stay in Belgrade (1925-1935), which he gave its main direction, along with painters Živorad Nastasijević, his friend from his Munich studies, and Zdravko Sekulić. ”Zograf” is a unique phenomenon in the European horizon, a great Serbian contribution to the richness of artistic ideas. It is sufficient to mention the sentences of philosopher Vladimir Vujić from his text ”About Contemporary Art” (Matica Srpska Chronicle, 1926):
”Our life, Euro-Asian in its basis, still stands on the crossroads where two large currents and two great longings part. Everything fresh, primitive, naïve, spiritual and deeply ours, everything irreversibly lost for the real culture of the west, still stands on disposal in accumulated energies. I believe it needs to be utilized. And I believe that it is easy to choose between the copies of western longings and taking from own source… Thus the only right and true words for our artists would be: be yourself.”
After getting to know and like the timeless murmur of the frescoes in Serbian monasteries, already on his travels with professor Ljuba Ivanović, admiring Hans Memling somewhat later in Brussels, painting Assumption of the Virgin for the altar of the catholic church and numerous icons, avant-garde abstractions with realistic still-lives and portraits, the painter found a measure in everything. He merged the East and the West, past and future, experiment and academism. His dedication to the source was so big that he went to London to prepare for his trip to India to studying Indian culture.
As any extraordinary author, this master was disputed as well. All those who attacked him, as well as those who appreciated him, often didn’t see the proportions of this appearance. Both criticisms and praises missed their aim, especially negations of the greatest experts Miodrag B. Protić, Lazar Trifunović and Pavle Vasić. Pomorišac’s spectacular aesthetic turn was unnoticed, so his painting and its significance were never understood. He was not an ordinary traditionalist; he was a painter who succeeded to turn his seemingly reactionary artistic world into the most progressive one. As it happened several times in the twentieth century, after the domination of avant-garde came a calm period with the supremacy of figuration. Such was the German movement ”Neue Sachlichkeit” (”New Reality”), between expressionism and Nazi-kunst, or magical realism, conceived in the lap of surrealism. Vasa Pomorišac is not just a rare Serbian representative of those mysterious styles, magical artistic phenomena, cherished by a few chosen ones, member of the elite European brotherhood; he was one of the best in that tribe. He showed that realism is neither banal nor old-fashioned, and that it only depends on the power of personality what will be considered not modern or traditional, but eternal (and he was a fanatic always ready to go all the way).


He was born in Modoš, present Jaša Tomić, in the municipality of Sečanj. He began his painting education with Stevan Aleksić (1905-1911), and continued at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts (1913-1914). In 1914, he was forcedly mobilized, but he soon voluntarily surrendered to the Russians. After the war, in 1919, he enrolled at the Academy of Arts in Zagreb, and that same year moved to Belgrade, to the Arts and Crafts School. The following year, 1920, he went to study painting in London. From 1925 to 1935 he was in Belgrade. He had his first solo exhibitions, was one of the founders of ”Zograf” group. From 1935 to 1939 he was in Paris. He was appointed professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade in 1942. In 1950, he became professor of the Academy of Applied Arts. Member of the ”Lada” Society since 1940 and Association of Fine Artists of Serbia since 1944.
He passed away in Belgrade, in 1961.


In 1930, together with Živorad Nastasijević (brother of poet Momčilo Nastasijević), he established the ”Zograf” artistic group in Belgrade, which existed and was active until 1940. Besides the two of them, the group consisted of painters Zdravko Sekulić, Josip Car, Ilija Kolarović, Svetolik Lukić, Radmila Milojković, as well as architects Bogdan Nestorović and Branislav Kojić. They were deeply immerged into sacral tradition, especially Serbian and Byzantine heritage. Criticists of modernism were almost hostile, but that didn’t discourage them. The group left an important trace in Serbian and European history of artistic ideas.


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