Zolo Palugyay was an important representative of Slovak fine art modernism. In his early creative days, he experimented with various styles and approaches: impressionism, art nouveau, symbolism, fauvism, expressionism.
Inventory No.: O 724
Artist: Zolo Palugyay
Title: Mountain Still Life
Dimensions: width 37,5 cm; height 50 cm
Signature: bottom right, in brush: Palugyay 31
Zolo Palugyay was an important representative of Slovak fine art modernism. In his early creative days, he experimented with various styles and approaches: impressionism, art nouveau, symbolism, fauvism, expressionism. During his peak creative period, after 1925, he focused mostly on the human inner world. The symbolical and expressive language of Palugyay’s works includes peculiar colour schemes and changes in mood and atmosphere. He was mostly fascinated with the Liptov region and its unbound nature and landscape. He painted rural motives, folk people and his balladic visions of their harmonic life.
The painting titled Mountain Still Life in the Nitra Gallery’s collection is a part of the artist’s peak creative period. Palugyay managed to turn a rather mundane theme into a captivating portrayal and enrich it with elements of expressive tension and colourful dynamics. The image depicts a branch with leaves – perhaps even flowers – in an ordinary jug set on a white table cloth. It is not an opulent bouquet in a beautiful vase and there are no other objects that would bear additional meanings. The notably simple scene is a symbolical contemplation about the beauty and power of nature and the civilisation’s attitude towards it. The background consists of a dynamic and contrasting play of lights and shadows between the wall’s diagonal and the dark brown drapery resembling a mountain range. The title suggests the artist did not depict just a mountain plant, but also, in the figurative sense, the mountains themselves as he liked to visit them so often. The fact that mountains played a role in Palugyay’s tragic fate gives the image a strangely chilling mood.
Zoltán (Zolo) Palugyay was born on November 9, 1898 in Bodice (today’s part of Liptovský Mikuláš) in a family of a poor yeoman from the house of Palugyay de Nagy- et Kispalugya. After his high school graduation, he went to fight at the Italian front during World War I. From 1919 to 1920, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest (prof. Eduard Balló) and from 1920 to 1921, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków (prof. Władysław Jarocki). He also visited the centre of Hungarian symbolism and art nouveau, the Gödöllő panting colony. After his studies at Hans Hofmann’s private school in Munich (1924 – 1926), he settled in Bodice. From 1930 to 1933, he painted and exhibited in central Slovakia together with Miloš Alexander Bazovský and Janko Alexy that he actively supported during his establishing attempt of the Pieštany painting colony. He died tragically under mysterious circumstances when he was just 36 under the Ďumbier peak in the Low Tatras mountain range on September 18, 1935.