Maxo Vanka: immigrant in America
During Maxo’s first visit to Pittsburgh, in 1935, he fell in love with steel town. And at his one-man show in Oakland, not only was his passion on display on the gallery walls, he made a fortuitous friendship with Father Albert Zagar.
In 1937, St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church was a small parish in the immigrant community of Millvale, set atop the hillside across the Allegheny River from the bustling city of Pittsburgh.
Albert Zagar, the parish priest, longed for color on his church’s plain walls – and specifically “not average Church murals”– so, he invited Maxo Vanka to come and paint inside the small Romanesque church, which had recently been rebuilt after a destructive fire.
Vanka accepted and came to Millvale, collaborating with the priest to create one of the most spectacular collections of murals in the world. The artist painted a portion of the murals in 1937 and, in 1941, returned to the church to paint the remainder of the scenes.