In 2019, the family of Maxo Vanka gifted 130 works on paper to the Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka. These pieces were created by the Croatian artist from 1937 to 1941 and donated by granddaughter, Marya Halderman and her husband, John, of Bucks County, Pa.
The Vanka Collection features never-before-seen drawings and sketches the noted artist made, particularly of the city he enjoyed, in addition to studies that informed his famed murals at St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale, just across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh.
“It is so fascinating to see my grandfather’s works together – and to be able to share them with the wider community,” said Marya Halderman. “The power of his work is that it is universal; you see the humanity and the inhumanity.”
She added, “Fans of his murals at St. Nicholas Church will recognize his studies, my favorite being the Immigrant Mother Raises Her Sons for American Industry, as well as sketches of Pittsburgh in that time. The bridges, the factories, the scenes of that era I just love.”
“We are incredibly grateful and honored to receive this gift from Marya and the family,” added Matthew Falcone, President, Board of Directors, Vanka Murals. “This gives Pittsburghers greater access to Maxo Vanka’s body of work and the ability to see, firsthand, his diversity and skill as an artist who made a lasting impact on our region and across the country.”
Dr. Sylvia Rhor, Director and Curator, University Art Gallery, University of Pittsburgh, has been named the Lead Curator of the Vanka Collection. The art historian, who has written extensively on public art in Pittsburgh and Chicago, is currently focusing her research on murals of the 30s and 40s, with Vanka’s works providing important context. Plans for showings and digital galleries are underway.