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Alex Dzigurski (1911-1995) Poet of the Land and Sea

April 27 - August 1, 2010

A New York Times critic called him "poet of the sea." Such a title was apt for Alexander Dzigurski, whose works of the nation's shorelines flowed like verse in color on canvas. (right: Alex Dzigurski (1911-1995), Golden Breakers, Big Sur, oil on canvas, 62 x 102 inches. Courtesy of estate of Alex Dzigurski)

In an exclusive engagement at R.W. Norton Art Gallery, eighteen of the painter's works, spanning his career in Europe and America, went on display April 27, 2010. "Alex Dzigurski (1911-1995) Poet of the Land and Sea" reveals the artist's reverence of the peace, beauty, solitude, and solace he found in the seaside, mountain peaks, and other points of natural grandeur in his new home, America.

Dzigurski's widow, Dorothy, of Mountain View, California, selected these canvases as representative of her husband's life work. Visitors to the Norton have long admired two Dzigurski paintings that are part of the museum's permanent collection, and displayed in its 20th Century Landscapes Gallery. Both, Seascape and Moonlight, Carmel, are emblematic of the late painter's oeuvre. In these oils on canvas, land's edge, sea, and sky appear realistic yet dreamy, with the lap and splash of waves almost audible. Dzigurski, it seems, finds solace in the solitude, and peace as well as great power in the ocean's surge.

Dzigurski (1911-1995) sought such serenity in America after an earlier life spent in turmoil in his native Serbia (later part of Yugoslavia), where peace was hard to find. During his life the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, the harsh German occupation in World War II, and finally Yugoslavia's violent turn to communism ripped apart families and scorched cities and countryside.

Dzigurski served in his country's navy, where he found his love of the sea. After World War II the artist fled communist Yugoslavia with his wife and family in 1949, and arrived in America with a group of other displaced persons on a Liberty ship, SS Marine Jumper. Soon Dzigurski began painting the natural beauty of his new home, especially the seam of sea and land that forms the nation's shorelines.

Dzigurski painted large, as visitors will see in the size of these canvases. Seascapes such as Pacific Gale, which measures 48 x 96 inches, reflects the storm and power of the California coast. Another large canvas, Sawtooth Mountain Range (42 x 64 inches) captures the high magnificence of the Idaho uplands.

Other works reveal the deep, blue fjords of Norway, the walled city of Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast, and the soar of the Glacier National Park. Ventana Sunset in California's Big Sur is on a canvas measuring 54 x 96 inches. (left: Alex Dzigurski (1911-1995), Ventana Sunset, oil on canvas, 64 x 106 inches. Courtesy of estate of Alex Dzigurski)

Painting mainly en plein air, Dzigurski sank the legs of his easel in sandy beaches or in grass beneath towering mountain ranges. He often worked in his studio through the middle of the afternoon, then stepped outside with paints when the late light of day suffused his subjects in even richer colors.

Some have likened his work to the soaring strings of symphony, with Dzigurski using his brush like a conductor's baton.

"He had a love of color, energy, and light," comments his son, Alex Dzigurski II, of Mountain View, California, an artist in his own right. "He also painted in the studio in all hours and played classical music while he worked."

Dzigurski painted for more than sixty years. While his body of work documents his journey from Serbia to America, it also reflects his passion both for his native land as well as for America -- a haven of peace that became home for both his family and his art.

"He was such a great, gregarious person," Alex comments. "He loved this country very much. He was joyful about what he did. That desire and passion comes through in his work."

The exhibit is on view through August 1, 2010. Admission to it, as well as to the museum and its botanical gardens and grounds, is free of charge to the public.

Editor's note:

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