Emeric Fejes, 1904–1969, was a Croatian (Yugoslavian) painter who painted in a primitive or naive style. He's most famous for paintings of world landmarks in which he added colors of his own choosing. My family owned a few dozen Fejes paintings at one point, we have less than a half dozen all together at this point and I'm trying to reassemble them. Have one to sell?Comment on the blog and tell me.
In 1952, the Peasant Art Gallery was founded in Zagreb; from 1956 it operated under the name of the Gallery of Primitive Art, while since 1994, in line with a decision by the Croatian Parliament, its title has been the Croatian Museum of Naive Art. From the very beginning the establishment was organized and run according to strict museological principles, and is thus deemed to be the world’s first museum of naive art.
The Croatian Museum of Naive Art holds more than 1,600 works of art – paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints – mainly by Croatian artists.
The permanent display of the Museum was established according to the maxim:Naive Art as a Segment of Modern Art. Some eighty anthology-piece paintings and sculptures of a score of classics of the Croatian Naive are on display, from the early thirties to the 1980s. The focus is on Croatian artists – of the celebrated Hlebine School, and a few of the more highly-valued independent artists. In conjunction with their works, artworks of significant artists of other nations are also on show.
The following story is excerpted from an Oral History of Burton Edelson, March 6, 2001...This section is in response to a question suggested by Daniel Edelson:
name was Emerik Fejes. We visited him in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia in 1967 (near Zagreb). Betty
and I had gone to Belgrade for an international space conference that was being
held there. That was behind the iron curtain in those days. A friend, Irwin
Hersey who was at the conference, was in the art world and had known Fejes. He
had bought some paintings from him and had them in his hotel room. So we went
up to his room and he showed us his paintings. They were terrific. We liked
them. He suggested we go to Novi Sad and get some of our own.
Betty and I and a guy by the name of Don Sandler, who was working for Hughes
Aircraft Company and who had a little Porsche automobile, decided we would
drive to Novi Sad, about 100 kilometers from Belgrade, but it took several
hours to get there. We had to go on a primitive dirt road. We found Fejes and
his wife in an upper floor apartment. Fejes was a retired button maker. He
started painting on his own. He was a complete primitive, a naive as they say.
He painted with his paints in little bottle caps, and he painted with the back
of a paper match. Fejes had a whole pile
of paintings in his apartment. We picked out one that we liked and asked him
how much it was. He didn’t speak English but knew a little German. So we used
quite a bit of sign language. There was some confusion because they had just
changed from old dinars to new dinars, and it was either 100 to 1 or 1,000 to
1. The dinar wasn’t worth much, so we weren’t quite sure what it was. We
thought we were buying one painting, but he took ten of them and gave them to
us for the amount of money that we had. I later figured out that we paid about
$13.00 apiece for them, and he was glad to get it. These were paintings that he’d
done from post cards. He had never traveled, never been anyplace, and his wife
was kind of intolerant of what he was doing until he was discovered. She had
thrown out a lot of his old paintings.
brought the paintings back to London and my colleague there, Jack Carter,
admired them. So I said, “Well, we probably can get some more.” So I wrote to a
Marine Corp captain that I met who was in the embassy and sent him a check for
$200.00--Jack put in $100.00 and I put in $100.00--and asked him if he would go
to Novi Sad and buy some paintings from Fejes. We gave him some post cards for
him to copy which he wouldn’t copy, but he did get paintings from him. So all
together we had 23 I think.
brought the Fejes paintings back to the U.S. with us. There was an art gallery
in New York, the St. Etienne Gallery, run by Otto Kallir who handled
primitives. He discovered Grandma Moses. He had some Fejes paintings for sale
at $500 each, but he personally didn’t like them and they weren’t selling very
well. He put our paintings up for sale in his gallery but they didn’t sell.
Then we displayed them a couple of other places and they still didn’t sell.
Then one day I got a telephone call from Dr. Kallir and he said, “Do you still
have those Fejeses? How many do you have?”
said, “Yes, I do. I have eleven of them left.”
said, “Well, I’ll buy them all. We have a German dealer who is buying them.”
I wrapped them up and sent them up to him, and he sent me $500 apiece for them.
So I got a check for $5,500. Some of it was Jack’s and some of it was mine. I
remember stopping on the way home after I got the check and buying a case of
I think Fejes was written up in a
magazine as well.
he has been over the years. I don’t know whether Yugoslav primitives are still
in demand or not. He’s not one of the top Yugoslav painters, but he’s well
enough known so that he’s in many collections. His paintings now sell for
several thousand dollars.
This excerpted from an Oral History of Burton Edelson, March 6, 2001, draft 3.....The following is an interview with Burt
Edelson. The interview is taking place on Tuesday, March 6, 2001 in Burt’s home
in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The interviewer is Ellen Robinson Epstein. These tapes
were commissioned by Burt in honor of his 75th birthday.
One of the questions that Danny sent in
was that in Yugoslavia you discovered a painter that you liked, who you
actually sent me to see, which I had totally forgotten about until Danny sent
this question in.
sent you to see?
Yes, because I went to Yugoslavia in
1968 and you had just found him. You said, “Oh, go meet him.”
had forgotten that, too.
I had totally forgotten about it. He
said that he wants you to tell the story about purchasing these paintings.
Okay. I can tell you
that quickly. His name was Emerik Fejes.
This Fejes painting hangs in my living room. It is of Mont St Michael which I have visited several times. It would be cool to put up one of my pictures next to it to compare the painting and a photograph.
It was bought directly from Emeric (Emerik?) Fejes in 1967 in what was then Yugoslavia. It was given to a family member (Raggy), now deceased, and I secured it from her estate.
All the paintings pictured in this blog, unless otherwise labelled, are from the original paintings that my parents bought directly from Fejes. The paintings themselves were sold later but I think we retained the rights to reproduce them digitally. Actually, I have no idea.