Paja Jovanović (16 June 1859 – 30 November 1957) was a Serbian Realist painter. He is considered one of Serbia’s greatest academic painters. His most famous and recognizable paintings are The Migration of Serbs, the Crowning of Stefan Dušan, The Uprising at Takovo, Cockfighting, Decorating of the Bride, and the Fencing Lesson. He also painted many famous portraits. While many of his works can be seen in many European museums across the continent some have been lost, like Furor Teutonicus, a monumental oil on canvas depicting Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
The public and many art critics directed their attention to the young painter, and in 1883 he signed a contract with the London gallery simply named “French”. He continued his travelling through Caucasus, Morocco, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Spain. A great number of sketches, notes, and studies, along with the collected objects from the life of the common people, will find their place in his famous genre-compositions, such as: Fencing, Decorating of the Bride, and Cockfighting. Some of Jovanović’s most remarkable praises were gathered at two of his greatest exhibitions: Millennium exhibition in Budapest in 1896, where he prepared Migration of Serbs for entry, but Triptych was sent instead, and the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, for which he had painted a great historical composition The Proclamation of Dušan’s Law. As early as in 1893 he was proclaimed for the member of the Serbian Royal Academy. He was given the task to make the monumental, historical compositions. After 1905 he devoted himself exclusively to painting the portraits in the style of academic realism for the rich clientele, and he became very famous thanks to them. Some of the most famous include Portrait of the Painter Simington, Portrait of Mihajlo Pupin, Portrait of the Artist’s Wife Muni, Portrait of the Sculptor Đoka Jovanović, and others.
He painted the portraits of his longtime model and wife, Muni with special care. He made the iconostasis in the church in Dolovo and Saborna church in Novi Sad, which was painted without commission. He spent most of his time in his atelier in Vienna where he settled, and occasionally travelled to Belgrade. In 1940 he was given the title of the honorary citizen of Vršac, and in 1949 he was given the Merit for People of the first category.
He lived quietly and lonely, after his wife’s early death, in Vienna until his own death in 1957. According to his will, the urn with his ashes was to be moved to Belgrade and where “The Legacy of Paja Jovanović” was opened in 1970, as well in Vršac. Later, in the building of the Old Pharmacy on the Stairs, in 1977 the permanent commemorative exhibition of Paja Jovanović was opened. The works of Paja Jovanović have been kept in the Town Museum of Vršac, along with the exceptionally famous Vršac Triptych. Most of his works and personal belongings can be found in the Town Museum of Belgrade.