This post about the Serbian 19th century painting in Matica Srpska Gallery complements my post also on the Serbian 19th century painting but in the National Museum in Belgrade, that I published several months ago.
I’ve already written about this period in the development of the Serbian art, so I’m not going to repeat the same in this new article. The best that you can do is to check this and the other post. These two museums contain some of the most important paintings produced by some of the most important Serbian artists. Thus, you will get a good idea of the Serbian 19th century painting.
However, keep in mind that there are other museums with other paintings in their collection. Then, there are also Serbian Orthodox churches where eminent Serbian painters worked on their decoration. Some of them painted icons, the others painted ceiling and wall frescoes.
The magnificent permanent collection in Matica Srpska Gallery in Novi Sad took me by surprise. It was my first visit to this museum and I didn’t really expect to see the paintings that I will present in this post.
SERBIAN 19th CENTURY RELIGIOUS PAINTING
As well as painting portraits and historical scenes whose aim was to revive and strengthen the national pride and identity, throughout the 19th century Serbian artists also painted religious themes.
It was precisely in the 19th century that the Serbs gained freedom after centuries under the Ottoman rule, although Vojvodina remained within the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after the First World War. But unlike the Ottomans, the Habsburgs didn’t supress development of the Serbian art.
You will find many 18th century Serbian Orthodox churches across Vojvodina. In Serbia, south of the Sava and Danube rivers which were a natural border between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, I don’t think that you can find many 18th century churches.
There are much older medieval monasteries in that part of Serbia, but almost all of them are from a period before the Ottoman occupation.
In other words, while the Ottomans didn’t supress the Orthodox religion, equally they didn’t encourage construction of Orthodox temples.
Why is it that the Bajrakli Mosque is the oldest religious temple that you can see in Belgrade today?
Built in 1575, it’s certainly much older than the oldest St. Nicholas Church in today’s Belgrade. But that church is in Zemun which, starting with the early 18th century, was under the Habsburg rule. In what used to be Ottoman Belgrade, the oldest church is from the mid-19th century.
The 19th century brought the First and the Second Serbian Uprising against the Ottomans and creation of the Serbian Principality in 1815. It also brought modernisation and emergence of a new society with the total freedom of religious expression.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE NATION
Having succeeded in obtaining partial independence from the Ottoman rule, Serbs had to form and strengthen the national identity. So, they looked back at people and events from the golden age of the national past. In the 19th century Serbia, it meant referring to the Nemanjić dynasty rule.
Regardless of whether it was based on facts or myths, the famous glorious past served to glorify the present and also to inspire a newly formed nation.
In the photos below, you can see paintings of patriotic scenes from the more immediate past, but also historical compositions depicting the most important historical national events.
Thus, the main purpose of such paintings was to awaken national and patriotic feelings.
Paja Jovanović’s painting, that you can see below, is one of several copies that he produced. I’ve already written about the copy of this same painting that you can see in his house-museum in Belgrade.
He did the same with his other famous paintings, he made several copies that you can see in different museums and collections.
ACADEMIC ART IN SERBIAN PAINTING
Both, Paja Jovanović and Uroš Predić attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, sponsored by Matica Srpska.
Thus, the highest achievement of Academic art is evident in the output of these two painters.
But both of them lived for a long time and they continued to work well into the 20th century.
Some of Paja Jovanović’s most famous painting are in the National Museum and also in his house-museum in Belgrade.
But, there are some fabulous paintings in Matica Sprska Gallery too.
You will also see one more version of “The Cockfight”, another one is in the museum in Belgrade.
I’m very glad that I visited Matica Srpska Gallery. Undoubtedly, if and when I go back to Novi Sad, I’ll make sure to visit this museum again.
Surely, one visit is never enough to see, process and absorb all beautiful images. Of course, pictures in this post will help because I can always go back and look at them again. But, the real thing is always the best.
I hope that by reading this post you will be also inspired to visit the gallery. After all, one of the main reasons why I write these articles is to inspire other people to do the same.
Or, to enable those that can’t go to Novi Sad, to at least see some of the Gallery’s permanent collection.