Serbian Baroque painting in Matica Srpska Gallery in Novi Sad continues the story of this museum. I didn’t really think that it was possible to talk about Serbian Baroque art. But, that’s my fault because I didn’t consider that, starting with the 18th century, there were territories with a predominantly Serbian population that weren’t under the Ottoman rule. Vojvodina became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early 18th century. That’s where, after several centuries under the Ottomans, first Serbian cultural movements started to appear.
Otherwise, the rest of Serbia remained under the Ottoman rule and culturally very little happened there. Admittedly, there existed Ottoman Baroque, you can see it in the architecture and decoration of some imperial mosques. Good examples are the Aziziye Mosque in Konya and the Laleli Mosque in Istanbul. But, that’s about it. Within the Ottoman Empire, Baroque as a cultural style certainly wasn’t meant for distant provinces. That’s why, for example, you can’t see a single Baroque building in Belgrade.
The collection of Serbian Baroque paintings in Matica Srpska Gallery is fascinating. I took some photos as an illustration for this post, but there are many more paintings in the museum.
EARLY SERBIAN BAROQUE PAINTING
The early Serbian Baroque painting developed under the influences of the Russian-Ukrainian, southern Balkan and western European art centres. Thus, the first generation of early Baroque painters was predominantly nurtured on instructions by the Russian painters, but also by a group of painters educated at the painting academy of the Pechersk Lavra in Kiev – Dimitrije Bačević and Stefan Tenecki.
Among the painters who brought influences from the southern Balkans and worked in the spirit of the Levantine Baroque were Hristofor Žefarović, Jovan Četirević Grabovan and Janko Halkozović. They relied on experience gained from the Italian Renaissance and also the Byzantine tradition. They created a specific type of Baroque icons.
The painting in the photo below came from the Jazak Monastery in Fruška Gora.
The painting below was a gift by the Archpriest of Arad in Romania.
The painting below came from the Church of Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Putinci.
The following two paintings came from the St. Nicholas Church in Stari Slankamen.
HIGH SERBIAN BAROQUE PAINTING
A more decisive orientation towards Vienna and the ecclesiastical and educational reform characterises the high Baroque art.
We can observe this shift from an earlier tradition in Teodor Kračun’s paintings. His work represents a significant progression towards contemporary central European art. A pronounced emotion and movement are fundamental elements of the artistic expression, harmonious with the contemplative Orthodox legacy.
But here, the scenes are set in the real world. Thus, Christ and the Virgin are painted in accordance with iconographic rules reserved for secular rulers, depending significantly on the graphic representation in illustrated Bibles popular at the time.
The two paintings below, representative of the high Serbian Baroque painting, are from the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Stapar.
LATE SERBIAN BAROQUE PAINTING
Cultural and political changes under the rule of Emperor Joseph II determined the appearance and development of the late Serbian Baroque painting.
An ideological change marked the last two decades of the 18th century – the period of Enlightenment. The focus was on the learned and also on the enlightened man.
Trained artists, travellers to the European centres of art, embraced and propagated an idea of enlightened reforms.
The most prominent among the artist who took the Serbian painting towards the path of the central European late Baroque were Jakov Orfelin and Teodor Ilić Češljar.
The two paintings below, representative of the late Serbian Baroque painting, came from the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Kumane.
The painting below is from the St. George Church in Ratkovo.
NEOCLASSICISM IN SERBIAN PAINTING
Neoclassicism, a style of the forthcoming era, founded on the ideas of Enlightenment, did not compete with the prevailing late Baroque concepts. Such tendencies came to the surface in works of painters such as Stefan Gavrilović, Georgije Mišković, Mihajlo Živković and Jovan Isailović Senior.
The neo-classicist painting below is from the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Stapar.
All this is very fascinating. I’ve learnt something completely new, especially because I didn’t know anything about Baroque in the Serbian art.
When I go back to Novi Sad, I will certainly go back to the museum, to see these precious works of art again. But, I will also pay more attention to the rest of the Serbian Baroque paintings that I may have missed.
There is so much to see in the Gallery and, as I was there for the very first time, it was very easy for me to get a bit confused. It’s hard to properly process all new images and also to put them in their proper artistic and historical context at the same time.
However, I am sure that I will have a much better understanding of Serbian Baroque next time.