National Museum Belgrade – Yugoslav 20th Century Art (part 2)
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National Museum Belgrade – Yugoslav 20th Century Art (part 2)

This is my second post in the series of posts on the Yugoslav 20th century art. During my latest visit to Belgrade, I went back to the National Museum to see this collection. I mostly missed it when I was there last time, back in November 2018. Sometimes, we go to a museum and after a while we are simply saturated with too many impressions. Then, it becomes difficult to process and remember everything. But, thanks to the photos in this and in my previous post, I can now look at these beautiful paintings whenever I want.

I also intend to learn more about the Yugoslav art in the 20th century. This will be a good start and it will certainly complement the knowledge that I already have on great masters and the history of art. Occasionally, we need to find the right inspiration. So, this visit to the museum was very good in a way that it initiated my familiarisation with the art that was mostly unknown to me. Until now!

 

Elderly Pianist (Portrait of Madame Dener) - Milenko Šerban (1931) - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Elderly Pianist (Portrait of Madame Dener) – Milenko Šerban (1931)

 

 

Muslim Woman - Milo Milunović (1932) - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Muslim Woman – Milo Milunović (1932)

 

 

YUGOSLAV 20th CENTURY PAINTING

 

In the Serbian and Yugoslav painting of the first half of the 20th century, a lively interest was fostered in modern forms. It was no different from modernist deliberations that were spreading throughout Europe. However, a subtle distinction between specific thematic and ideological differences made it possible to group and register the particularities of the Serbian and Yugoslav Modernism, primarily according to its themes. Much like inseparable bonds between the art and social circumstances.

Relations between the development of modern painting and the history of the environment in which it appeared, provide signposts in modern art and are also a visual chronicle of the times in which they were formed.

 

Coastal Landscape - Jovan Bijelić - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Coastal Landscape – Jovan Bijelić (1932)

 

 

A Boy - Milenko Šerban - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
A Boy – Milenko Šerban (1932)

 

 

BEGINNINGS OF MODERN ART

 

In the first decades of the 20th century, Serbian painting cultivated impressionist poetics in all its recognisable elements: free brushwork, plein air light and a brighter palette of colours. Meanwhile, the selected motifs – landscapes, scenes and people – bear witness to a turbulent historical epoch marked by Balkan Wars and the Great War, but also by the steady progress of the bourgeoisie and the process of modernisation.

That is why numerous portraits and self-portraits, plein air painting, the work of the first Yugoslav colony and the activities surrounding Yugoslav exhibitions, organised more than a decade prior to the creation of the unitary state, much like the depiction of scenes connected with the nation’s fate – refugee shelters, casualties of war, exile and displacement – testify to the development of modern, impressionist painting and to the people, ideas and historical circumstances in which it came about.

 

Self-portrait - Milena Pavlović-Barili - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Self-portrait – Milena Pavlović-Barili (1933)

 

 

In a Café - Jovan Bijelić - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
In a Café – Jovan Bijelić (1933)

 

 

In a Bar - Jovan Bijelić - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
In a Bar – Jovan Bijelić (1933)

 

 

Fisherman - Stojan Aralica - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Fisherman – Stojan Aralica (1936)

 

 

Wheat - Milan Konjović - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Wheat – Milan Konjović (1936)

 

 

REALISM OF THE THIRD AND THE FOURTH DECADE/PEOPLE AND THE CITY

 

The end of the First World War coincided with the emergence of new protagonists on the art scene who, in that era, shared a general interest in “Realism” and ideas of a “Return to Order”. It was a period of enthusiasm and renewal, time of accelerated modernisation in the new Yugoslav state. Events that occurred in Yugoslav towns and major European centres appeared in pictures that captured the prevailing atmosphere. Images of cities, the encounter of new and old ways of life and portraits of contemporaries, all form a distinctive group of motifs from everyday life.

Still, these paintings of public spaces, when compared to intimate, private scenes, offer complete impression of the multilayered nature of the story of an era. Interiors, the objects in them and various still life motifs thus become studies that allude to taste, choice, sensibility and personality – images of an aesthetic and ethical system of values.

 

Jardin de Luxembourg - Bora Baruh - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Jardin de Luxembourg – Bora Baruh (1937)

 

 

House with an Arbour - Stojan Aralica - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
House with an Arbour – Stojan Aralica (1937)

 

 

Composition (Two Girls) - Zora Petrović - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Composition (Two Girls) – Zora Petrović (1937)

 

 

Female Nude - Zora Petrović - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Female Nude – Zora Petrović (1938)

 

 

Portrait of Ana Terzibašić - Petar Dobrović - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Portrait of Ana Terzibašić – Petar Dobrović (1938)

 

 

 

HAVENS OF MODERNITY

 

Irrespective of the diversity of modernist forms, Yugoslav painting in the inter-war period fostered pronounced interest in landscapes. In choosing and depicting a certain space, the artist, by means of repeating motifs, proceeded to construct a myth about its uniqueness. Although this may seem to have been the imagination at work regarding one’s native region, each scene actually expressed nostalgia for some other, different time.

The landscape served as a romanticist corrective of the modernisation process, a symbol instead of a direct observation. It illustrated idealised ties with the soil and was interspersed with village motifs, stories about folk traditions and untainted nature – harbours of moral and spiritual values – and a quest for better times. Art served as a shelter against modern life and a discreet challenge to the idealisation of the idea of progress.

 

White Peonies - Petar Dobrović - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
White Peonies – Petar Dobrović (1938)

 

 

Church of Our Lady in Paris (Notre-Dame) - Bogdan Šuput - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Church of Our Lady in Paris (Notre-Dame) – Bogdan Šuput (1938)

 

 

Composition - Milena Pavlović-Barili - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Composition – Milena Pavlović-Barili (1938)

 

 

Musée de Cluny in Paris - Predrag Peđa Milosavljević - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Musée de Cluny in Paris – Predrag Peđa Milosavljević (1938)

 

 

Uncle Tončika Having a Beer - Milan Konjović - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Uncle Tončika Having a Beer – Milan Konjović (1938)

 

 

Road in Autumn (Road to Adaševac) - Sava Šumanović - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Road in Autumn (Road to Adaševac) – Sava Šumanović (1941)

 

 

 

SYMPTOMS OF SOCIAL REALITY

 

The formation of the working class in Yugoslavia is inseparable from the process of rural migration. Social status and living conditions in towns are captured in a series of paintings from the third and the fourth decade of the 20th century. Artworks depicting hard life, poverty and depression, critically reveal facts of social divisions. They resulted from the process of modernisation, urbanisation and industrial progress.

The committed portrayal of reality would continue during and immediately after the Second World War, in dramatic representations of wartime suffering and hardship, but also in the building of a new society.

 

Porter - Petar Lubarda - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Porter – Petar Lubarda (1934)

 

 

Three Poeple - Milivoj Uzelac - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Three People – Milivoj Uzelac (1919)

 

 

Paris Clochard - Bora Baruh - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Paris Clochard – Bora Baruh (1935)

 

 

Colporteuse - Omer Mujadžić - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Colporteuse – Omer Mujadžić (1929/1930)

 

 

On the Train - Ivan Tabaković - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
On the Train – Ivan Tabaković (1934)

 

 

Belgrade Suburb - Kosta Hakman - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Belgrade Suburb – Kosta Hakman (1937)

 

 

Boy with a Loaf of Bread -Vladimir Becić - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Boy with a Loaf of Bread – Vladimir Becić (1935)

 

 

Kitchen no. 4 - Đorđe Andrejević-Kun - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Kitchen no. 4 – Đorđe Andrejević-Kun (1936)

 

 

Testing the Terrain in New Belgrade - Boža Ilić - 20th Century Yugoslav Art
Testing the Terrain in New Belgrade – Boža Ilić (1948)

 

I used this last painting as the main photo for my recent article Work in Progress. This painting was made right after the Second World War and it depicts beginning of the works on construction of New Belgrade. That part of the city that did not exist before the war. However, today it’s a modern and a very big part of Belgrade.

It also symbolically depicts current vast construction and renovation works in the city.

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