Friday, January 27, 2012

Uroš Predić (Orlovat 1857 – Belgrade 1953)

Uroš Predić, one of the greatest Serbian painters, was born in 1857 in Orlovat , a village in the region of Banat, to the family of Petar Predić, who was a priest, and his wife Marija. After finishing the grammar school in Pančevo, in 1876 he enrolled in the Academy of Arts in Vienna. Once settled in this magnificent capital city of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Predić devoted himself to his studies very seriously. He studied under the respected Austrian artist Christian Grippenkerl, who was also the professor of Paja Jovanović. Upon graduating, Predić was accepted into the professor’s “personal studio” and into a special school of the Academy, where he was given a position of an assistant. He also assisted the Professor Grippenkerl on the frieze with thirteen scenes of ancient history, in the Herrenhaus Hall of the new Parliament building. Unfortunately those pictures were destroyed in the bombing of 1944.
After some time he gave up his position as an assistant at the Academy and decided to go back to his homeland. During the next 10 years, depending on the jobs he had, he spent his time in different places, like Orlovat, Belgrade and Novi Sad. In that period he painted several important works, that would become one of the most loved and known paintings from the history of Serbian Art, paintings like “ Jolly Brothers” and “An Orphan upon His Mother’s Grave ”.

Jolly Brothers, 1887

His first and quite remarkable exhibition was held in Belgrade in 1888, and after that he became a very known and respected painter in Serbia. In 1889 he won the competition for painting the iconostasis for the monumental new church in the town of Novi Bečej. From 1889-1894 he painted more than 60 paintings (icons), making a great contribution to the beauty of the lavishly engraved altar screen, which became one of the most remarkable Serbian iconostases of the last couple of centuries.

The iconostasis in the church of Novi Bečej

After finishing his work in Novi Bečej, Predić firmly decided not to accept any future commissions from the churches. He intended to further pursue a career of a painter who makes the paintings of people and for the people, something that he did in the 1880ies. However, the illness and the subsequent death of his brother, and Predić’s deep concern for his brother’s family, among other things, made him reconsider his decision and forced him to accept the offer to work on the iconostasis in another church,  which was a secure and well paid job. “Fulfillment of human duties offered an ample compensation for the abandonment of all ambitions of youth”, wrote Predić later in his Autobiography. In 1894 he moved to his village of Orlovat, and lived there with his mother for the next 15 years, which he later described as “the best fifteen years of his life”.
During his long and prolific life, Predić painted a great number of religious paintings for the numerous churches and private clients, becoming the greatest Serbian iconographer of the modern age. Predić also became a great portraitist and created a large number of portraits of kings and queens, wealthy people, politicians , scientists, artists , family members and friends. He loved his work tremendously and even at the age of 95 he daily had his painting brush and paints in his hand. After he broke his hipbone in spring, 1952, his health deteriorated and he died the following year on February 11, 1953.

Uroš Predić restoring his icons, 1931

I have always loved the paintings of Uroš Predić and felt emotionally connected to his art. His paintings, I think, possess a certain intimacy, warmth and the emotional depth, the qualities that come from his love for his art, dedication , persistency and hard work. I must say that I sometimes miss this kind of emotional involvement in the paintings of Paja Jovanovic. His paintings are often grand, visually impressive and superbly executed, but at the same time they sometimes lack the emotional depth, which I find in the paintings of Uroš Predić. However, I am a great admirer of both artists and I am grateful for having their paintings around me while growing up and developing my artistic skills and insights.
This blog post about Uroš Predić, and the previous one about Paja Jovanović, are a token of my gratitude and a homage to these great painters.
And I thought it was time to announce the existence of their beautiful art to the wider world.

St. George, 1907

Bosnian Refugees, 1889

An Orphan upon His Mother’s Grave, 1888

The Maiden of Kosovo, 1919

The Girl at the Well, 1818/1936

A Nude, 1917

Iconostasis in the Grgeteg Monastery, 1900/1092

Christ, the icon from the Bečej iconostasis

Madona with Christ, Almaška Church, Novi Sad, 1905

Madona with Christ (detail), the icon from the Pančevo Church, 1909

St. Dimitrije, 1907

St. George Slaying the Dragon, 1930

St. Nicolas rescuing the shipwrecked, 1932

St. Nikola and Patriarch Lukijan, 1910

Bishop Irinej Ćirić,1923

An Angry Girl, 1879

Moravian Girl, 1879/1880

Milan Savić, 1900

Marko Murat, 1919

Queen Natalia Obrenović of Serbia

King Petar I Karadjordjević, 1921

Monday, January 16, 2012

Conan commission, part 3

It’s been a while since my last Conan commission update (click here if you have missed the previous updates). I wish I could show you more but, as I already announced, there are some other jobs that I had to attend to. However, since a few days ago I am working on the Conan painting again. Beside tackling some other parts of this composition, I tried to define the final position of the Conan figure as well, especially the position of his leg and his arm. Because of the specific reasons, that I will explain later when the painting is finished, I wanted to keep Conan’s left leg as stretched out as possible.  

Here are a few images to illustrate the progress and the slight changes in the Conan figure that happened during the process, and as you can see, much of it is not finished yet. But anyway, for you who are interested in how I move from the underpainting to the next step, here you go.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Paja Jovanović ( Vršac 1859 – Vienna 1957)

Paja Jovanović is one of the greatest Serbian painters. Uroš Predić, another great painter, is perhaps the only artist from the Serbian art Pantheon, who can match, to a certain degree,  Paja Jovanovic in terms of the technical excellence and the impact of his paintings on the Serbian people and their culture. (I will write about Uroš Predić in the near future).

Paja Jovanović was a greatly talented, virtuous painter, nationally and internationally very successful, rich, praised and adored, although later in his life his art was criticized and dismissed by some of the 20th century art critics as outdated, dry, staged, detached from real life and a sterile example of the Academic Realism. Whatever the point of view of the scholarly art establishment, the fact is that his art was loved by the people. It has been said that, during a certain period, there was almost no Serbian home that did not have a reproduction on the wall of one of Jovanović's famous pictures. (Nowadays the situation is quite different...)

In his long and prolific life, Paja Jovanovic created a large number of paintings, and although he also gained popularity as the remarkable portraitist, immortalizing many kings and queens, the politicians, the wealthy people and the artists, he is after all best known for his genre-compositions and works with the historical content. Although classified as the works of the Academic Realism, these depictions of the important  moments from the national history, and the representations of the folkways, give more or less idealized, almost romantic, view of the history and the reality of life in the Balkans during the second part of the 19th century. Never the less, these images had a great appeal to the people of his time (they still do, as you will probably see for yourself while looking at the pictures below), and rooted themselves deeply within the national psyche. In a way they represented the powerful symbols of iconic, almost epic proportions, offering the guidelines to the national spirit that was, in those days, seeking its visual manifestation. 

Wounded Montenegrin, 1882 (Paja Jovanovic was still a student of 22 in Vienna when he painted this painting, his first master piece)

However idealized, or unrealistic these images might appear, I think they should primarily be seen as the works of art, often technically brilliant, that deals with symbols and archetypes. As we know, the symbols are never meant to be the accurate historic, or journalistic accounts of the specific moments in time and space. Their function is rather to embody a certain universal idea, or the unifying aspects, and to communicate them to the consciousness in a way that enables the emotional and spiritual recognition and acceptance of their message. Many of Jovanović’s paintings, and their subsequent history, show how powerful and evocative these symbols can be.

Fencing, 1882 - 90

However important or crucial to life, or to society, when taken out of the right context, all things tend to become less relevant; they lose their power and meaning. Therefore, my strong conviction, especially when it comes to less exact, or less “measurable” aspects of Life, like Art, is that it is outermost important to see things within the right context. When it comes to judging the artistic achievements of Paja Jovanović, this was apparently a difficult task during the 20sth century because of the dominion of the Modernistic Dogma, among a few other things, like politics, etc.. Nowadays, after being freed from its possessive and mighty grip, the world of art, and the art loving public in particular, is again allowed to enjoy and rediscover the forgotten qualities of until relatively recently despised forms of art like the Academic Realism, and alike. The fact that a serious, full scale monograph about life and work of Paja Jovanović has been published in Serbia just two years ago, more than 50 years after his death, is an example of the impact of the various dogmas on the way many people saw his art. The good thing is that there are now two Paja Jovanović books in the bookstores; one written by Nikola Kusovac and published by Belgrade City Museum (text is in Serbian, with only the summary in English); the other being published by “Radionica duše” and edited by Momčilo Moša Todorović (text in Serbian and English).

In spite of all the criticism, whether justified or unjustified, that the work of Paja Jovanović had to endure during the 20th century, and having in mind his remarkable and imoportant position in the Serbian art and culture, he definitely deserves these monographs. As Mr. Kusovac stated in his book abuot Paja Jovanovic: "...Still, no Serbian painter, before or after Paja Jovanovic, has ever influenced the fine arts education, culture and, most of all, the patriotism of his people to such extend and so powerfully..."

Decorating of the Bride, 1886

Alas, when I was an art student in the eighties, there was no book full of glorious images of  Paja Jovanović’s art. Therefore I often used to visit the museums to analyze and to try to reveal the secrets of his paintings, or better said a limited number of them that I had access to. I must say that, in those days, it was not very popular for an art student to be interested in such an art, and to seek the inspiration in something that was considered to be old-fashioned and conservative. But, in spite of the mockery, I stayed close and fateful to Jovanović’s art. Paja Jovanović was my artistic hero. Thanks to the guidance and help that I have found in his art at the beginning of my art career, I have become what I always wanted to become – a good painter, truthful to his artistic vocation and his personal vision.

Paja Jovanović in his Munich studio, 1889

At the end, because there are not many hi-res images of Paja Jovanović’s work on the internet, and in order to show you some of his greatest paintings, I was forced to scan the images from my books and prints. You will certainly notice which images I am referring to.

More about life and work of Paja Jovanović you can find here or here or here.


Migration of the Serbs (The First Serbian Migration occurred during the Great Turkish War under Patriarch Arsenije III Čarnojević in 1690), 1896

Crowning of Emperor Dušan, (in 1346), 1900 (This is a hudge canvas, 390 X 589 cm. Jovanović painted a few versions of this painting)

The Wedding of Emperor Dušan, around 1900

Uprising of Takovo ( The Second Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire in Takovo, 1815), 1898

Return of the Squad of Montenegrins from the Battle, 1888

Furor Teutonicus,  black and white reproduction, so called heliograph,1899 (the whereabouts of this huge canvas, about 20 square meters / 216 square feet, is unknown)

Rooster Fight, 1897

Fencing Game, 1890

Albanian resting, around 1890

Traitor, 1885

Falconer, 1890–95

Two Guards in front of a Gate, 1888-89

Snake Tamer, 1887

Mihailo Pupin, 1903

King Aleksandar Karadjordjević, 1930

Jožef Gorup, 1903

Muni, the Artist’s Wife in the Salon, 1930

Portrait of a Lady from Vienna, 1905

King Ferdinand of Romania, 1925

Mrs. Hudson, 1911

Portrait of the painter Symington, 1902-03

Djordje Jovanović, Sculptor, 1905

A Nude on Red Cloth, 1918 - 20

Restoring the Migration of the Serbs