During the last quarter of the nineteenth century Djordje Krstic, Pavle Paja Jovanovic, and Uros Predic provided significant direction to Serbian painting. They emerged as artists at a time when Serbian painting was struggling to catch up with the advances that had already been made in Western and Central Europe. They not only attained technical equivalency with their European contemporaries but sought and achieved their own artistic identity. This paper examines the impact of their artistic education in Vienna and Munich, their adherence to and departure from traditional European stylistic approaches, and their singular interpretations of nineteenth-century modernism.
All three painters were well versed in Serbia's history, Orthodox faith, and traditions as well as its contemporary politics, aspirations and challenges. They were witness to enormous changes, both domestic and international. Like many Serb artists, they received professional instruction in the art academies of Central Europe, Krstic in Munich and Jovanovic and Predic in Vienna. Each one had recognized the limitations of Serbian pedagogy, even in the hands of foreign trained artists, and the need for broad artistic education informed by centuries of stylistic developments. Krstic began his studies abroad in 1873, Predi6 in 1876, and Jovanovic in 1877. By 1884 they had completed rigorous courses of instruction with artists of significant reputation. The styles and techniques to which they were exposed ranged from those of the Renaissance/Baroque era to more recent Neo-Classicism and Romanticism as well as adaptations of contemporary French Realism and even avantgarde Impressionism. From these they developed their clearly individual approaches.
Djordje Krstic (1851-1905) provides an especially strong link to the Realist painters of both Central and Western Europe. (1) Of his Realist orientation there can be no doubt. However, his approach is technically more nuanced and often psychologically more complex than that of the prototypes that informed his work. There is a further complexity with respect to Krstic as he was as much a painter of religious subjects as secular ones. Nevertheless, with respect to both genres in which he typically appropriates a Western Realist vocabulary his art still reflects his ethnicity, and, in the depiction of sacred themes, the vocabulary of Serbian Orthodoxy.
Born into a poor carpenter's family in Hungarian controlled Stara Kanjiza, his initial education was in a Hungarian-Serbian system, followed by study in a German oberschulen when his family moved to Sremski Karlovci. He concluded his education in Belgrade (2) where he also received brief artistic instruction from Jovan Deroko, and more significantly from Vienna educated Steva Todorovie. (3) Although the circumstances are not clear, in 1871 while he was completing his gymnasium studies, Krstic received a scholarship to study theology at the School of Theology in Belgrade. That he received this type of instruction is important with respect to his later extensive engagement in Church painting as it raises the question of the consequence of these studies with respect to his approach to religious imagery.
Granted a scholarship in 1873 through the sponsorship of Prince Milan Obrenovic to continue his artistic studies, Krstic traveled to Munich, a city regarded by many to be teaching and producing the most modern art in central Europe. At the Academy of Arts, where he remained until 1883, the curriculum resembled that of most European academies in its rigorous application of traditional principles and techniques strongly linked to a humanistic Renaissance/Baroque past. This meant emphasis on anatomy, drawing, composition, preparation of palette and application of paint. Krstic was also concurrently exposed and attracted to the progressive and at times experimental styles of some of his teachers and other German artists looking to the newest approaches imported from Parisian studios. (4) merging of more conservative elements with those of Realist, even Proto-Impressionist styles is evident in the portraits Krstic produced during his stay in Munich.
Krstic's 1880 portrait of The Painter Kramer (Figure 1 in the graphic insert following p. 116 of this issue) presents a strong stylistic link to the Munich traditionalists who modeled their portraits after seventeenth-century Dutch Baroque masters. In pose, palette, brushwork, and, especially in the dramatic tonal contrasts the work pays homage to Rembrandt. However, in his emphasis on the young painter's demeanor, at once confident and intense, Krstic does persuade us of the contemporaneity of his sitter.
Mastery of the components of painting as transmitted from generation to generation was, of course, essential for a young artist. However, stylistic continuity and simple competency did not suffice for an ambitious and highly talented artist like Krstic. He needed a base on which to build, while selectively incorporating what he admired in the work of the more modern Munich artists, especially those enamored of the Realism of Gustave Courbet. Three paintings exemplify Krstic's interpretation of the new Realism.
Exhibited in the 1880 Munich Academy Spring Salon of student works, the compositionally complex The Anatomist (Figure 2) is especially significant in Krstic's stylistic evolution and the establishment of his artistic credentials in Munich and in Serbia. The fact that Krstic was awarded a silver medal for his entry was a considerable achievement and may well have ensured the exhibition in the same year of fifteen of his paintings and drawings at the Assembly Hall of the Great School in Belgrade) The Anatomist testifies to lessons well-learned. Krstic meets the challenge of including many objects placed at varied angles but without loss of spatial balance and underlying order. The subject of the anatomist finds its source in Dutch Realist Baroque portraits that identify the sitter's profession. Krstic's rendering of light and selection of palette echo his strong adherence to the traditional vocabulary instilled in him at the Munich Academy. Regardless of his thematic and stylistic quotations, Krstic does present a specific individual, a candid portrait of a man absorbed in a level of contemplation that provides an effective connectivity to the viewer with whom he shares the concerns of modern life.
That Krstic was experimenting with various technical approaches is evident in the heavy dark tonalities of this portrait. He uses bitumen (pitch) to produce the intense velvet darkness of the clothing which he then dramatically juxtaposes against the rich warm brown tonalities. The incorporation of bitumen was a device favored by the French Romantics of the early nineteenth century and subsequently adopted in other European countries. (6) As this was a standard technique employed at the Academy, especially by the traditionalists, Krstic's exploration of it is not surprising. Despite the imitative nature of the subject and his reliance on bitumen, Krstic does reveal his independence in the application of pigment. Rather than the smooth brush work of The Painter Kramer, here he introduces a few passages of loose brushwork and less definition of specific details. In this generally traditional work Krstic was willing to experiment, albeit in a limited way, thus intimating an awareness of new directions associated with Munich.
In his Torso of a Grey-Haired Man of 1876 (Figure 3) and Portrait of a Bavarian Woman of 1883 (Figure 4), Krstic presents yet another link to contemporary Munich Realism, the increasing primacy of color. He incorporates bright warm tonalities that are further accentuated by the almost tactile texture of the oil pigment. He also replaces the cold harsh Baroque illumination of The Painter Kramer with a warm, yielding light. In both paintings there is an intimation of immediacy bringing Kxstic closer not only to German colorists like Liebel but to French artists such as Edouard Frere, Theodule Ribot, Ferdinand Roybet, Leon Bonnat, and Jules Breton.7 Primarily painters of contemporary genre and landscape, they were among the conveyers of new approaches to depicting reality especially with respect to the effects of light and color.
Krstic was not content with rote learning and simple imitation. He was signaling a level of independence and even daring in embracing aspects of the work of the Munich and French modernists. Coupled with this level of independence was his exceptionally strong and continuing link to Serbia. That he had a powerful emotional bond to the country and his patron, Prince Milan, is supported by numerous and often nostalgic drawings of Serbian subjects that he produced in his early years at the Academy. Those interests were unexpectedly nurtured when he traveled back to Belgrade in 1876 at a time that Serbia was not only engaged in supporting the revolts in Bosnia and Hercegovina but was entering a war against the Ottomans that by 1877 was transformed into the Russo-Turkish war which ended in 1878.8 Krstic returned home again in 1877 and 1878. During these sojourns he was fully immersed in the events around him, observing and recording in his sketchbook a variety of images, on site. They range from those dealing with the war to portraits and domestic genre.
Serbian audiences were informed in an article in the Srbadija magazine that in his 1881 painting, The Parting of a Youth and Girl (Figure 5) Krstic was depicting 'a Serbian soldier, setting out to war, meeting his sweetheart outside the village to take his farewell of her.'9 However, they may also have read it as vignette of ordinary rural life, the type of scene Krstic had recorded in his sketchbook while traveling, especially through Serbia. In contrast to the controlled and static interior space and carefully arranged objects of The Anatomist, the composition is decidedly informal and the effect more spontaneous. Although no longer fully in evidence because of Krstid's use of bitumen,l0 it is still apparent that originally the painting was far brighter and warmer in coloration and that the artist was concerned with natural light rather than the theatrical illumination of paintings such as The Anatomist. As Kusovac and other scholars have pointed out Krstic was not only embracing the new Realism,11 at times a type closest to that of Courbet, but to a limited degree he was citing the palette and the play of natural light characteristic of the French Barbizon landscape painters.12
These modernist approaches, surely novel to Serbian audiences and even to the far more sophisticated ones in Munich, find their most effective expression in Krstic's paintings of 1881-83 produced from his on-site study of the architectural monuments and landscape of Serbia.13 Two excellent examples of his approach to landscape are Church in Takovo (Figure 6) and Shepherd and the Koblar Mountains (Figure 7), both dating between 188183. In these straightforward unpretentious landscapes, Krstic paints in a manner reminiscent of French Realism as well as some of the prosaic paintings of the Barbizon School. In his economy of means, compositional balance, architectural geometry, and tranquility of mood his Church at Takovo comes closest to Corot's architectonic landscapes of the 1840's and 1850's. Shepherd and the Koblar Mountains, however, makes clear the strong influence of Courbet, whose work was admired and imitated in Germany, especially in Munich either through the exhibition of his work in that city or because of the impact he had on German students who were in Parisian ateliers at the height of Courbet's fame and notoriety. The French painter's characteristic use of palette knife, especially in the definition of rock formations, is evident in the rugged cliff of Krstic's painting. Moreover, the paint that is so heavily built up by the vertical motion of the knife is in Courbet's characteristic tan, grey, and brown tonalities accentuated with touches of white lead. With its two diagonals, the cliff and the forested hillside on the right that enclose the triangular clearing in the foreground, the compositional arrangement looks back to Courbet's landscapes ofthe1860's.
In view of the fact that from around 1884 until the end of his career, Krstic's focus was on religious themes we might draw the conclusion that given the subject-matter here, he may have abandoned his modernism and returned to tradition. To an extent that is correct. By any measure paintings of Biblical figures and events, especially those commissioned by churches, do not lend themselves easily to thematic or artistic modification. Yet, even here Krstic made a significant contribution, altering both the artistic and iconographic vocabulary, in some cases to much criticism. As indicated, in his travels throughout Serbia in the early years of his career Krstic was intent on documenting Serbia, its monuments and people. In them he saw a level of uniqueness and greatness that needed broader exposure. It was this type of attitude that he brought to his church paintings and consequently what he disclosed to his patrons. Their expectation was that Krstic's images, like those of other contemporary Serb painters, would be in a traditional style borrowed from European artists, "adopted through long practice, and mostly taken, with more or less inventiveness, from illustrated popular Catholic Bibles." (14) In contrast, Krstic studied the iconographic traditions of the Serbian Orthodox Church recognizing the originality of its Medieval artists. For example, he appears to have been intrigued with the tradition of incorporating specifically Serbian Saints, martyrs, and heroes into a variety of scenes. (15) Krstic explained that'[i]t seemed to me that it was my duty to pay homage with my work to the Serbian zoographers of old, to pay off the debt owed to our great-grandfathers, and grandfathers who preserved our monasteries with their toil and blood, and to indulge my heart, which is taking part in today's all-out efforts to awaken Serbian self-awareness and in the embracing of all things Serbian, of all that is ours according to custom and faith. And I shall do my best to get a firm foothold in order to understand the spirit of our painters of old and the teaching of our church.' (16)
Krstic addresses these goals in the panels depicting St. Peter and St. Paul on the iconostasis of the Church of the Holy Archistrategi in Curug, begun in 1895 and completed in 1897. While both are solidly realistic, tactile figures with individualized features, the iconography is at odds with traditional European representations of the two Saints. Krstic proffered an explanation of his reading of the two. ' In our old churches and monasteries, St. Peter is depicted as having a much more elevated task [in contrast to Western churches] not as a keeper of keys, but as Christ's oldest disciple and the foundation of the Christian Church. Serbian painters of old placed the holy building--Christ's Church---on top of the long-suffering Apostle's head; that is, for example, how St. Peter was depicted in the Royal Monastery of Zica. The learned and wise Apostle Paul [in the same monastery] presses a consecrated book--his epistles--against his head. I depicted Apostle Paul presenting before the Lord his epistles, which are a true continuation of Christ's teachings.' (17) Whether depicting religious subjects, as here, or secular ones Krstic was signaling new directions, paving the way for Serbian artists towards Realism, Impressionism, and even Symbolism.
Although Krstic's contemporary, the professional life of Pavle Paja Jovanovic (1859-1957) extended some fifty years beyond that of his colleague. The paintings that mark his most significant contribution and legacy to Serbian art were produced in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. Early in his career Jovanovic's paintings of Balkan life met with success, setting the stage for future purchase and commissions in Europe, the United States, and Australia. (18) Such recognition was also sustained through Jovanovic's participation in international exhibitions. His extensive travels on three continents furthered his internationalism as did the fact that he maintained permanent studios in Vienna and Belgrade and for a time lived in Geneva and Budapest. (19) While still a student he seems to have developed an understanding of the marketing of art and doing so on an international scale. In 1883 he contracted for representation by the French Gallery in London, (20) a decision that led to life-long financial security.
Jovanovic has been identified as an "academic realist," (21) in view of the fact that his subjects are real and that he depicts them with precision and attention to established principles and practices of European art academies. Such a designation is applicable with respect to what can be described as the foundation of Jovanovic's art and one he did not abandon. From it he produced a body of work that informed successive generations of Serbian painters. Yet, like Krstic, he, too, ushered in modernist approaches demonstrating their applicability with respect to a variety of subjects.
The son of a respected photographer, Jovanovic was born in the prosperous and culturally advanced city of Vrsac, where he was exposed to contemporary Serbian Church paintings and secular portraiture. Jovanovic's earliest instruction was self-instruction, he copied the works available to him in Vrsac. That his talent was recognized was evidenced when he received a commission to produce the drawings from which reliefs were fashioned for the tower of the main church in Vrsac. Subsequently, he ended his apprenticeship to a local photographer in order to begin his formal art studies, traveling to Vienna in ! 875. Because he did not meet the age requirement for admission to the Vienna Academy, he enrolled at a drawing school and then in 1877 in the Academy. Two years later he received a scholarship funded by Matica Srpska. (22)
He had additional confirmation of his standing when one of the Academy's foremost history painters, Christian Grippenkerl invited Jovanovic to study in his atelier. The impact of his teacher's academic vocabulary is evident in Jovanovic's later history paintings, which were acclaimed in Serbia and abroad, such as The Coronation of Tsar Dusan shown at the 1900 World Exposition in Paris and in 1907 in London. As fortuitous and essential to Jovanovic's maturation and success was the mentoring of another professor, Karl Muller, a specialist in genre painting. (23) In embracing subjects made famous by Muller, Jovanovic succeeded in establishing a formidable reputation as a genre painter. By 1885 he had acquired an international clientele, a remarkable achievement for a young man who had entered the Academy barely eight years earlier. Built on academic principles, his genre scenes combine veracity of description with painterly execution. As would be expected of any artist whose livelihood depended on the sale of his work, throughout his career Jovanovic was a productive portrait painter whose skillful drawing and ability to convey the most favorable aspects of personality kept his work in demand. (24) However, unlike Krstic and Predic he rarely painted religious subjects, and when he did accept such assignments he was unconcerned with issues of iconography and interpretation. (25)
Of the categories of subject-matter that constitute Jovanovic's oeuvre, it was the genre paintings, specifically those in the Orientalist tradition, on which his career was built. We can speculate that without this component his reputation and the position he occupies in the history of Serbian painting might have been quite different. These works had their beginnings in the regular trips that Jovanovi6 made while a student in Vienna. He traveled to Albania, Montenegro, Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Hercegovina, recording what he saw in his sketchbook. He was encouraged in this by Muller, not only because as a painter associated with Orientalism he shared Jovanovi6's interest in what were to him exotic scenes but because this was a period of intense European fascination in what was deemed "Oriental" life (including that of the Balkans), especially at a time of the unfolding of the political events on the peninsula. In this context it is not surprising that encouraged by Muller, Jovanovi6's first major work, The Wounded Montenegrin of 1882, dealt with the insurrections against the Turks (Figure 8). Jovanovic was awarded the Academy's first place prize for the painting and subsequently an Austrian Royal scholarship. Although concerned, in a generic sense, with the Balkan wars of independence rather than daily life, this painting is typical of Jovanovic's stylistic approach to genre subjects. The complexity of the interior space with its two point perspective, the combination of pyramidal and semi-circular groupings of the figures who move and gesture naturally and convincingly, speak to his academic training as does the handling of light that penetrates to illuminate the rough and heavy mortar walls. Relying on his ethnographic drawings, Jovanovic provides precise details of costume and expressive facial features defining specific ethnicity. While he does not identify a specific event, Jovanovic does evoke authenticity, persuading the viewer that the scene that is unfolding is real. Unlike the contemporary paintings of renowned Orientalists such as Eugene Fromantin or Jean Leon Gerome, Jovanovic was painting what he knew and understood, a world that was part of his own being rather than imagined, read about, or at best briefly visited. Regardless of circumstances, his French counterparts were painting what to them was exotic and could only be observed at a distance and with a certain aloofness and sophistication of urbane Westerners. (26)
With the success of his Wounded Montenegrin, Jovanovic must have been further persuaded of the correctness of his focus on Balkan themes. In 1883 Muller put him in contact with the French Gallery in London. Jovanovic made a contractual agreement with them to provide Orientalist paintings. (27) The subsequent assessment of such painting by collectors and critics was typically positive. For example Emperor Franz Josef admired the 'intricacy of his detail,' (28) while London's Daily Telegraph in 1885 reported that 'The Serbian student of Professor Muller, Paja Jovanovic, is getting close to mastering the techniques of his teacher and in some cases in terms of the specificity of detail he is surpassing him.' (29)
Jovanovic was making Balkan life known beyond the peninsula at a time when increasing such knowledge meant increasing understanding and ultimately obtaining European political support with respect to decisions on national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the various autonomous and semi-autonomous Balkan states. Among the best known of his Orientalist paintings are those of domestic life. In his accurate, precise renderings of architecture, figures, costumes, and extensive decorative detail, Jovanovic does not attempt to venture beneath the surface to reveal personal or social concerns or conflicts. His characters, although not necessarily physically ideal or appealing are intriguing. (30) For example, in his 1888 The Cock Fight (Figure 9). He builds a credible, believable scene. The spectators are fully engaged, each one reacts in his or her own particular way, consistent with their age and appearance. The singularity of Jovanovic's approach is even more evident when contrasted to Western European Orientalist paintings such as Jean Leon Gerome's famous Cock Fight of 1847. Awarded the first prize at the Salon, it was widely reproduced in subsequent years and was surely known to Jovanovic. Rather than the studio poses of Gerome's highly idealized, smoothly painted forms, Jovanovic presents real faces, bronzed by the sun, brows furrowed by time. He replaces the Frenchman's polished tonalities with visible oily pigment. His strokes are short and quick, built up on the surface of the canvas. Instead of a cool light that envelops all objects evenly, he uses a warm dappled one that illuminates selectively. It is evident that studies directly from nature inform this painting. Jovanovic was not only providing a new and authentic category of genre paintings but speaking specifically to a culture that was his own. In the process he was giving significance to an area and ethnic groups heretofore ignored.
Thematically and technically challenging but ultimately far less innovative than his small scale, intimate vignettes of Balkan life, Jovanovic's monumental paintings of many pivotal events in Serbian history played an important nationalistic role. The subjects ranged from the celebration of the great glories of a distant Serbian past in The Coronation of Tsar Dusan (1900) to the commemoration of the 1690 passage of the Serbs into Austrian territory in his Migration of the Serbs (1896) which was commissioned to serve as a counterpart and even challenge to the paintings of Hungarian and Croatian artists glorifying their history. Jovanovic also addressed events of recent history, familiar to his audiences but ones, which in the context of contemporary events called for reiteration. This is exemplified in his 1898 The Uprising in Takovo the scene of the 1815 selection of Milos Obrenovic to lead the Serb response to the Turkish repressions which followed the failed uprising of 1814. (31) In these paintings of historical events Jovanovic invariably demonstrates the full extent of his academic training. This is evident in his dexterous handling of composition and perspective and the fluidity with which he incorporates so many figures and varied poses. However, even here there are indications of his individuality and the rejection of conformity. The faces are real, most often portraits. Jovanovic also insisted on historical accuracy, including consultations with historians, examination of period apparel and, when possible, the inclusion of the terrain specific to the event.
A work that effectively brings together features of his genre, history, and portrait paintings is Jovanovic's 1896 triptych commissioned by the City Council of Vrsac, Sowing and Harvesting and Market (Figures 10 and 11). (32) Thematically, it is a type of history painting as it represents the various ethnic groups who constituted the city's population. These include Serbs, Hungarians, Germans, and people of Vojvodina. In these monumental panels, reminiscent of traditional religious triptychs, Jovanovic pays homage to the productivity and co-existence of ethnic groups who share a history that had not always been marked by harmony. Here, however, scenes of tranquility unfold. Against a setting of the fertile soil of the rolling countryside the harvesting of the golden wheat is underway, while the grape gatherers attend to the vines heavily laden with ripened grapes. In the final scene Jovanovic depicts the market place where men and women in various ethnic dress sell and purchase the products of their abundant harvests. The setting is the city of Vrsac with it neatly ordered houses and tall Church spires. That there is a message in this painting is evident in the easily identifiable symbols of faith, family, effective government, industry, prosperity, and community. The city and its population present themselves as models of social harmony. In delivering such an ambitious and politically laden message Jovanovic was introducing a singular approach to a painting that could easily be read as simply a scene of daily life.
Jovanovic's technical innovations in the Vrsac Triptych are as important as his thematic originality. In keeping with his standard methodology his studies consist of precisely detailed drawings of individual parts and various approaches with respect to the arrangement of the full scene. In the finished triptych the compositional layout of each part as well as the whole is orderly and controlled. The numerous figures in their ambitious poses seem to fit easily and effectively into each panel and then form an interwoven continuum across the whole. In his handling of light and color Jovanovic signals further innovation, even a turning point. Although in many of his small genre paintings he was concerned with natural light, here, it is clear that he had moved from astute observation to a real understanding and application of the theoretical studies of light of the Impressionist and Post Impressionist modernists. Here, he captures both bright morning light that illuminates the figures in the foreground and then, appropriately, its disintegration into the haze that still conceals, to different degrees, the landscape in the distant background. Understandably, in his obvious striving for an objective reality he also focused on accurately capturing the veracity of color as revealed by reflected light. It is evident that he understood the underlying theory of the simultaneity of contrast as a device for intensifying tonalities and thus more accurately replicating the colors in nature. In order to achieve his goal of presenting a scene that would come as close to capturing the pulse of life itself, Jovanovic expanded on his practice of on-site drawings by painting this scene directly from nature, en plein air. In this tribute to his native city Jovanovic delivered a synthesis of genre and history painting the unity of which was made possible by his bold avant-garde technical exploration. It was yet another lesson passed on to younger artists.
Uros Predic (1857-1953), although, in general, less artistically adventurous than either Krsti6 or Jovanovic, also focused on subjects of daily life, portraits, and religious themes. However, in marked contrast, his genre subjects contain a commentary, generally a didactic one. In part the desire to incorporate such content reflects his personal attitudes and experiences, perhaps that of the security and warmth that marked his relationship to his family. An intellectual, who read widely, he was also alert to the political, intellectual, and social issues of his time. It is important to note that his art was grounded in strong art historical knowledge and commitment to established principles. (33) Nevertheless, he was also fully engaged in the present with its rapidly changing artistic vocabulary and methodology. Although his response to contemporary innovations is reflected in varying degrees in his work in general, it finds its most emphatic expression in Predic's landscapes.
The son of a priest, Predic was a native of the village of Orlovat in the Banat region, (34) which while lacking the cultural sophistication of Jovanovic's birthplace also had an ethnically mixed population (Romanians and Serbs) and was governed by a succession of major powers, Turkey, Austria, and Hungary. With parents for whom the education of their children was especially important, Predic's schooling began at home and continued in the village elementary school and a German school in Crepaja and Pancevo. The decision to study art was encouraged and supported by his family, especially his father, who had a special love for the arts and had made a trip to Vienna to see the collection in the Belvedere Gallery.35 Predic's early commitment to art is illustrated in his account regarding his choice of career. "When I was deciding to become a painter my father asked me: "what will you do, my dove, when you are old and your eyes betray you and your hand shakes?' I responded: Nothing, then I will not want to live. That is how I still think." (36)
Predic's selection of Vienna as the place to study art is understandable. Not only were Viennese culture and art held as models by his father, but it was also the logical choice for a young man who was raised in an area under Austrian control and who had studied the icons and iconostatis painted by artists either trained in Vienna or following the style of Viennese painters. (37) In enrolling in the Vienna Academy in 1876 he became part of an institution identified with conservative approaches. The students were directed to the works of Neo-Classical and Romantic artists whose own styles were built on a strong Renaissance/Baroque tradition. Throughout his career the highly disciplined (38) Predic built his paintings on symmetrical compositions, mathematical perspective, and precise arrangement of forms. Additionally, he valued the significance of drawing as the pictorial foundation.39
In his first months of study at the Academy Predic dedicated himself to mastering its demanding traditional curriculum. His efforts were rewarded the following year when he received a scholarship from Matica Srpska which was in effect until 1883. That type of recognition was further reiterated in 1879 when he received the Academy's Gundel Prize for outstanding student work, which in this case was for his Sulking Girl (1879). The work reflects his emulation of the popular sentimental genre paintings of the German Biedermeir style. (40) In selecting this subject, Predic was not only signaling his awareness of contemporary European tastes but his own attraction to subjects of daily life, especially those suggesting a narrative content. After completing his basic studies, Predic joined the master class of the history painter, Christian Grippenkerl, whose subjects and style echoed Neo-Classical and German Nazarene approaches. During his nine years in Vienna (1876-85), Predic was a student at the Academy for six years and Grippenkerl's assistant for three years, working on a major project that would serve him well in his later work, the decoration of Herrenhaus Hall in Vienna's Parliament Building. (41) In addition to the Classical linearism urged by Grippenkerl, Predic was also exposed to a sentimental type of Romanticism. Concurrently, another approach was also making its undeniable impact on him, Realism, a style that was emphatically reiterated when Predic visited Munich. He appears to have been tempted to remain in Munich, but because of finances returned to Vienna. (42)
Although he had made periodic trips home during his sojourn in Vienna, Predic returned permanently in 1885. (43) He seems to have almost immediately applied himself to producing a body of works, some of which were exhibited in 1888 in Belgrade. By the next year he was undertaking a type of commission that remained constant throughout his career, ecclesiastical paintings. However, in these early years Predic was establishing his reputation with diverse subjects rendered in a rather eclectic style. While he was still sorting out what he had learned, he was nevertheless beginning to develop a level of independence.
Dating to 1887, Predic's Vision in the Clouds (Figures 12 and 13) is a case in point. In many ways it is stylistically and technically a youthful demonstration piece. The inclusion of mythological and allegorical figures speaks to his study of Renaissance and Baroque art. (44) In general, the upper section of the painting with its obscuring clouds, complexity of floating idealized figures that include Christ, Marat (revolution), Venus (love), Mars (war), and personifications of Force, Justice, and Destiny, viewed from multiple perspective points, is reminiscent of Baroque ceiling painting in general and Corregio's work in particular, specifically, his Io and Jupiter in the Belvedere Gallery. It does not seem to be mere coincidence that this is the painting Predic's father had admired on his visit to the royal collection and so recounted to his son, who later became a frequent visitor to the same gallery. (45)
While, as will be discussed, Predic was incorporating messages in his concurrent genre scenes, in its contextual and symbolic focus, this painting is atypical in the artist's oeuvre. That is most likely attributable to the uniqueness of the situation that prompted the work and the youthfulness of the painter. Although over time Predic gave varied interpretations (46) of the painting, it can be read as an allegory and a highly personal and romantically emotional response to contemporary events and ideas on the timeless battle of the forces that control human destiny: good and evil, love and hate, peace and war. Predic provided an explanation of its genesis in his autobiography, explaining that it was painted after his return from Vienna when he had gratefully settled back in his home in Orlovat. He wrote
... this was the time of the Austrian occupation of Bosnia and Hercegovina, when the political sky was foreboding, it already looked like it was coming to the war that did not take place until 27 years later, when the greedy ones from the north felt that they were sufficiently prepared to trample us on their way to the East. As an Austrian citizen I received the order to prepare for the draft. This was a severe blow as this was just as I had warmed myself in my old nest and made plans for my future work. Now I had to leave all that and go to where there is destruction, burning, wounding and killing. In this type of despondency, I seized canvas and paints and created a painting which is an allegory with a bitter criticism of life, of humanity and its conflicts. (47)
The upper section is a fantastic array of human and animal forms, defined primarily by line. They move through voluminous clouds, punctuated by bits of theatrical light. Below them, Predic juxtaposes a completely different and contradictory scene. On the one hand, the foreground with its silhouetted, ominously shaped trees and rocky ledge is reminiscent of the dark and melancholy landscapes of an earlier school of German Romanticism, while the middle ground contains a diminutive but real and seemingly peaceful village with a church tower in its center. To a certain extent, Predic is reiterating the message of opposites, the imaginative and the prosaic, nature and man. Interestingly, the techniques he uses in these two sections of the lower half of the composition are at variance. The landscape is painted smoothly, the brush strokes concealed in the silhouetted grove. The village in the middle ground, however, is painted with thick short strokes. Because of the build up of pigment, a section that is further back projects out illogically. It is an important detail in the context of Predic's obvious message. Most significantly, these areas of the painting signal an early interest in landscape which he explored more fully years later.
In 1888, three years after his return from Vienna Predic exhibited his work in Belgrade to much acclaim, especially with respect to his genre scenes, a category which had brought him initial success at the Vienna Academy. The work that captured special attention in Belgrade typifies Predic's particular approach to depicting daily life is his 1887 painting, The Happy Brothers (Figure 14). (48) The painting is more than descriptive, it conveys a message. Predic sets his picture in a convincingly real autumnal rural setting of haystacks, modest peasant houses and wandering livestock. Lead by a musician, the three inebriated brothers stumble along the rough muddy road, while their mother shouts reprimands from a distance.
Predic's treatment of Balkan rural life differs in a number of ways from that of Javanovic, who earned his initial fame through similar subjects. Javanovic based his paintings on his careful ethnographic studies of costumes and objects of daily life. Rather than relying on a collection of images, Predic undertook each picture independently, producing fewer and less detailed drawings of the figures specific to the work in hand. His paintings lack Javanovic's exactness. As here, the images are more gestural because of the combination of generous brush strokes and minimal linear definition. This painting also brings Predic much closer to the more daring experimentations of the Munich School not only because of the textural play of the mud-laden soil against rough peasant garb but in his convincing presentation of the atmosphere of the quiet predawn hours. In addition to these technical distinctions, Predic inserts a commentary. In his later accounts he explained how and why he selected the subject. He reminisced that the scene was like those he was experiencing at the time. It takes place in autumn during the abundance of harvest after the pigs have been slaughtered and the whole countryside is permeated with the smell of their fried intestines and the sound of drunken song and music that prevents sleep. (49) '... I observed this everyday ... I said to myself there must be some way of telling these people to what an unhappy level they have descended and to have a moral impact on them, capturing there all the [bad] habits of my compatriots from Vojvodina ...' (50) He then related that later he had come upon a group of peasants gathered around laughing and gesticulating while examining a reproduction of his painting on a calendar. They were quite delighted with the work, exclaiming how well he had captured them, congratulating him. (51) Their responses were not only good natured but perhaps one of pride that he had chosen to immortalize their life. There is no evidence, however, that his message was read as he had intended. If, as it has been suggested, with this type of work Predic also hoped to provide a Balkan parallel to the satirical tradition of Hogarth and Daumier, (52) he did not succeed. Perhaps this was due to the inherent limitations of his subject, the fact that the figures are not caricatured and that the painting is devoid of biting or mocking humor.
Predic was a versatile painter of the ordinary. Gentle satire and empathetic portrayals co-exist with charming, light-hearted observations of the daily lives of children, whether pouting, looking eagerly at a pastry shop window, or as in the case of his 1887 Busy Hands, (Figure 15) concentrating with great seriousness on learning to knit. By dutifully attending to a traditional task required of her gender, the girl conveys the positive character traits to be instilled in the young. In this deftly painted and charmingly real scene Predic succeeds in conveying a message, immediately understood, confirmed, and supported by a public that shared his beliefs. It is not surprising that because of such paintings Predic was referred to as "the painter's Zmaj Jovan Javanovic." (53) The implication was that his characterizations and messages were the visual counterpart to the beloved Jovanovic's insightful and gently didactic poems for and about children.
As might be expected of an artist who studied at the Vienna Academy and with Grippenkerl, Predic was also a painter of history. As a patriot who was born and lived under foreign rule he shared his thoughts on some of the pivotal events of his time. A salient example of his approach to such themes is his 1889 Bosnian Refugees, a painting prompted by the relatively recent revolts in Bosnia and Hercegovina that began in 1875. In his history paintings Predic had to concern himself with the typical challenge of incorporating numerous figures, static and in motion. For Predic who had taken to heart the lessons of the Academy such tasks did not prove daunting. As he often explained, he always remained committed to the basic concepts and methodology associated with the great masters of the past. Careful attention to composition, perspective, anatomy, color, and tone were hallmarks of his work. He viewed himself as a traditionalist, and while consistently encouraging of young artists, he did not hesitate to criticize some of the ongoing experimentations and what he considered deviations from established norms. Nevertheless, he did not merely pay lip service to tradition, even in his most conservative works. He adapted and modified, imposing his own artistic and psychological stamp. This is surely evident in his genre and history painting and, although to a far lesser degree, even in his numerous church commissions. Although a scholarly person, attentive to the intellectual and artistic debates of his time, he remained skeptical and even critical of those who abandoned all rules in order to, as he said, "call attention to themselves." (54) Yet, in varying degrees, he shared one area of interest essential to many of the modernists, even those he criticized, that of landscape.
Although consistently a recorder of nature in his sketchbook, in the settings for other subjects, and occasionally as a subject in its own right (55), Predic's focus on pure landscape makes its emphatic presence in 1916 and 1917. These paintings were produced after his return to his Belgrade studio, following the end of the first World War. Observed from his balcony they are views of the Danube, Banat, the artist's garden and studio, as well as a five-part panorama of Belgrade. In his 1917 Autumnal View from the Artist's Balcony (Figure 16) and View through the Rose Arbor in the Artist's Garden of 1916 (Figure 17). Predic's complete and objective mastery of landscape is in full evidence. As Jovanovic has observed, painting from his 'balcony watchtower' Predic captured a "gloomy garden in autumn, and ... blooming roses in a garden full of flowers, all of it put on canvas with radiance and with and almost impressionistic treatment of light." (56) The sources, quality and effect of these scenes require further elaboration.
Love of nature, its objective scrutiny and faithful description had always been a part of Predic's artistic mind set and sensitive spirit. Perhaps it was this that first led the romantically inclined young man to paint nature and some of those sentiments may well have been sustained throughout his life, thus making nature a full component rather than an afterthought of so many of his works. The objectivity with which he viewed landscape as a mature artist is to be expected, as it naturally echoes the Realism that defined his other subjects. That desire for truth in nature eventually lead him, as an intellectual and prodigious reader, to consider the theories and techniques of painting advanced throughout the nineteenth century. Those ideas and lessons had already been elucidated in the paintings of the Impressionist and some of the Post Impressionist artists. By the time Predic turned his full attention to landscape the theories had been fully tested, the methodology established, and the works of the major practitioners well known to artists such as Predic.
Predic's landscapes share with those landscape painters, especially Impressionists such as Monet, Sisley, and Pissarro, an understanding of light, atmosphere, color, and tone in nature. The views painted from his studio, suggest that Predic had embraced their aim of capturing light, whether dappled or muted, as reflected from various colored surfaces. Through astute observation and understanding of the constantly fluctuating atmospheric effects he convincingly captures both the exhilarating crispness of a May morning and the lingering warmth of a late afternoon in autumn. He suggests that nature, like ourselves, is in constant flux, creating and recreating itself and that these scenes are inevitably momentary. However, Predic does not allow for fragmentation. Rather, each scene is painted as we see it, and nature as a whole. He was confirming that only those scenes painted from direct observation under the effects of changing natural light can come close to replicating the freshness and beauty of nature. Throughout his career Predic's works, to varying degrees provided testimony of his loyalty to tradition coupled with a formidable artistic vocabulary that encompassed both past and present. It is in these pure landscapes that Predic presents the boldest testimony of being truly of his own time.
The paintings of Kristic, Javanovic, and Predic provide ample evidence of a variety of thematic and stylistic quotations of Western and Central European art, albeit, never verbatim. Each painter identified his own path, his own style and in the process assumed a leadership role in advancing Serbian art. They did not merely look back or simply emulate a foreign contemporary status quo. They fashioned their own course.
George Washington University
(1) Nikola Kusovac, Slikar Djordje Krstic (Belgrade, 2001), 78.
(2) Apparently, he entered Serbia illegally without a passport, funds, or means of support. To survive he did odd jobs at the Belgrade Cathedral, worked for a law office and as a substitute teacher. Nikola Kusovac, Slikar Djordje Krstic, 72.
(3) Ibid., 73.
(4) Painters to whom he was particularly drawn included Wilhelm Leibl, Victor Muller, Otto Seitz, Gabriel von Max and Wilhelm Linderschmidt. Vojislav Djuric, Djordje Krstic (Belgrade, 1957), 6.
(5) Miodrag Kolaric, Djordje Krstic (Belgrade, 1977), 30.
(6) Kusovac notes that "like the majority of Munich painters from the second half of the 19th century, especially the students of the academy, he [Krstic] acquired a pleasing but not altogether technologically correct novelty." However, Kusovac also observes that because of Krstic's reliance on bitumen in some works "...the many lively, fresh and warm accents of his colours, so often noticed and admired in his paintings and icons, were lost altogether, soon after he painted them." Kusovac, Slikar Djordje Krstic, 87.
(7) Although in his reference to Krstic's connection to French painters, Kusovac includes only Ribot and Bonnat, there are obvious links to Frere, Ribot, Roybet, and Breton whose works were well-known outside of France. See Kusovac, Slikar Djordje Krstic, 78.
(8) The war ended with an armistice in January of 1878, and the Treaty of San Stefano was signed in March of the same year. However, the final territorial decisions were not made until June 1878 at the Congress of Vienna. Despite very few territorial gains, Serbia finally received the independence that had been sought since the first insurrection in 1804. For a detailed discussion of the revolts, the Russo-Turkish war and their consequences, especially in Serbia, see Barbara Jelavich, History of the Balkans- Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge, 1983), 351-60.
(9) Kusovac, Slikar Djordje Krstic, 79.
(11) For a discussion of the philosophical and theoretical aspects of nineteenth-century Realism see, Linda Nochlin, Realism (Baltimore, 1971), Charles Gauss, The Aesthetic Theories of French Artists: 1855 to the Present (Baltimore, 1947).
(12) Djuric, 6.
(13) Apparently, Krstic had planned to put together an album of historical landmarks and monuments for his patron, Prince Milan. Many of these works were purchased by the Prince and subsequently came into the collection of the National Museum in Belgrade. Ibid., 7.
(14) Kusovac, Slikar Djordje Krstic, 93. Especially influential were the German Nazarene painters some of whose religious paintings had been commissioned by Balkan patrons and who were particularly influential with respect to Central European church painting well into the second half of the nineteenth century. For a discussion of Nazarene painting, see Keith Andrews, The Nazarenes (Oxford, 1964).
(15) Djuric, 8.
(16) Kusovac, Slikar Djordje Krstir, 101.
(17) Ibid., 95.
(18) Nikola Kusovac, Slike i Crtezi Paje Jovanovica (Novi Sad, 1984), 11.
(19) Neither Krstic nor Predi6 traveled extensively. While they were active exhibitors, they could not rival Jovanovic's international contacts either in number or consistency.
(20) Kusovac, Slike i Crtezi Paje Jovanovica, 9.
(21) For example, see Dejan Medakovid, "Akademski Realizam Urosa Predida i Paje Jovanovida," Srpska Umetnost u X1X Veku (Belgrade, 1981).
(22) Kusovac, Slike i Crtezi Paje Jovanovica, 8.
(23) According to Kusovac, when asked to indicate with whom he had studied, Jovanovic only listed one name, Muller. Ibid.
(24) Typically they combine academic principles with an evocation of the elegance of British portraiture. Dejan Medakovic, Paja Jovanovic, (Belgrade, 1958), 10-13.
(25) He did not involve himself in the debates over European (Catholic) vs. traditional Orthodox iconography of the sort that were of grave concern to Krstic who represented one side of the issue and Steva Todorovic, the other. Ibid., 10.
(26) For a discussion of Orientalism see, Philippe Jullian, The Orientalists, (Oxford, 1977).
(27) The sale of his paintings by the French Gallery helped to support Jovanovic's extensive travels in Europe, Russia, Near East, Middle East, and North Africa.
(28) Medakovi6, Paja Jovanovic', 6.
(29) Kusovac, Slike i Crtezi Paje Jovanovica, 9.
(30) He was criticized by some for his lack of concern with the social issues and absence of commentary on contemporary problems. However, given the personal and artistic environment in which he lived, his training and aesthetics, as well as his personality it would not have been possible for Jovanovic to have focused on such issues. For a discussion of the criticism, see Kusovac. Ibid. 14.
(31) For a discussion of these events, see Alex N. Dragnich, Serbia Through the Ages (New York, 2004), 11-19.
(32) Whether intentional or not, the triptych bears some resemblance in content and message to Ambrogio Lorenzetti's 14th century fresco of Good Government in the City Hall of Siena.
(33) Miodrag Jovanovic, Uros Predic, (Novi Sad, 1998), 329.
(34) For a discussion of this rather complex area with respect to ethnicity of population and changing governance, see Jelavich, 160-61; 304.
(35) According to Predic, while a student at the faculty of philosophy in Pozun, his father had walked from Orlovat to Vienna in order to see the great art collections in the Belvedere Gallery and to attend an Italian opera. Jovanovic, Uros Predic, 246.
(36) Citation from his autobiography, ibid., 255.
(37) In Orlovat and Pancevo, Predic had studied the works of Dimitrije Popovic, Konstantin Danil, and Stevan Todorovic. Vera Ristic, Uros Predic (Kragujevac, 1976), 6-7.
(38) Famous for his work ethic, Predic recounted that while in Vienna he engaged in little socializing, even with fellow Serb students who spent a great deal of time in a particular car6. Instead, he focused on his work. Jovanovic, Uros Predic 330.
(39) He wrote that while he had no difficulty with basic elements such as line that "... color, particularly tone, gave me trouble sometimes in larger works..." Ibid., 255.
(40) Risti6, 7.
(41) Jovanovic, Uros Predic, 330.
(42) In Vienna he had scholarship support as well as a fellowship stipend. Jovanovic, Uros Predic.
(43) A bachelor throughout his life, Predic was completely devoted to family. And, it was family illness and death that prompted his return home in 1885.
(44) His experience in assisting Grippenkerl on the paintings in the Parliament building was surely preparation for this project.
(45) Jovanovic, Uros Predic, 246.
(46) For that discussion, see Jovanovic, ibid., 80-83.
(47) Javanovic, Uros Predic, 81.
(48) It is also referred to as The Happy Brothers, Sad Mother.
(49) Jovanovic, Uros Predic, 86.
(52) Dejan Medakovic, "Uros Predic," Slikari i Vajari, III (Belgrade: n.d.), 19.
(53) Dejan Medakovid, "Uros Predic," Slikari i Vajari, III, 11.
(54) Predic, as cited in Jovanovic, Uros Predic, 252.
(55) See, for example his Tower in Moonlight of 1874.
(56) Javanovic, Uros Predic, 332.…