Exploring Modernity in the Art of Krstic, Jovanovic, and Predic
Filipovitch-Robinson, Lilien, Serbian Studies
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. …