Artworks in the Collection

The Gusle Player (1906)

While still studying in Munich with Ažbe, Exter and Jank, Nadežda liked to paint en plein-air and observe the life and character of peasants, scenes from daily village life, customs and costumes. Just as Danica Jovanović did a decade later, she intended to focus her work on studying scenes from folk life “everywhere where Serbs live, types, characters, costumes, ornamentation and the character of nature and countryside in Old Serbia and Macedonia.” The motif of the gusle player, narrator of the folk epic, creator of the monumental panoramas of the heroic age of national history, is not an uncommon occurrence in the works of Nadežda’s contemporaries, as in paintings by Rista Vukanović, Mihajlo Milovanović or scultptures by Đoka Jovanović. Unlike their representations of the gusle players, Nadežda’s does not carry any archetypal or symbolic meaning, it is simply a portrait and a less heroic title “A Peasant with Gusle” would have been more suitable. It shows no trace of exalting national glory or past. There is also no suggestion of the painter’s future preoccupation with monumental murals which she became interested in during her stay in Paris in 1910 and 1911, nor with her fascination with folk epics, prevalent with a group of Yugoslav painters and sculptors (Meštrović, Rosandić, Rački, Babić and Krizman), a group which carried the promise of founding a national school of art (1905– 1910). Focusing all her attention on the facial expression of the portrayed subject, dominated by his dark-ringed oversized eyes, Nadežda “depicted” him using a broad brush, with a luscious pictorial mass which shines out, reinforcing colour harmony. Like several others, this painting too was purchased by Beljanski in 1956 from the painter’s sister, Mica Mišković. The painting became part of the Memorial Collection through the first Donation Contract.

Nadežda Petrović